Mirza insists she opposes premarital sex

Updated: November 19, 2005, 12:40 PM ET
Associated Press

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, especially girls.

"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 Friday.

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 models.

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 leadership forum.

"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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press