I awoke this morning to the news of comments by Australia’s senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali on the subject of women’s dress:

“If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside … without cover, and the cats come to eat it … whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred.”

(See here and here for reaction, 99% of which for a change seems to be quite sensibly horrified.)

He later apologised saying that he did not mean to condone rape and that women have the right to wear what they want, that men have the duty to avert their eyes or walk away.

So what did he mean?

The words he used, no matter that they may be taken out of context as he complained, say quite clearly that if you put meat out uncovered you cannot complain if cats eat it, it is your own fault – and that this is a suitable analogy for women who dress in a “provocative” or “immodest” manner. Whether he condemns the rapist or no, it is very clear that he also criticises the woman raped, if she is immodest in her dress. Very clear.

And what not many people seem to find offensive is the way that this man expressed his point of view. Was it really necessary to compare women with hunks of meat? Dead, inhuman flesh? Whatever you may think of the point he was trying to make, why use such a massively offensive analogy to say it?

If you leave out an uncovered jar of sweet nectar, can you blame the butterflies and bees who sip from it? If you leave pretty shiny baubles in your garden, can you blame the magpie that snatches it for his nest? If you leave out a saucer of milk, who can blame the kitten that drinks it?

If you leave out a sleek new car with the keys in the ignition, can you blame the thief who steals it? If you leave your downstairs window open, can you really complain if someone comes through it to burgle your home? If nobody takes adequate steps to protect the bank, and the bank gets robbed, where is the real problem, with the bank or the robbers?

But no, it had to be uncovered meat.

I wonder if it was raw or not.