AFP: The Australian government increased pressure on local Muslims Monday to sack their controversial leader after he reportedly expressed support for the hardline Islamic government in Iran.
SYDNEY, April 9, 2007 (AFP) – The Australian government increased pressure on local Muslims Monday to sack their controversial leader after he reportedly expressed support for the hardline Islamic government in Iran.
The Egyptian-born mufti Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali urged the Muslim world to unite behind Iran during a visit to Tehran last week amid tension over the Iranian government’s nuclear ambitions and the capture of 15 British sailors, local media reported.
The cleric had already caused a storm of protest by describing scantily-clad women as “uncovered meat” inviting rape and by mocking the convict ancestry of many white Australians.
Hilali was quoted in Iran as saying Muslims should serve in Iranian “trenches,” The Australian newspaper said.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer responded by calling on Australia’s Muslims to sack Hilali, describing him as “a massive embarrassment.”
“Here is a man who travels the world making all sorts of completely absurd and incredible comments,” Downer told reporters. “This reflects on Australian Muslims and it reflects on Australia.
“My view is that he has just got to be removed as the leader of the Islamic community in Australia and some moderate and reasonable person needs to take his place,” Downer added.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews earlier urged Hilali to consider leaving Australia, but noted there was no possibility of stripping the mufti of his citizenship.
Several Islamic community leaders have also spoken out against Hilali recently, saying he does not represent their views.
The Australian National Imams Council last month voted to keep Hilali as mufti for at least three months but a spokesman said he was likely to be replaced at the end of that period.