Pakistan: Hug Sparks Fatwa Against Minister


Clerics at a radical mosque in Pakistan have called for the sacking of Tourism Minister Nilofer Bakhtiar after newspapers there published photographs of her hugging a man at a charity event in France.

A Taliban-style Islamic court set up recently at the Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital Islamabad has issued a “fatwa,” or religious decree, against the minister.

Bakhtiar, who participated in a charity parachute jump in France, was photographed hugging her instructor after she completed a jump. She said she took part in the event to raise money for victims of an earthquake that claimed the lives of 73,000 people in Pakistan in October 2005.

Clerics at the mosque said her behavior was “obscene and objectionable” and asked the government of military dictator President Pervez Musharraf to punish and fire her.

Bakhtiar called the decree regrettable, and told reporters, “I do not feel ashamed at all for what I did and I am not afraid of anyone except God.”

Women in politics are easy targets for hard-liners in conservative Pakistan. In February, a Muslim zealot shot dead a female minister in the province of Punjab because he thought women should not be in politics. The minister was a vocal supporter of Musharraf. Her killer was sentenced to death last month ...