THE nation's most senior
Muslim cleric has blamed immodestly dressed women who don't
wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened
them to abandoned "meat" that attracts voracious
In a Ramadan sermon that has outraged Muslim women leaders,
Sydney-based Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali also alluded to the
infamous Sydney gang rapes, suggesting the attackers were
not entirely to blame.
"But the problem, but the problem
all began with who?" he asked.
The leader of the 2000 rapes in Sydney's
southwest, Bilal Skaf, a Muslim, was initially sentenced
to 55 years' jail, but later had the sentence reduced
In the religious
address on adultery to about 500 worshippers in Sydney
last month, Sheik Hilali said:
uncovered meat is the problem."
The sheik then said: "If she
was in her room, in her home, in her hijab,
"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside
on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in
the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat
it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?
no problem would have occurred."
women were "weapons"
used by "Satan"
to control men.
"It is said in the state of zina
(adultery), the responsibility falls 90 per cent of the
time on the woman. Why? Because she possesses the weapon
of enticement (igraa)."
Muslim community leaders were yesterday
outraged and offended by Sheik Hilali's remarks, insisting
the cleric was no longer worthy of his title as Australia's
Young Muslim adviser Iktimal Hage-Ali
- who does not wear a hijab - said the Islamic headdress
was not a "tool" worn to prevent rape and sexual
harassment. "It's a symbol that readily identifies
you as being Muslim, but just because you don't wear the
headscarf doesn't mean that you're considered fresh meat
for sale," the former member of John Howard's Muslim
advisory board told The Australian. "The onus should
not be on the female to not attract attention, it should
be on males to learn how to control themselves."
Australia's most prominent female Muslim
leader, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said the hijab did not "detract
or add to a person's moral standards", while Islamic
Council of Victoria spokesman Waleed Ali said it was "ignorant
and naive" for anyone to believe that a hijab could
stop sexual assault.
"Anyone who is foolish enough
to believe that there is a relationship between rape or
unwelcome sexual interference and the failure to wear
a hijab, clearly has no understanding of the nature of
sexual crime," he said.
Ms Hage-Ali said she was "disgusted
and offended" by Shiek Hilali's comments. "I
find it very offensive that a man who considers himself
as a mufti, a leader of Australia's Muslims, can give
comment that lacks intelligence and common sense."
Yesterday, the mufti defended the sermon
about "adultery and theft", a recorded copy
of which has been obtained and translated by The Australian.
He told The Australian the message
he intended to convey was: "If a woman who shows
herself off, she is to blame ... but a man should be able
to control himself". He said if a woman is "covered
and respectful" she "demands respect from a
man". "But when she is cheap, she throws herself
at the man and cheapens herself."
Sheik Hilali also insisted his references
to the Sydney gang rapes were to illustrate that Skaf
was guilty and worthy of receiving such a harsh sentence.
Waleed Ali said Sheik Hilali was "normalising
immoral sexual behaviour" by comparing women to meat
and men to animals and entirely blaming women for being
"It's basically saying that the
immoral response of men to women who are not fully covered
is as natural and as inevitable as the response of an
animal tempted by food," he said.
"But (unlike animals) men are
people who have moral responsibilities and the capability
in engaging in moral action."
Revelation of the mufti's comments
comes after he criticised Mr Howard last month in The
Australian for saying a minority of migrant men mistreated
their women. Sheik Hilali said such a minority was found
in all faiths. "Those who don't respect their women
are not true Muslims."
"There's a small percentage found
among all religions, but we don't recognise ours as Muslims."
Aziza Abdel-Halim said Sheik Hilali's
remarks during Ramadan were inaccurate and upsetting to
the Muslim community.
"They are below and beyond any
comment (and) do not deserve any consideration."