Australia’s prime minister joined Muslim leaders yesterday in condemning a cleric’s comments that husbands are entitled to smack disobedient wives and force them to have sex.
Samir Abu Hamza made the contentious comments in Sydney during a lecture in 2003, but they were first reported yesterday after they appeared in a video posted on the Internet.
During the lecture on marriage delivered to a male audience, Hamza — who has previously had no national profile — ridiculed Australian law that regards forced sex within marriage as rape.
“Amazing, how can a person rape his wife?” Hamza said, adding that wives must immediately respond to their husbands’ sexual demands.
He also said a man was entitled to use limited force as a last resort to punish a disobedient wife.
“After you have advised them for a long, long time, then you smack them, you beat them and — please brothers, calm down — the beating that the Muhammad showed is like the toothbrush that you use to brush your teeth,” he said.
“You are not allowed to bruise them; you are not allowed to make them bleed,” Hamza said. “You don’t go and grab a broomstick and say that is what Allah has said.”
Hamza could not be contacted for comment yesterday at the Islamic center he runs in the southern city of Melbourne. Yesterday’s edition of the Herald Sun newspaper quoted Hamza as saying he stood by his recorded comments.
While Australia is a relatively tolerant and multicultural society, ethnic and religious rifts occasionally flare, with the treatment of women under Islam a flashpoint in this majority Christian nation.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemned Hamza’s comments, saying violence toward women was permissible “under no circumstances.”
“Australia will not tolerate these sort of remarks,” Rudd told reporters.
Joumanah El Matrah, the executive of the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria state, said Hazma’s comments were “a grossly inappropriate representation of both the Koran and Muslim views on violence, both in wife beating and rape.”
Sherene Hassan, the vice president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said research has found that some imams in Australia share Hamza’s stance on domestic violence. She said the council would hold a series of workshops aimed at changing those views.
Conflicts between mainstream Australia and its fast-growing Muslim minority, who number 400,000 in a population of 21 million, have gained a higher profile in recent years.
Australia’s former mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, created a furor in 2006 which split the Islamic community with a lecture in Sydney in which he compared women who do not wear head scarves to “uncovered meat” and said immodestly dressed women invite rape.