A MUSLIM holy man approached a 14-year-old girl as she waited for her school bus and asked her to kiss him, a court heard.

Blackburn magistrates heard that Mohammed Athar Sufi approached the same girl on three further occasions as she stood at the bus stop. And prosecutor Rachel Faux revealed the girl had suffered numerous difficulties since early November when the incidents occurred.

"She has had nightmares, panic attacks and is frightened of being outside on her own," said Miss Faux. "She has become easily upset and very nervous."

Sufi, 26, of Stirling Drive, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to harassing the girl, who cannot be be named for legal reasons. He was given a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered to pay £50 compensation and £100 costs. The magistrates also made a restraining order preventing Sufi from communicating with the girl, following her or approaching her until further notice.

Passing sentence, the magistrates said they had not sought to involve the probation service because, with the guidance of colleagues in the local Muslim community, they believed that Sufi could receive sufficient support and counselling from the community.

A charge of indecently assaulting the girl was dismissed after the prosecuting offered no evidence.

Basharat Ditta, defending, said Sufi is an esteemed Muslim scholar, known in Islamic as a Kharri who can recite the holy book of Muslims by heart.

"People who can do this are held in high regard and esteem in the Islamic faith," said Mr Ditta. "Against that background, he has to deal with members of the local community and members of his local mosque who have had meetings with regard to this incident. They do not approve, but they are supportive of him."

Mr Ditta said that as someone who follows his religion very devoutly, Sufi visits his mosque on Audley Range five times a day, walking the short distance from his home. He saw the girl at the bus stop and thought she was aged about 18 or 19.