June 11, 2007 in Nation/World

Cleric quits, said women tempted rapists

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

MELBOURNE, Australia – Australia’s top Islamic cleric, who came under fire last year when he likened women without head scarves to “uncovered meat,” stepped down Sunday. Muslim leaders appointed a new mufti.

Australia’s council of Muslim leaders appointed Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam as the nation’s senior cleric after months of criticism over the previous mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali.

The council initially offered al-Hilali another two-year term in the post, but he “gracefully declined,” according to a statement released by the Australian National Imams Council.

“We recognize the great services that Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali has provided over the years and we pray for his good health,” the statement said.

The sheik declined to say why he stepped down.

In September, al-Hilali blamed scantily clad women for tempting men to rape them, saying, “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside … and the cats come to eat it … whose fault is it?”

Al-Hilali apologized for the comment, but soon afterward caused further anger by saying Muslims have more right to live in Australia than the descendants of convicts.

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