Monday, 23 July 2012

Love Jihad resurfaces

Love Jihad has once again hits the headlines and this time it’s in Kerala. The Christian community in Kerala has reportedly expressed its concern about love jihad and according to the Global Council of Indian Christians, it has “victimized” 2,868 women so far.

The latest case of love jihad involves a Christian woman from Kochi, who left her husband and married the driver of a school bus. Later, she was arrested for allegedly supplying SIM cards to Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Thadiyantavide Nazir, who is currently in prison.
Dr Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said that Deepa Cheriyan converted to Islam and changed her name to Shahina. Deepa, whose husband works in the Middle East, had an affair with Naushad, who was working as a driver.
Dr George believes that Deepa, like many others, is a victim of love jihad. This issue even piqued US interest. The US diplomats in their report from Chennai consulate said: "Both Hindu and Christian groups have expressed fear and outrage at the 'plot', while Muslim groups have felt the need to defend their co-religionists against the conspiracy theorists".
In a cable sent in February last year mentioned that though the ongoing police investigations in south India had cast doubt on the existence of a "love jihad", the recurring assertion of its existence, despite contrary evidence demonstrates the suspicion and intolerance that exist among some of the region's religious communities.
The report also said: “The Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had reported that there had been 2,868 female victims of love jihad in Kerala between 2006 and 2009. The panel had made several recommendations to parents through its newsletter, including a recommendation to monitor children's cellphones and computers, so that they can be better prepared to fight the phenomenon and resist charming young Muslim men involved in the scheme.” 
The cable, as disclosed by WikiLeaks, said that Sajan George was convinced that “there was a concerted effort in south India by some Muslim men to get Christian women to fall in love with them in order to convert them”. 
The Kerala high court had also taken note of the matter and had asked the police to investigate the cases of two college-going girls. The two girls were allegedly forced to convert to Islam after they married Muslim men.
Police in Kerala said that in most cases of love jihad, the victims were merely used as pawns in criminal activities. Many of the victims had no idea what they were getting into and often got into lured by the young men.

Added to all this, a controversial poster, warning against Muslim youth marrying and converting Hindu girls, appeared in the premises of the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. What’s surprising is the fact that the poster gave the instances of Bollywood actors Aamir Khan and Said Ali Khan who had married Hindu women, had children and then went for a divorce.  

"Wake up Hindus, wake up. Beware of Love Jihad," the poster warned, appealing to people to report such incidents, and provided an e-mail address and a mobile-phone number. 

Though the poster was later removed from the BJP office, it was allegedly put up by the radical Hindu outfit Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, but advertised a group called the Anti-Love Jihad Front. Remember which is this Sena? Yes, rightly guessed. It’s the same outfit whose members had allegedly assaulted Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan some months ago and had protested against writer Arundhati Roy for their views on Kashmir!

Ok, let me come back to the term “Love Jihad”. It is also called as “Romeo Jihad”. It is an alleged activity under which some young Muslim boys and men reportedly target college girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love! While similar activities have been reported elsewhere, the term has been widely used to describe the activity in India.

Reports of similar activities have emerged from Pakistan, where Hindu and Sikh girls were targeted, and the United Kingdom. Targeted sexual offences and forced conversions of Hindu and Sikh girls was not a new phenomenon in the UK, said Ashish Joshio from Media Monitoring group. "This has been going on for decades in the UK. Young Muslim men have been boasting about seducing the Kaffir (unbeliever) women. The Hindu and the Sikh communities must be commended for showing both restraint and maturity under such provocation," he said.
Police in the UK are even working with universities to clamp down on "aggressive conversions" during which girls are beaten up and forced to abandon university courses. The problem was most common in cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and Bradford, while London universities had “at least two or three cases” each. 

Why would Muslim boys target non-Muslim girls? Ramesh Kallidai, from the Hindu Forum of Britain, estimated hundreds of girls had been targeted, with some reports of Muslim boys being offered £5,000 “commissions”.  The National Union of Students said it did not want to discriminate against Muslims but agreed some extremists were causing concern. They have managed to infiltrate Brunel University in West London, Bedfordshire University, Sheffield Hallam University and Manchester Metropolitan University, according to a Muslim charity.

Coming back to India, this activity has raised concerns in various Hindu and Christian organisations. On the other hand, Muslim organisations in Kerala have denied that any such activity is true.  

When some parts of the country were worried about this issue, investigations were conducted in 2009 in Kerala and Karnataka and the reports said that there were no such activities in the country.

In January 2012, Kerala police declared that Love Jihad was "[a] campaign with no substance" and brought legal proceeding against the website for "spreading religious hatred and false propaganda". What more to say, the issue successfully garnered the international attention.

Organisations and people alleged that love jihad was conducted in Kerala and Managalore, and Kerala Catholic Bishops Council claimed that up to 4,500 girls in Kerala have been targeted, whereas Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that 30,000 girls have been converted in Karnataka alone. Not just that, even general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana said that there had been reports in Narayaneeya communities of love jihad attempts.

This activity, rather say the very term, became popular in September 2009, when the reports of two women from Pathanamthitta in Kerala were forced to convert to Islam after being lured by two Muslim men "feigning love". Initially, the women said their conversion was voluntary. However, subsequently - they were staying with their parents in the interim period on the court's orders - they claimed they were abducted and coerced to convert. The two men were reported to be members of Campus Front, a student outfit of the Popular Front of India, a conglomerate of Muslim organisations that is alleged to be engaged in radicalizing Muslims in south India.

What’s noteworthy is the fact that Christians, who have been in the crosshairs of the Hindu right-wing for their offer of "inducements" to convert Hindus to Christianity, have joined hands with Hindu right-wing organisations against the love jihadis!

When police have declined any such activity in the country, why are parents so scared? There’s a reason for this. Traditionally, marriages have been arranged by parents and this trend is slowly changing. Youngsters are increasingly choosing their own partners. They sometimes choose a partner who is from a different caste or sub-caste or sometimes different religion altogether. When parents don’t agree for such a mix marriage, youngsters don’t even think of convincing them, they defy rules, they defy parents and just elope to marry the person whom they have chosen as partner. Maybe it is this fear of losing control over their children which makes parents to get worried.

Why only non-Muslim parents are worried? There’s yet another reason for this. Muslim parents confine their daughters to homes or put them under a burqa. But non-Muslim parents have no other go but to keep themselves busy policing their daughters or thinking up of new ways and means to control them. Whatever it is, the issue is not going to die that sooner.   

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