Pakistani minister defies fatwa over hug
Apr 11, 2007 - 11:24:35 AM

Islamabad, April 11 - Pakistan Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar has defied the country's Islamic clergy which issued a decree against her for hugging a male coach after para-jumping, by saying she did it for a 'good cause'.

Bakhtiar told a TV channel that she had 'jumped' to collect funds for the victims of the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, and would do it again for a good cause.

'We don't need to be intimidated by these people,' Bakhtiar said.

The chief cleric of Islamabad's Lal Masjid last week issued a 'fatwa', or religious edict, calling on the government to sack Bakhtiar after a newspaper published a photo of her, attired in a bright jumpsuit, hugging her instructor after para-jumping in France.

'I have no regrets. I would do it again happily if it helps the people of Pakistan,' she was quoted as saying by the Daily Times.

In Karachi, female athletes taking part in the 30th National Games are receiving threatening letters.

'If women are found taking part in any sports event of the national games, they will be given punishment on the spot according to Islamic laws,' a letter to the editor in the newspaper said. 'Thus, all women and the government are warned to take heed. If they do not, then government properties and the stadium will be set on fire... and acid will be thrown on the faces of the women taking part in the games.'

The claim that the letter was issued by one of Karachi's largest madrassas -, Jamia Binoria, was categorically rejected. Madrassa principal Mufti Mohammad Naeem said the letter was 'a conspiracy to defame the Binoria university'.

In Lahore, members of the Islami Jamiat Talaba - Tuesday allegedly harassed the Punjab University's English department students, accusing them of 'immoral activity' and 'improper' dressing.

The activists also beat up a student and threw him in a nearby drain. The IJT activists also called up female students of the department on their cell phones, telling them to 'learn a lesson' from the incident.

Later, a couple of men on a motorcycle, who claimed to be IJT activists, dragged a female student along the road before throwing her on to the green belt along the road. She was on her way to her hostel. They called her up on her cell phone, telling her to change her 'anti-Islamic views'.

Students of the department complained that several girls had been receiving threats from the IJT for a long time regarding their 'un-Islamic' attire - sleeveless salwar kameez with dupattas, a normal dress worn across South Asia.

The Daily Times said in an editorial Tuesday: 'Mobs that form posses of vigilantism do not recognise the rule of law. They insist that justice should be quickly carried out after the commission of blasphemy.

'Our religious teachers are themselves to blame for this because they teach the people to be outraged at blasphemy, but do not tell them that they have first to prove it in a court of law.'

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