Nilofar Bakhtiar is Pakistan’s Minister of Tourism. She recently learned to skydive for a celebrity jump in France. Skydiving is not the sin she’s been accused of. What she did is sooo much worse than that. It happened after the skydive.

Her sin is so horrifying, so awful, so distasteful, so…shocking…that I ought not even type it. It’s that bad.

You won’t believe it. You really ought to stop reading this post right now.

I see you didn’t take my advice. Fair enough. You’ve been warned.

Nilofar Bakhtiar may have…hugged…a man. I’m not making this up. I’m also not making up the entirely reasonable reaction that her “great sin” has sparked at the infamous Red Mosque in Pakistan.

The Red Mosque isn’t just any old mosque. It’s next to Pakistan’s ISI HQ, and many agents attend there. It helped train up the Taliban. Lately it has been challenging Musharraf’s rule by mounting an anti-vice campaign (or it has been playing the radical foil to Musharraf’s secular rule, depending on how you view the situation). If Musharraf were Palpatine, the Red Mosque would be the Jedi Temple. They don’t seem to get along, both are major authorities, and everyone there knows it and may have to choose sides at some point.

But back to our shocking story.

Islamic clerics at a radical mosque in Pakistan’s capital have demanded the tourism minister be fired for hugging a foreign man, saying she committed a “great sin.”

Minister of Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar rejected the Taliban-style edict Monday and said her family and friends were concerned for her safety.

Two clerics at Islamabad’s Red Mosque demanded her dismissal Sunday, two days after setting up a court to deliver Islamic justice in a bold challenge to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally who has promised to promote moderate Islam.

The mosque’s chief cleric threatened last week to stage suicide attacks if authorities tried to raid the mosque.

Photos in the Pakistani media have shown Bakhtiar being helped by a male instructor during a charity parachute jump in France last month to raise money for victims of the devastating October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Another picture shows a woman — apparently Bakhtiar — hugging the instructor.

I would call these guys “Neanderthals,” but I think the extinct sapiens were probably a little more with it than these Red Mosque mullahs are. Neanderthals would be smart enough to realize that holding court hearings over an alleged hugging incident just might make those holding the hearings look a tad…insane.

Tragicomically, Bahktiar has denied that the hug in question took place. It was just a “pat,” she says.

Bakhtiar called the edict “baseless” and accused Pakistani newspapers of publishing “distorted” captions with the pictures. She said she had jumped without any previous training and her French instructor had just given her a pat.

“It was just a pat because he felt so proud of me,” Bakhtiar said. “I felt very happy also because it was affectionate and very encouraging.”

“Affectionate” and “encouraging,” huh? I think she’s saying that she enjoyed the foreign man’s non-hug. That’s gonna rile the mullahs.

And if she’s going to base her case on the definition of what a hug is, she’s going to lose. The mullahs will define hugs, thankyouverymuch, and those caught hugging will be harrassed without pity or mercy. There will be a fatwa. There will be rising calls for her ouster, and she will have to go into hiding for her own protection. Armed men will cause trouble in the streets.

Over a hug that might not have even been a hug.

And in a country where one lonely dictator stands between these anti-hug thugs and nuclear weapons.

Tags: Islam religion