The Islamic Friendship Council of Australia has fended off criticism of Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilaly, as his daughter sprung to his defence.
The council says all his good work has been forgotten in the rush to condemn him.
Council president Keysar Trad, who also acts as a spokesman for the mufti of Australia, said today that people had forgotten he risked his life to rescue another Australian in Iraq.
The sheik, who has triggered a storm over a sermon in which he blamed women for sexual assault, went to Iraq last year to help negotiate the release of Australian businessman Douglas Wood from kidnappers.
“It seems there are so many people out there waiting to pounce on him,” Mr Trad said.
“People forget all of the great work he has done for this country, all of the strong stands that he made in support of law and order.
“This is the man who risked his life to go and rescue a fellow Australian in Iraq.
“And this is the man who done so much to empower women in Australia and yet all these are forgotten when he makes an ambiguous comment.”
Sheik al-Hilaly, who is said to be sick, will not be giving his regular Friday sermon at Sydney’s Lakemba mosque today, where thousands of worshippers gather each week, Mr Trad said.
The chairman of the British Muslim Council, Imam Abdul Jalil Sajid, will deliver a sermon in English at the Lakemba mosque before Friday prayers, Mr Trad said.
Sheik al-Hilaly outraged Muslim community leaders and politicians across the political spectrum with his comments, made during a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers in Sydney last month.
Sheik’s daughter wants him left alone
The daughter of besieged Muslim cleric Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilaly says his comments have been misinterpreted and the media should “leave him alone”.
Asma al-Hilaly said her father’s comments implying that immodestly dressed women invite sexual attacks were not his own words.
She said the offending quote, likening women to uncovered meat tempting cats to eat it, was offered to a group of old men as a way urging them, to teach their daughters to be modest.
“All I’m saying is that what he said was (taken) out of context,” Ms al-Hilaly told Southern Cross Broadcasting.
“Leave him alone. He is a sick man.
“He was in a house of God. He was only preaching to a group of old men. And his only concern was for them to keep their daughters modest.
“It all got out of context, blown out of proportion out of something little. Move on.”
Ms al-Hilaly said her father was misinterpreted by unfair translation of the sermon.
“He was not inviting people to rape (women). That’s the thing that was out of context,” she said.
“He was just teaching women to be modest.”
Excerpts from a recording of the 17-minute sermon appeared in newspapers.
The Sheik alluded to rapes in 2000 in which four women were separately gang-raped by young Muslim men, including Bilal Skaf, who received a 55-year jail sentence, later reduced.
He said there were women who “sway suggestively” and wore make-up and inappropriate clothes.
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