Autralian Mufti Steps Down

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After apparently suffering a mild heart attack, Taj Din al-Hilali, the Australian mufti who compared women, unfavorably, to meat, has agreed to take an indefinite leave of absence from the job of mufti. He has also offered an apology, admitting that the analogy was completely inappropriate.

TAJ Din al-Hilali finally relented yesterday and agreed from a hospital bed to take "indefinite leave" from preaching after days of defiantly resisting calls for him to step down as the nation's Muslim leader. As Lebanese Muslim Association president Tom Zreika last night revealed that the besieged imam had suffered a "mild heart attack", Sheik Hilali for the first time in five days wholeheartedly apologised for likening women to uncovered meat to be preyed on by cats.

"I confess that this analogy is inappropriate and unacceptable for the Australian society and the Western society in general," Sheik Hilali said in a statement released after he was admitted tohospital.

His contrition came just hours following his collapse shortly after turning up at a crisis meeting at Lakemba Mosque yesterday morning.

Sheik Hilali was rushed by ambulance and police escort to Canterbury Hospital in western Sydney, complaining of "chest pains".

Mr Zreika said the Egyptian-born cleric had given a letter to the board outlining his intentions to leave his post for health reasons.

"In due course I will take the necessary decision that shall lift the pressures that have been placed on our Australian Muslim community and that will benefit all Australians," the letter says. "The pressure of the last couple of days has had an obvious effect on my health and wellbeing.

"I ask the public to give my family and I some privacy, time and space to recover. I have also asked for indefinite leave from my duties at Lakemba Mosque."

Mr Zreika told The Australian yesterday that his organisation's board accepted Sheik Hilali's request for leave.

"I think the general public now needs to give him some time to recover," he said. "He can't take it any more. It's really affecting his family and himself.

"The last thing we want him to do is pay with his life."

Hopefully this is a face-saving way for him to permanently leave the job.

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