A meeting of about 60 imams late yesterday decided against sacking the mufti of the nation’s biggest mosque, Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly, who was accused of justifying rape last year when he compared immodestly dressed women to uncovered meat.
Imams council spokesman Mohamad Abdalla said the meeting voted to consult the country’s 280,000 Muslims about Hilaly’s future, angering Prime Minister John Howard who said the decision was out of touch with the views of the community.
“They’re exercising their right. But I think they’re doing their community damage,” Howard told Sky television today.
“The failure of the community to do something more decisive about this is damaging the image of Islamic Australians as part of our community. I think the impact of this decision will be extremely negative.”
Howard, who has said Hilaly does not promote Australian values, had urged Muslim leaders to drop Hilaly, who once described
Hilaly also angered many locals when he told Egyptian TV that Muslims had a greater right to be in the country than white Australians who came from convict heritage.
Abdalla said the imams had decided to set up a council with representatives from each state, to look at the qualities they wanted from a new mufti.
He said Muslims wanted a mufti who was qualified in Islamic law, who could communicate in English, and who was aware of the social, economic and political context in
Muslim clerics last September resolved to do more to speak out against violence and Islamic militants, to set up a national centre for Islamic studies to train local imams, and to ensure more imams deliver their weekly sermons in English. - Reuters