Leader of Oz Lebanese Muslim Association: "non violent'"solidarity rally for rape sheik planned - tells marchers "relax- have fun-think of Gandhi"
October 31, 2006
http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,20681678-5006009,00.html Our March will not be violent ISLAMIC leaders have pledged a planned rally to back Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly will not be violent - while the Muslim head of the world's largest human rights group has joined condemnation of the Australian mufti. Lebanese Muslim Association President Tom Zreika said that rallygoers, who have been urged by SMS to meet at the Lakemba mosque, have been urged to think of India's peaceful campaigner, Mahatma Ghandi. "We've been out telling people to just relax, take it easy, it should be a calm day," Mr Zreika said, adding that he had sought police permission for the march and that it will be escorted by officers. "The point is, if you really want this message to come out, do it in the legal way, don't break the law, obviously and have fun." Sheik Hilaly has has been attacked by Muslims and non-Muslims after implying scantily dressed women were inviting rape. Last night Amnesty International secretary general Irene Khan, who is visiting Australia, said the sheik's comments were outrageous and reflected "medieval" thinking where women were seen as sexual objects. The Muslim community should dump him, she added. "People like him should not be given the privilege of being considered as leaders," Ms Khan told ABC TV's Lateline program. "I think there's a question on the part of the Muslim community and there is a question on the part of the larger community as to how much space do you give to views that reflect only a very narrow part of the community." The mufti, Ms Khan said, had become a symbol of a broader problem in the community. "The bigger problem is on the one hand a community that feels demonised, a community that feels highly defensive and on the other side people who are fearful of what they see as encroachment into their society of values that have no place there," she said. "That polarisation leads to more alienation, it leads to racism, it leads to xenophobia, it leads to violence and attack and it leads to extremists on both ends of the spectrum taking over." Australia's Muslim leadership is now likely to be reshaped into a board of imams to replace the mufti as the religious figurehead. Mr Zreika said it was not up to him to remove the sheik from his position, and he called for a "fair go" for him. "It's not a matter for me, it is a matter for the Australian Muslim public. I resonate what they say," Mr Zreika said. "There are calls - I'm not going to say that there are no calls ... but he has apologised, he has given an explanation, he has asked for more time to recover. "Now, it is up to us to give him a fair go according to Australian standards." --- Second Muslim cleric joins row in Australia over women and rape
31 October 2006 SYDNEY - A second Muslim cleric in Australia entered a growing controversy over Islamic attitudes to women and rape Tuesday, charging that Muslim rapists get higher sentences than other men. Sheikh Mohammed Omran publicly defended a sermon in which he said Muslims were dealt with more harshly than other sex offenders such as "bikies" belonging to motorcycle gangs or "football stars". The sermon was delivered in his Melbourne mosque last Friday, the day after a storm erupted over a top cleric's description of women without Islamic headscarves as "uncovered meat" inviting sexual attack. Those remarks were made by the Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali, who collapsed and was rushed to hospital Monday after a firestorm of criticism and relentless pressure for his resignation. Both clerics referred in their sermons to heavy sentences meted out to a group of young Muslim men for a series of notorious gang rapes in Sydney six years ago. One of the men received a 55-year jail sentence, which was later reduced on appeal. "They make a big fuss about these kids because one of them, his name is Mohamed," Omran said in his sermon, according to a report in The Australian daily Tuesday. "Even if you kill someone, you don't go for 60 years." In an interview later with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Omran defended his remarks. "What I said in the sermon, I say it here and I'll say it wherever I am," Omran said. "We are part of the Australian society and, as an Australian — forget what I am, a cleric or not a cleric, I am an Australian — I have a view and I am free to tell the people about my view." Omran charged that judges lacked consistency in sentencing, saying that otherwise similar sentences should be passed on "the priest who rape(s) a child under his care, or the teacher who (has) a sexual relation with his student". He also accused the media and the government of overreacting to crimes committed by Muslims. Prime Minister John Howard has led the storm of criticism of the mufti's remarks about "uncovered meat". Hilali remained in hospital Tuesday after he issued a statement, which said he would take indefinite leave from preaching and indicated he could soon resign as mufti.