Earlier this week Reuters reported that Muslim clerics in Pakistans North West Frontier Province are calling for the removal of all female aid workers by the end of the month; they say the women pose a serious threat to Islamic mores.
Moazzam Ali Shah , head of Tehreek-e-Islaha Muashra ("Movement to Cleanse Society"), told Reuters, "We are not against the NGOs, but we are against them spreading obscenity in society and trying to weaken our faith by corrupting our women." Among the charges leveled by the clerics are that the female aid workers disregard local dress codes, cavort improperly with men, and drink alcohol. But Frank Lehmann, an official at World Vision, an NGO working in the area, denied any cultural disregard on their part. "We respect the local culture and try to behave accordingly," Lehmann told Reuters.
There's still no word on how local officials will respond to the clerics' demands, although they are currently in talks to squelch the issue. While the clerics have yet to declare any consequences if their demands are not met, local police told Reuters that aid workers will be protected from any potential backlash. Frighteningly, though, Islamic charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, identified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, has voiced support of the clerics position.
Many of the women the clerics seek to expel are part of the more than 50 non-governmental organizations providing relief work in response to the massive earthquake that hit the country in October, killing more than 73,000 people and destroying millions of homes. These local clerics have taken these charges of obscenity as more important than relief work that is -- more than ever -- critical to the country's well-being. Now that, my friends, is obscene.