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Verse on ski angers Valley

Srinagar, Feb. 7: A Quranic verse pasted on one of the skis of a Swedish tourist today took the skiing paradise of Gulmarg by storm.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets crying “sacrilege” but the skier has told police he had pasted the sticker carrying the verse for divine protection against any harm.

The police have detained Hans Patrick, who works in Qatar, for questioning but the protesters want him punished.

Kashmir police chief B. Srinivas said Patrick was married to a Muslim woman in Qatar who had given him the sticker for good luck.

“She had given him the sticker to protect him from harm since he had come here for skiing. He inadvertently put the sticker on his ski equipment, not knowing the local sensitivities,” he said. “We have not arrested him but brought him for questioning.”

A source said the protesters had got hold of Patrick and tried to beat him up but the police immediately came to his rescue and took him to the local police station.

“Patrick has been here for several weeks and had hired the ski from a local tourist guide’s shop,” a police source said. “There were rumours that he is an Israeli, which infuriated the protesters who thought it must have been a deliberate act. Some were raising slogans asking all foreigners to leave the Valley.”

He added that the sticker carried the first verse of the Quran: “In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, most merciful.” The source said that around 300 foreign tourists had come to Gulmarg for skiing and almost double that number from the rest of India.

“Hotels here are packed with tourists. They are all safe — nobody was touched by the protesters,” he said.

The incident comes at a time the Valley has been reeling under the impact of last year’s Amarnath land agitation that had crippled the tourism sector. Hundreds of tourists, however, have arrived this year, raising the industry’s hopes of a revival.

The government had a few days ago organised a snow festival in Gulmarg, which drew skiers from the country and abroad.

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