Farce of conversion threatening national security

When recently the Supreme Court described forced religious conversions as a “very serious” matter affecting national security, it once again turned the spotlight on anti-conversion laws.  The Apex Court has issued a notice on a PIL seeking directions to the Centre and states, noting that religious conversion was legal under the Constitution but forceful conversion was not permissible. The PIL alleges that Hindus will soon become a tiny segment of the population of our overpopulated country. The Constitution grants freedom of religion as a fundamental right. Yet the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, the 1990 anti-Hindu riots in Kashmir, the 2002 Gujarat riots and the 2008 anti-Christian riots happened.

Tehelka Cover Story “Convert to get married” by our Special Investigation Team reveals how some Muslim clerics have found a way around the anti-conversion law to convert people and pave way for inter-faith marriage. Tehelka Reporter approached Maulana Mohammad Muqeem, Imam of a mosque in Uttar Pradesh, in the disguise of a man seeking to get his Muslim nephew married to a Hindu girl and recorded the entire conversation in hidden cameras. This is what the Imam said, “First of all, convert the Hindu girl into Islam before marrying her. After the marriage, if the girl asks that she wants to leave Islam and go back to Hindu religion, then first politely ask her not to do so. And if she doesn’t listen, then give her a slap on the face.  Beat her in the way that it should not result in any external injury or fracture in bones. You should not leave any evidence of violence on your wife’s body if you want to escape police action for domestic violence.”

It may be recalled that some time back, a prominent Islamic scholar, Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui and eight others were arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad on the charge of running the “biggest conversion syndicate”.  Siddiqui is one of the prominent clerics from western Uttar Pradesh and the president of Global Peace Centre as well as Jamia Imam Waliullah Trust. The ATS had claimed that the Trust had received Rs 3 crore in foreign funding including Rs 1.5 crore from Bahrain. It claimed that they were involved in the racket through inducements such as marriage, money, employment, and even coercion.

Now, some states have enacted anti-conversion laws to prevent ‘conversion’ for the purpose of marriage while all states have banned conversion by force, fraud or allurement and inducement of money. However, laws cannot operate in a vacuum and there is the need to check motivated religious indoctrination, coercion and inducements that can negate the freedom of religion and conscience. Already reacting to Tehelka’s reality check, renowned Islamic scholars Dr. Maulana Maqsood-ul-Hasan Qasmi and Khalid Saleem described conversion for marriage as illegal in Islam, castigating those who propagate the idea of hitting women if they refuse to convert to Islam.