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So, I read an interesting story about a man in Paris (there are actually several others in the news too, it appears to be a movement) who stood blindfolded in a sort of trust exercise who received hugs from Parisians. This is a very beautiful story I think in that it shows a man trying to separate his religion from the shadow of extremism while at the same time comforting victims of that extremism.

To my understanding, excepting in rare (emergency) cases, a Muslim man may not touch a woman to whom he is not married, and a Muslim woman may not do the same for a man. My Question is, are these men committing sin by voluntarily having contact with those of the opposite gender? While it is not at face value sexual contact, it isn't exactly dire need either.

Disclaimer: I'm not a muslim, I just have a general curiosity about this story. At the same time, I also understand that one man's actions (either as a violent extremist, or a man offering hugs) do not represent an entire religion.

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Well i'm not a scholar and my answer will be based on my own opinion and i will try to explain it.

Acts should be considered or judged according the intention, this is something that we as humans in most cases can't do. But according to what you quoted this man wanted to show that Islam or Muslims are not only violent and hate non-Muslims and that they also grieve for the death of their fellow citizen, which also shows that they are part of this society!

Yes a Muslim shouldn't have physical contact to a non-mahram (simply explained a foreign person), so in first place hugging would be considered as a sin. But i've already mentioned the intention and the most important of that is that by showing togetherness and showing that Muslims grieve for the death of their fellow citizen he is in fact doing a good deed and well yes, one could say he's defending Islam, which is a major goal, so in my opinion the good deed overrules the sin here by far.

And well this may be a bit far-fetched: During the caliphate of 'Omar ibn al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) there has been a dearth and the caliph himself didn't punish robbers who have stolen to get food because they were hungry (at least this opinion is a wide interpretation of known ahadith, which regulate the punishment if people stole some dates). So in some cases some laws should be adopted to the situation.

And Allah knows best

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