ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan's tourism minister says she fears for her life after clerics at a radical mosque issued an edict accusing her of sinning by hugging her French parachute jumping instructor, the state news agency reported.
Minister of Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar told a parliamentary committee of her fear on Saturday following the Taliban-style edict against her by Islamic clerics at Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
The clerics said the hug was "an illegitimate and forbidden act" and "without any doubt, she has committed a great sin."
Two clerics at the mosque issued the edict against Bakhtiar last Sunday, demanding that she be sacked, her family punish her and she be made to ask for forgiveness after pictures in the Pakistani media showed Bakhtiar hugging her parachute jumping instructor at a fundraising jump in France.
Hundreds of students from an Islamic seminary attached to the mosque have been running an anti-vice campaign in Islamabad, threatening music shops and brothels, in a bold challenge to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally who has pledged to promote moderate Islam.
The mosque's chief cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, has threatened to stage suicide attacks if authorities try to raid the mosque.
Bakhtiar rejected the edict last week, saying she had only received a pat from her instructor for her jump in France last month to raise money for victims of a devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.
Bakhtiar was not immediately available for comment on Sunday.
"I have strengthened my security after the fatwa [edict] from the so-called Shariat court and the killing of Punjab provincial minister Zil-e-Huma," APP quoted Bakhtiar as saying, referring to the shooting death in February of a female provincial official by a man who told police he was opposed to women holding high offices.
Last month, an anti-terrorism court sentenced to death the man who attacked Zil-e-Huma Usman, who was minister for social welfare in Punjab province.