Australia's top Muslim cleric rationalized a series of gang rapes by Arab men, blaming women who "sway suggestively," wear make-up and don't cover themselves in the tradition of Islam. Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly's comments in a Ramadan sermon in a Sydney mosque have stirred a furor in the country with even Prime Minister John Howard weighing in with condemnation. The cleric also said the judge in the case, who sentenced the rapists, had "no mercy." "But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he said, referring to the women victims – whom he said were "weapons used by Satan." The victims of the vicious gang rapes are leading the national outcry – with some calling for deportation of the sheik. In a Sydney Daily Telegraph online poll, 84 percent of people said the Egyptian-born sheik should be deported. "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat?" the sheik said in his sermon. 'Remarks appalling and reprehensible' "The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred." A 16-year-old girl, whose gang rape investigation was the subject of a secret police report, issued an open letter yesterday. "You are a sad person who has no understanding of what really happens when these people inflict harm and degrading acts upon me or any other young girl," she said. Initially, the mufti of Australia would not back away from his comments. But today he apologized. "I unreservedly apologize to any woman who is offended by my comments," he said in a statement today. "I had only intended to protect women's honor." Howard said the sheik's remarks were "appalling and reprehensible."
Muslims often "protect women's honor" by stoning them to death in