When is a hug not a hug but a great sin, an obscene and un-Islamic act? When hardline clerics from Islamabad’s Red Mosque decree it so. Pakistan’s Tourism Minister Nilofar Bakhtiar appears to be paying the price for not keeping people at arm’s length. Ms Bakhtiar has had to resign because a fatwa was issued against her for getting up close and personal with her French paratrooper trainer after she successfully completed a course in parachute jumping. No sooner were the photographs published of the so-called embrace, than clerics jumped into the fray to ‘defend’ the honour of Pakistani women.
Never mind the fact that the 71-year-old instructor did nothing which could be remotely construed as obscene. The event was organised last month to raise money for victims of the October 2005 earthquake. But then charity does not always begin at home if the clerics have their way. For one, they have not come to terms with the fact that women are entering the political fray, where horror of all horror, they will have to work cheek-by-jowl with men. Earlier this year, a woman minister in the Punjab province was shot dead by a fanatic who believed women should simply not be allowed into politics. The Foreign Minister’s resignation is another example of how bigots stand in the way of modernisation. Not that we are far behind if you go by the bizarre edicts of Information and Broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. Much like the queen in Alice in Wonderland, the kneejerk reaction to any woman who dares to oppose their line is ‘off with her head’ as Ms Bakhtiar has found. Would it have helped if the clerics were familiarised with that old saying, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open”?
Perhaps, when Ms Bakhtiar went-a-parasailing, she should have remembered to carry a reserve chute. You never really know when the lines get tangled. No soft landings here.