Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Islamic leaders have condemned a Melbourne Muslim cleric who told followers it was permissible to hit their wives and force them to have sex.

But Coburg mosque cleric Samir Abu Hamza has told a confidant his message has been taken out of context and that he was referring to hitting wives in a metaphorical sense.

Mr Rudd told reporters Mr Hamza's comments had no place in modern Australia.

During a 2003 lecture also posted on the internet late last year, Mr Hamza told followers that under Islamic law, men could demand sex from their wives.

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