The Australian media, working hand in hand with the Howard government and the opposition Labor Party, has seized upon a sermon delivered last month by a Sydney-based Islamic cleric to escalate its hysterical campaign against Muslims.
Last Thursday, the Australian published translated excerpts from a sermon delivered by Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali last month, in which the Muslim cleric appeared to blame rape victims for their plight. “She is the one wearing a short dress, lifting it up, lowering it down, then a look, then a smile, then a word, then a greeting, then a chat, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail, then comes a merciless judge who gives you 65 years,” he said. This was an apparent reference to the extraordinarily harsh sentence imposed on 20-year-old Bilal Skaf for gang rape convictions in Sydney six years ago.
Hilali quoted an Islamic scholar who said that rape victims should be imprisoned for life because “if she hadn’t left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn’t have snatched it”. He then continued, “If she was in her room, in her house, wearing her hijab, being chaste, the disasters wouldn’t have happened”.
The position that women are responsible for rape – which is, by definition, non-consensual – is backward and reactionary. The current political and media campaign against Hilali’s comments, however, is entirely hypocritical. It has nothing to do with a principled opposition to sexual violence against women. The banner of women’s rights and sexual equality is being cynically paraded by the most right-wing and chauvinist forces in order to advance their own agenda.