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Pakistan: Facebook Star Receives Death Threats over Selfie with Islamic Cleric

Qandeel Baloch, a social media celebrity and former reality TV star in Pakistan, is facing death threats after taking selfie photos with an Islamic Mufti who was stripped of his authority following the publication of the photos online.

In a letter to numerous high-ranking government officials, Baloch is demanding Pakistan ensure her safety from attackers. “I need security from you,” she writes, noting that private documents like her passport have surfaced online, making her “extremely tense and depressive,” and that she has also received threatening phone calls that have made her concerned for her life.

In a press conference Tuesday, the 26-year-old Baloch asserted, “I will hold interior ministry responsible if anything happens to me or my family.” She insisted that she met with Mufti Molvi Abdul Qavi and took photos with him to “expose” his un-Islamic behavior and that she had a right to government security as a “Muslim and a daughter of this nation.”

Baloch is also facing a lawsuit regarding her pseudonym (her birth name is Fauzia Azeem). Representatives of Pakistan’s Baloch tribe have sued her for using their name, alleging that she has “brought shame” to them with her public image as a made-up liberalized woman.

According to Baloch’s website, she “has created a buzz in the town with her bold looks and her killer attitude.” The site features multiple “hot and sexy” videos of a clothed Baloch pouting for the camera, an affront to Islamic notions of modesty.

Baloch met with Qavi last week. Little is known about the encounter at a hotel — the two disagree on who called the summit or what happened — other than the photos that surfaced of Baloch wearing Qavi’s Mufti hat and her testimony. Baloch initially accused Qavi of having a soft drink during the meet, a prohibited indulgence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and has since accused him of sexual advances towards her.

“[He tried to] kiss me and hug me…” she claimed. “I was laughing and telling him not to do it… He was very emotional and made many attempts to hug and kiss me. The sofa I was sitting on, he sat on it and tried to make out with me. Then he would stop when I asked him to stop. Then he’d try again.”

She also claimed the mufti told her, “he knows how to seduce a woman” and told her it would take multiple meetings to get her to open up to him.

Qavi has denied all allegations of misconduct. He was nonetheless suspended from his duties as a mufti, including losing his post on an influential committee responsible for the moon sightings that determine the dates of Islamic holidays. He was also removed as president of the Punjab religious affairs wing of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The selfies have become a national controversy in Pakistan, disturbing a meeting of the legislature of Punjab state last week, wherein representatives insisted on discussing the proper response to the selfies over the items on the official docket, including the state budget.

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