HYDERABAD, India -- Indian tennis star Sania Mirza insists
she opposes premarital sex, a statement that came as crowds burned
effigies of the 19-year-old Muslim over her earlier remarks
advocating safe sex.
Mirza already has been criticized for her tennis clothing,
usually a short skirt and midriff-revealing T-shirt. Sections of
orthodox Muslim clergy say she is leading astray young Muslims,
"I would like to clearly say on record that I could not
possibly justify premarital sex, as it is a very big sin in Islam
and one which I believe will not be forgiven by Allah," Mirza said
The protests were triggered by her remarks at a leadership
summit earlier this week in New Delhi.
"So there are two issues here, safe sex and sex before marriage," she said. "You don't want me to tell you that you have safe sex, whether it is before or after marriage. Everyone must know what he or she is doing."
Her statement angered Muslim clergy.
"If she has said these things, she would have nothing to do with Islam," Haseeb Hasan Siddiqui of the Sunni Ulema (religious leaders) Board was quoted as saying by the Pioneer newspaper.
Earlier in the day, small groups of protesters from the student
wings of mainstream Hindu nationalist political parties
demonstrated and burned paper effigies of her in Hyderabad and
three other towns.
Kiran Kumar, a student leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata
Party, said young stars should behave with dignity and be good role
India's Sunni Ulema Board, a Muslim organization, issued an
edict in October demanding Mirza cover up during matches. The group
described her tennis clothes as "un-Islamic."
"As long as I am winning, people shouldn't care whether my
skirt is 6 inches long or 6 feet long," Mirza said at the
"How I dress is very personal thing," she added. "It is scary
that every time I wear a T-shirt, it becomes a talking point for
the next three days."
In August, she became the first Indian woman to reach the fourth
round of a Grand Slam tournament, losing in the U.S. Open to Maria
Sharapova, then ranked No. 1. Mirza is ranked No. 31 on the WTA
Tour, up from No. 326 a little more than a year ago.