Parachute jump lands minister a fatwa
11 April, 2007
A group of radical clerics has issued a religious decree against Pakistan's tourism minister after some local newspapers printed photographs showing her holding onto a man after landing from a parachute jump in France.
The fatwa was issued by a religious court set up last week by a group of activist clerics in Lal Mosque, in Islamabad. The clerics have also demanded that the Government enact Islamic law.
The decree issued on Sunday accuses the minister, Nilofer Bakhtiar, of un-Islamic behaviour. The clerics urged the Government of President Pervez Musharraf to "punish and fire her from the Government".
Pakistani officials dismissed the fatwa, saying it had no legal, religious or moral authority. Human rights and political activists and many other Pakistanis have condemned the action and expressed support for her.
Ms Bakhtiar also dismissed the criticism, saying the photographs show her being congratulated for making the jump at a charity event and were taken out of context.
"We don't need to be intimidated by these people," she said.
"I have no regrets," said Bakhtiar. "I would do it again happily if it helps the people of Pakistan."
Ms Bakhtiar said the newspapers that printed the photographs incorrectly described the pictures and the cause for which she agreed to the jump. "They had horrible captions," she said.
Ms Bakhtiar said she went on the parachute jump at an event held by a private aid group that plans to raise funds for the victims of the earthquake that struck Pakistan in October 2005.
The photographs appear to show an elderly Frenchman giving her a hug, which she described as a congratulatory pat. "But the pictures published totally distorted the context," she said.
After the photographs were published, incensed radical clerics and some other conservative Pakistanis latched onto the opportunity to not only criticise her but also to attack Mr Musharraf for what he calls his approach of "enlightened moderation". The pictures, in their view, violated acceptable moral norms in this Muslim country.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, the chief cleric of Lal Mosque, and his brother, Abdur Rashid Ghazi, have made headlines in recent months for openly challenging the Government.
Many Pakistanis have expressed fears that such religious decrees mark the beginning of a dangerous precedent and are reminiscent of a continuing fatwa against the author Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses.
Courtesy -- Reuters