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Hijab wearers blame crime, not clothes


By Andra Jackson
October 27, 2006

A SENIOR Muslim leader's suggestion that women who failed to wear the hijab were "inviting" sexual attacks was "abhorrent" and grounds for his resignation, representatives of Muslim women say.

Urfa Masood, 28, vice-chairwoman of the Fitzroy-based Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria, said she backed yesterday's call by the Islamic Council of Victoria for Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali to resign his position.

Ms Masood said: "I was appalled by the comment. Sexual violence is a terrible crime to be inflicted on a woman and to blame it on the woman is just not an acceptable attitude."

Like the council's chairwoman Tasneem Chopra, Ms Masood was wearing a hijab and said the cleric's suggestion that it was a protection against rape was "rubbish".

"I don't think any of us put on the hijab saying 'now I am going to be safe, no one will rape me'. It is simple a matter of taste.

"Sexual violence knows no ethnic, no race, no religious bounds," Ms Masood said.

Ms Chopra said the sheikh's linking of the hijab to protection against sexual crimes was "totally disingenuous in that he completely ignored the incidents of sexual violence perpetrated from within the Muslim community". She said all women are susceptible to sexual violence in their homes.

"The attire of women is not the issue. It is the criminal behaviour and inclination of men who perpetrate those crimes that is the issue at large." Ms Chopra said she was heartened that at a time when the sheikh's comments could have driven a wedge between the Muslim and the wider community, they had been strongly rebuffed by the vast majority of Muslim commentators, both men and women.

"The average Muslim realises that these are not comments that represents Islam, and certainly don't represent Muslim Australia," she said.


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