By Irfan Yusuf
October 27, 2006 12:00 dailytelegraph
IN April last year, a Sydney sheik made remarks linking dress to sexual violence against women.
He alleged that women who dressed a certain way were eligible for rape. When clarifying his remarks, the young imam made matters worse by claiming he was only referring to Muslim women who refused to wear the hijab.
That young imam was forced to retract and apologise for his comments. Muslims thought they had seen the end of such misguided and misogynistic religiosity.
Now, one of Australia's most senior imams has repeated the same slur. Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly, whose title includes mufti of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific (even if many across the Tasman and the Pacific have never heard of him), has now alleged that women are meat which should not be left uncovered.
To make matters worse, the Sheik's representative and translator has claimed that the Sheik was only referring to sex workers. As if sex workers are not entitled to the same rights as any other members of the community.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has called for Elhilaly's deportation. It's too late for that – the Sheik has been a citizen for over a decade. However it isn't too late to call for the Sheik's removal.
Yet it seems only the body which appointed him – the peak Muslim body known as the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils – can remove him. AFIC is currently being managed by an administrator appointed by the courts.
The latest Elhilaly gaffe illustrates the widespread misogyny that exists among Muslim religious leaders.
AFIC itself has tended to be a female-free zone. Until its most recent (and disputed) election, AFIC had not had a female executive member for some two decades.
Many ethnically-based mosques across Sydney and Melbourne bar women from attending or make life most uncomfortable for them.
This year, at least five Muslim men will join a host of other prominent Australian men as ambassadors for White Ribbon Day. WRD is an initiative of UNIFEM, the UN agency for women, and is a day to campaign for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
Perhaps one step Elhilaly could take would be to impress upon his congregation the importance of heeding the White Ribbon Day message.
However, he must first apologise to women and men of all persuasions. Anything less than a complete apology would be unacceptable.
* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney lawyer and UNIFEM Ambassador for White Ribbon Day