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Oz Muslims : Sheik's claim that 'immodest' women deserve rape and jailed gang rapist is victim really means "do the right thing"

October 27, 2006

He was only quoting a scholar

THE defence by Taj el-Din al Hilaly of his inflammatory remarks on women and sex rests on three factors - his audience already knew he condemned rape, he wasn't talking about rape and, like the Pope, was quoting a religious scholar.

The remarks were made last month to a group of men and women following one of his regular sermons at Lakemba mosque.

While his speech begins with a dissertation on adultery, it soon makes a thinly veiled reference to the gang rape by Bilal Skaf that shocked Australia. "But when it comes to this disaster, who started it?" he ponders.

It's then that he quotes an Islamic scholar, al-Rafii, saying he would discipline the man but arrest and jail a woman for life "if I came across a rape crime".

The explicit reference to rape seems to make a mockery of Sheik Hilaly's claim that the talk was about "the causes that lead to fornication for both men and women", not sexual assault.

It's when quoting the Islamic scholar Rafii that he makes the incendiary comparison between a scantily clad woman and "uncovered meat" and it's the "uncovered meat that's the problem" in the event of sexual assault.

Sheik Hilaly's spokesman, Keysar Trad, did not dispute the content of the translation yesterday, saying he had not heard the tape properly, but he offered a new defence.

He likened the quoting of Rafii to Pope Benedict's recent citing of a Byzantine religious scholar who said that Islam had been spread by the sword.

Quoting someone doesn't automatically confer endorsement, Mr Trad said. "It's a given that he doesn't support rape," he said. "When something is a given, you don't have to say it."

The explanation did little to placate Iktimal Hage Ali, a prominent Muslim woman who has heard the sermon in Arabic and say it's clearly about rape.

But Sheik Hilaly has his supporters, who offered another defence. His comments were only meant for Muslims and understandable within the prism of Muslim culture.

Worshipper Barea Kamaledine, 39, from Greenacre, said: "The sermon that everyone's chucking a big mental about was aimed at us and our men, our community and our community only. He's just telling us to do the right thing. I don't know why everybody's offended."

"You guys [the media] never understand the things he says. We understand it because we know where we're coming from. We understand our religion, whereas you don't. There are a lot of problems in our community and he's just trying to stop them."

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