By Karmanye Thadani
In the light of an MP from the BJP spewing venom against Muslims over the issue of “love jihad”, it may be said perhaps nothing makes religious right-wingers, irrespective of their religious label, more uncomfortable than inter-religious marriages, which is not hard to fathom. In Israel, when it came to light that the prime minister’s son was dating a non-Jewish girl from Norway, the extreme Zionists raised a storm. In our country, inter-caste marriages or intra-gotra marriages within the Hindus themselves too become reasons for honour killings, and the Khalistani terrorists too had huge issues with Sikhs intermarrying with Hindus.
While the apparent incident of the female shooter from Jharkhand was undoubtedly very unfortunate, to presume that any and every individual Muslim man claiming to fall in love with a Hindu woman necessarily has some nefarious design to convert her is indeed silly and baseless. In a country where there is right to freedom of religion, the woman is free to embrace the man’s religion if she genuinely finds it more appealing or even to fit in better in the family, and religion is, at the end of the day, a personal affair. And the woman is equally free to refuse to marry a man if he or his family insist on a religious conversion, and it is also possible to get married under the Special Marriage Act without the boy or the girl changing his/her religion, and Bollywood is full of such examples. Of course, forced religious conversions are unacceptable (and forced conversions of Hindu girls to Islam have unfortunately taken place in Pakistan, and this issue is often raised by human rights activists in that country, most of whom are Muslims (Article 1 and Article 2), and in such cases, if any, one should knock the doors of the police and judiciary, which have dealt with dreaded terrorists and can deal with such matters too. But to make bizarre generalizations and compromise the rule of law undermines democracy, and this is something we must keep in mind if we don’t want our country to, in the long run, slide into fascism or Talibanization, albeit under a Hindu banner, which stifles everyone’s rights, not just of the religious minorities.
Furthermore, it may be emphasized that Hindu boys have also married Muslim girls (here is a list of some prominent examples) and some examples of Muslim women embracing Hinduism on getting married to a Hindu include famous sitarist Annapurna Devi (formerly Roshanara Khan), model Nalini Patel (Nayyara Mirza), Maharashtra politician Asha Gawli (formerly Zubeida Mujawar), South Indian actress Khushboo Sundar (formerly Nakhat Khan) and Bollywood actress Zubeida. And even otherwise, in general, there are instances of Indian Muslims embracing Hinduism, like Malayali writer Palakkode Hassan and Telugu poet Umar Alisha, and Muslim groups have also en masse embraced Hinduism, as you can see in this article.
I do understand that in the light of national and global news of Muslim extremism, anti-Muslim propaganda becomes easily palatable, but if we are to move forward as a nation, we need to ensure that there is communal harmony and not fall in the trap of those seeking to divide us. I would appeal to all those with any degree of anti-Muslim resentment to read this e-book of mine available for free download with an open mind. And let me also clarify that I do not shy away from acknowledging and condemning Muslim extremism (as you can see in this article) or countering equally, if not more, ludicrous conspiracy theories advanced by Muslim propagandists (as you can see in this article).