- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2013

A Muslim preacher-turned-television star who uses his broadcast platform to give out babies to surprised couples who can’t conceive has rushed into defense mode, under fire from international critics who say he’s a media hound who only wants to bolster his show ratings.

It’s charity, said Aamir Liaqat Hussain, a Pakistani television star and popular cleric, to Agence France-Presse. And it sends a positive message about “real Islam,” he said.

The cleric hosts a 12-hour show each day during Ramadan, watched by millions. During the broadcast, he interviews celebrities, hosts games, gives meals to the needy — and gives babies to the childless. It’s that last that’s sent shockwaves around the world.

But the cleric says it’s no big deal — it’s just another form of charity — and it’s not a ratings ploy, AFP reported.

“It’s not like parents come in the show and [we] deliver the baby like a prize. What prize? It is rubbish to say, ‘who wants to win a baby?’ ” he said, in AFP.

The couples are fully screened, and the babies were already abandoned anyway, he said.

“We are trying to create an environment in the society for those people who are needy and want to adopt babies,” Mr. Hussain said, in AFP. “It is not commercialization, it is not showbiz. It is real Islam. Where are the actors? Where are actress? I have not seen any actors or actress here.”

The babies given away on the show were found by the Chhipa Welfare Association, which said it receives or finds more than a dozen abandoned babies a month, CNN reported.

“Our team finds babies abandoned on the street, in garbage bins — some of them dead, others mauled by animals. So why not ensure the baby is kept alive and gets a good home?” said Ramzan Chhipa, who runs the organization. “We didn’t just give the baby away. We have our own vetting procedure. This couple was already registered with us and had four or five sessions with us.”

The couples didn’t know they would be new parents when they were invited on the show, and no paperwork was not processed before it aired, CNN reported.

Adoption is not officially recognized in Pakistan, so the couple will have to apply for guardianship at a family court, CNN said.

Staff writer Jessica Chasmar contributed to this article.

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