Hilali: 'role still with me'

September 9, 2007

OUTSPOKEN Muslim cleric Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly still regards himself as Australia's Muslim leader, despite being replaced three months ago.

Speaking one year after his infamous Ramadan sermon - in which he compared scantily dressed women to "uncovered meat" - the sheik said he continued to represent Muslims at international Islamic conferences. He has just returned from Malaysia.

While he was replaced by Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam in June, Sheik Hilaly told The Sun-Herald: "The role is still with me."

"I have the tongue that speaks the truth, a heart that is only afraid of God and the knowledge to guide Muslims spiritually. They are three important qualities a leader must have," he said in Arabic from his home in south-western Sydney.

"The only difference now is that I no longer have the title and that I am out of the media spotlight.

"I can now focus on doing my work in the community. This is my duty and I will fulfil my duty regardless of who is carrying the title of Mufti of Australia ...

"I want Australia to be one of the best nations in the world," he said. "We want to create better Muslims and improve the community so we live harmoniously with our fellow Australians."