Can't The Australian
Imam Think Beyond Meat?
By Farzana Versey
28 October, 2006
Taj Aldin al Hilali chose the month of Ramzan to talk about meat. Unfortunately,
he was referring to women in that demeaning fashion.
Said he, "If you take
out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden,
or in the park, or in the backyard without cover, and the cats come
to eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat's?"
While the concentration is
on the woman as meat analogy, we should also cast a glance at his assumption
that, as a consequence, men are cats. The cat brain is vastly different
from the human brain, which the Mufti does not seem to understand.
He went on to add, "If
she (a woman) was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem
would have occurred."
Which world does he live
in? Is there no rape in Muslim countries? Are women behind veils not
molested? Don't rapes take place inside homes?
What is surprising is these
comments were made at a public sermon outside a mosque. What were the
Muslims doing at the time? Isn't Islam all about there being one god
and one prophet and one holy book? Then, this human 'middleman' is not
sacrosanct. Why did they not pull him up immediately or issue a statement
distancing themselves from these disgusting views?
A month later 'The Australian',
a local newspaper translated his comments, and now it has caused a furore.
The problem with hindsight is that an emotive issue gets rationalised
to the point that demerits too are rectified. Even the BBC, while interviewing
him, described him thus: "A softly-spoken man, who clearly commands
both enormous respect and affection within his community."
This is a nice way to pin
the whole community, at least within Australia. Did the BBC's correspondent
conduct a poll to ascertain his popularity? The media tends to assume
that religious leaders, politicians, pop stars control people's attention
merely due to the fact that they cater to or represent them symbolically.
To those who see this as one more Islamic problem, my answer is, NO.
It is the problem of one guy living in Australia.
There are those who are reacting
to it and justifying the Imam's statements by saying that even the Israeli
President Moshe Katsav has been involved in scandals of rape, indecent
assault and sexual harassment of women. The latter is clearly a criminal
offence for which he will or ought to be tried in a court of law.
There have been several cases
of such crimes as well as inappropriate behaviour, including by the
former US President Bill Clinton. The law took its course, to whatever
degree (some element of influence no doubt impeding the legal process).
However, bringing these examples
into the present discussion does not help, because these are not religious
Should there be different
standards for them? Most certainly. While politicians can be thrown
out of power, what checks and balances are there against these 'people
How different is the Mufti's
behaviour from, say, a situation in which a woman may be referred to
as "a nice piece of ass"? Social interactions require an altogether
different set of norms, based on the constructs of that particular culture,
which may or may not look kindly upon such terminology.
But the Mufti's words negate
what HE is supposed to stand for. His religion, Islam, does not give
him the right to talk in this manner. It is as simple as that. If anything,
he ought to feel ashamed of claiming Islam as his own and so should
the Muslims. He has no business to hijack the religion for his paltry
understanding of it and his few minutes of notoriety.
I do believe people should
reasonably argue this issue without getting into religious politics.
Irrespective of the fact that Australia has recently asked for a citizenship
test that may target Muslims and start the whole debate about "integrating
into the mainstream" – a superficial and smart way to bludgeon
a community – it is a separate concern that needs to be tackled
at the level of immigration policy and political prudence. Race riots
have indeed affected many Muslims of Middle East origin and as Walid
Ali of the Islamic Council of Victoria said, "I am expecting people
to get abused in the street and get abused at work."
For now, however, the Australian
Imam should be disowned by the community for his irresponsible remarks.
(Farzana Versey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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