Muslim groups reject latest remarks by controversial Australian cleric

SYDNEY, Australia — Muslim groups and political leaders on Friday rejected the latest remarks by a senior Australian cleric who made headlines last year after likening unveiled women to “uncovered meat.”

Speaking to Egyptian television earlier this week, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, the mufti of Australia since 1989, reportedly said Muslim immigrants were more Australian that their Anglo-Saxon counterparts who came here as convicts, according to an English translation published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday.

“Anglo-Saxons came to Australia in chains, while we paid our way and came in freedom. We are more Australian than them,” he was quoted as saying.

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Al-Hilali appeared on the Egyptian chat show on Tuesday to explain the controversy last year over a sermon he made in which he called women the soldiers of Satan and compared scantily clad females to “uncovered meat” who invite sexual assault. During the half hour show, al-Hilali said his comments had been misrepresented, the result of media conspiracy against the Muslim community.

“There is no freedom and no democracy (for Muslims in Australia) — the most dishonest and unjust people are Western people and the English in particular,” he was quoted as saying.

Australian Muslim groups on Friday rushed to reject the mufti’s remarks, with one leader suggesting it was time to consider “sending him out to an early pasture.”

“I would like to reiterate to all Australians, including our people of Anglo-Saxon heritage, there is no substance to the idea that Muslims have more of a right to Australia than the early settlers,” added Kuranda Seyit, executive director of the Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations, in a statement.

“We are all Australian and we should all respect and support one another as Australians,” Seyit said.

Keysar Trad, the president of the Islamic Friendship Association and a close friend of the mufti, conceded that some of the cleric’s comments were “ill-advised.”

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also joined the chorus.

“I think these kinds of comments just continue to undermine his credibility and his status in the Australian Muslim community,” Downer told Sky News. “I think it just reinforces a bit of a perception that he’s not someone to be taken seriously.”

Al-Hilali offered to step down as mufti amid the firestorm surrounding his comments last year if an independent council found he had blamed women for rape. The council is due to rule next month, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Source

(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
, AP, via the International Herald Tribune, Jan. 11, 2007, http://www.iht.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday January 12, 2007.
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