Controversial Australian Muslim leader steps down

Australia's top Islamic cleric, who triggered a furor last year when he referred to women without head scarves as "uncovered meat," stepped down Sunday, prompting Muslim leaders to appoint a new mufti. Australia's council of Muslim leaders appointed Sheik Fehmi Naji El-Imam as the nation's senior cleric, ending months of controversy over the previous mufti, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali. The council initially offered al-Hilali another two-year term in the post but he "gracefully declined," according to a statement released by the Australian National Imams Council. "We recognize the great services that Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali has provided over the years and we pray for his good health," the council said.