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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 05:54 GMT
Australian imams 'to fight fires'
Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali in a photo dated 31 July, 2006
Some imams' recent comments have been deemed offensive
Islamic clerics in Australia are being encouraged to volunteer as firemen and lifeguards, to improve the image of the Muslim community.

The request came from Tom Zreika, president of the influential Lebanese Muslim Association, in a report set to be discussed by clerics this weekend.

Mr Zreika said Muslims had become as unpopular as communists once were.

He also said that any imams who felt they could not comply with Australian law should leave the country.

As head of the largest Islamic organisation in Australia, Mr Zreika's views hold a lot of weight among the country's Muslim population.

In the 16-page report obtained by The Australian newspaper, he said that Australians "have had enough of us".

Surf life saving group in Sydney
Australia's first Muslim surf life savers began work last year
"We have become the new communism, particularly in the West, and some people in our community are so repulsed by our actions it is making life unbearable for us and our offspring," said Mr Zreika.

"It would be great to see a turbaned imam fighting fires alongside other bushfire service volunteers," Mr Zreika added, also recommending that clerics volunteered as lifeguards.

Such public service volunteers are highly respected in Australia - which has a strong beach culture and frequent forest fires.

Mr Zreika also spoke out against Islamic clerics who opposed Australian rules.

"If an imam finds it impossible to comply with the laws of this country, and justifies its breach, then they should leave Australia altogether," he said.

Top cleric Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali created un uproar last year when he described scantily-dressed women as "uncovered meat" inviting rape.

He then made disparaging remarks about Australia's convict beginnings.

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