Australia Australia's most prominent Islamic cleric vowed Thursday to stand strong against widespread outrage about his description of women who don't wear head scarfs as "uncovered meat" who invite rape.
Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, long a lightning rod in strained relations between the government and the Muslim minority, apologized for any offense he caused women in making the comments a month ago during a sermon marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
But he said he had no intention of stepping down. Instead, al-Hilali will not give sermons for two or three months, though he will not face censure for his comments.
Prime Minister John Howard and others denounced al-Hilali's remarks, and there were calls for the cleric to quit or be removed from his role as mufti in the faith.