Page last updated at 04:54 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Cleric 'must deny' views on rape

Muslim mother and two children, Lakemba Mosque Sydney, Nov 06
Muslims live and worship freely in Australia despite occasional friction

A Muslim cleric in Australia who said men have a right to force their wives to have sex has been told to apologise by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The cleric, Samir Abu Hamza, reportedly questioned how rape can exist within marriage, and encouraged "light beating" of disobedient women.

"I would call upon this Islamic cleric to publicly apologise and repudiate his remarks," Mr Rudd said.

He told reporters that such views have no place in Australia.

"Under no circumstances is sexual violence permissible or acceptable in Australia," he said.

"Nor are they acceptable in my view to mainstream Muslim teachings," he said of the views apparently supporting violent treatment of women.

Samir Abu Hamza runs the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia and, according to local media, is a self-taught cleric, popular with young Muslims in Melbourne's northern suburbs.


His 2003 lecture entitled The Keys To A Successful Marriage has been posted on the internet in a 50-minute video.

In this, Mr Hamza tells his audience that hitting their wives is not allowed but a light smacking is.

Australia will not tolerate these sort of remarks. They don't belong in modern Australia and he should stand up, repudiate them and apologise
Kevin Rudd, Australian prime minister
"You beat them... but this is the last resort, after you have advised them for a long, long time, then you smack them, you beat them.

"You are not allowed to bruise them, you are not allowed to make them bleed, this is just to shape them up - 'shape up woman' - that's about it.

"You don't go and get a broomstick."

The Australian-born Mr Hamza went on to express his disbelief at Australia's legal definition of rape, saying that a woman was not allowed to refuse her husband's requests for sex.

"Even if her husband was to ask her for a sexual relationship and she is preparing him the bread on the stove, she must leave it and come and respond to her husband," he said.

"In this country if the husband wants to sleep with his wife and she does not want to and... there's nothing wrong with her, she just does not want to, and he ends up sleeping with her by force, it is... known to be as a rape.

"Amazing. How can a person rape his wife?"

Mr Rudd said the cleric's remarks "have no place in modern Australia at all".

"I would say to this Islamic cleric: Australia will not tolerate these sort of remarks. They don't belong in modern Australia and he should stand up, repudiate them and apologise," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Hamza was reported to be on leave and unavailable for comment.

A leading Islamic cleric, Sheikh Taj Aldin al-Hilali, was replaced as Mufti of Australia in 2007 after creating a storm of protest when he described scantily-dressed women as "uncovered meat" inviting rape.

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