Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called on a Muslim cleric to apologize for comments in which he condoned marital rape and advised men to "shape up" their wives by beating them.
In a lecture on marriage, Samir Abu Hamza told his male audience that they were allowed to force their wives into sex and hit them if they were disobedient, as long as they didn't draw blood.
Hamza, a self styled cleric with no formal training in Islam also ridiculed the law that prohibits rape within marriage.
"Amazing, how can a person rape his wife?" he asked.
His comments were made during a lecture in Sydney in 2003 but emerged today after they appeared in a video posted on the Internet. In his lecture, entitled "The Keys to a Successful Marriage", Hamza argued that Islamic law allowed men to use force to punish a disobedient wife, as long as they did not cause bruising or bleeding.
He added that if a husband demanded sex, his wife must respond immediately, even if she was in the middle of chores.
"If the husband was to ask her for a sexual relationship and she is preparing the bread on the stove she must leave it and come and respond to her husband," he says in the sermon.
"In this country if the husband wants to sleep with his wife and she does not want to and she hasn't got a sickness or whatever, there is nothing wrong with her she just does not feel like it, and he ends up sleeping with her by force . . . it is known to be as rape," he adds. "Amazing, how can a person rape his wife?"
Rudd condemned Hamza's comments Thursday, saying violence against women was permissible "under no circumstances."
"Australia will not tolerate these sort of remarks,'' the Prime Minister told reporters. "They don't belong in modern Australia, and he should stand up, repudiate them, and apologize."
His call for an apology was echoed by Muslim leaders in Australia, who expressed their concern that impressionable young male Muslims would watch Hamza's video and be influenced by it.