Cleric's comments on women's dress spark outrage

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A senior Australian Muslim cleric triggered national outrage today for likening women who dress immodestly to meat that is left out for prey to eat.

Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali's spokesman said the cleric's comments in a sermon last month to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan had been taken out of context in a report in The Australian newspaper.

But the spokesman, Keysar Trad, did not challenge the accuracy of the paper's translation.

"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?"

The Australian quoted Hilali as saying. "The uncovered meat is the problem."

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he said, referring to the headdress worn by some Muslim women.

Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said Hilali, a high-profile cleric who has advised the government on Muslim issues, should now be rejected by the country's Islamic community.