Faced with fatwa, Nilofar Bakhtiar, a former Pakistani minister vows to fight extremism
29 Jul 2007
PARIS: July 28, 2007. (AFP) A former Pakistani government minister who resigned after Islamists issued a fatwa against her for posing in an "obscene manner" with French paraglider pilots, vowed Saturday to fight religious extremism.
"My mission in life now is to face and fight extremism of any kind," former Pakistani minister of tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar told AFP in a telephone interview.
The religious decree against Bakhtiar, who met with French Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade in Paris Saturday, came after she was photographed earlier this year in brightly-coloured paragliding gear taking part in a tandem glide during a trip to France and then hugging an instructor upon landing.
The jump had been organised to raise funds for children affected by the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which killed more than 73,000 people.
According to the fatwa, the first issued by the self-styled court at the hardline, pro-Taliban Red Mosque in Islamabad since mullahs announced its formation in April, the photographs of Bakhtiar were "obscene and objectionable".
The Islamists, who this month have been locked in deadly fighting with government troops at the Red Mosque, at the time urged the government to sack Bakhtiar.
On Saturday she told AFP she had quit her post in May after being pushed out of the presidency of the women`s group within President Pervez Musharraf`s party, the Pakistan Muslim League.
"I was very angry and I thought that some support would come from the party leadership, the government. Nothing came. They all just kept mum on this issue because the ... Mosque episode was going on," she said.
After the religious ruling "I was worried about my children most importantly," she said, insisting however that she would not stop fighting extremism out of fear.
"I think that if I get intimidated then these extremists will get more leverage. They will think that they have been able to scare me off," she said.
Bakhtiar said she planned to organise an international conference on extremism in Pakistan in November and that she had invited Yade to attend.
"I want people to knock down extremism, to bring religions together, because we need to live as (a) global village," she said.
Her comments came as Pakistan boosted security after a suicide bombing during protests at the pro-Taliban Red Mosque on Friday killed 14 people.
It was the 13th suicide attack in the country since a bloody army raid of the mosque on July 10 left more than 100 people dead.