Saturday, October 24, 2009

Love Jihad: A need for acceptance and rehabilitation and not war mongering

Where war persists, love is not far behind or maybe it is the other way round!. A lot of us may have heard of jihad as a waging of war. But there is also an interpretation that it is practising religion in the midst of oppression and persecution. For those of us who are moulded by the utterances of the main line media, jihad is a negative connotation. It is an attack on freedom and the public space of people. I wonder whether this is the original intention of the word jihad. But this post is not about that. Rather it is about how we use love as a toned down means of aggression to bring people to our side.

The print and online media this month did a story on what they termed the ‘love jihad’ in Kerala and Karnataka. The story outlined how Muslim men trapped women from other religions, and married them as part of a larger design to add to the Muslim population in India. The case came to light when a couple of women filed a case in the courts of Kerala and there was a unusually high rate of registration of marriages. So much that the court has asked the government to do a preliminary enquiry. It has even led to a silent understanding between the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and some Christian groups, to pass on information on such conversion attempts and prevent it. The problem should be grave as otherwise the VHP and Christian groups will never be found on the same side of the coin! The response from Muslim youth groups is that there is nothing unnatural about this as every religion has conversion. But is it acceptable to give money to men and tell them specifically to go behind women for a period of two weeks and get them to convert by luring them in the name of love?

The media and Hindu and Christian groups have so far been crying foul about this. But what no one brings to light is the plight of women! Be it war or love, women are seen as an object to be conquered. So from one religion to the other, they are conquered and subjected. Why is it that the woman has to always convert to the religion or denomination of the man and not vice versa? It then should be debated as to whether the problem is conversion or the freedom of women!

The other point to be debated is whether this goes on in other religions as well? The truth is that it does in small quantities. Whoever sees survival beyond truth, follows the teaching of using war or love to multiply the number of followers. Everything this way is fair in war and love! I have come across a similar phenomenon in certain new Christian denominations aka sects. In an effort to have a foothold in society, girls are lured into the sect and then told that their partner is a man, who of course belongs to the same sect! This the leader of the sect/denomination says is what God wants! The girl is thus torn away from her own cultural roots and beliefs.

The final point to be debated is why do girls fall into traps in the first place? Is it a lack of independence, feeling cared for, not being given respect? Obviously for the girls to be lured, a good enough trap should be in place. This could be anything. A bit of love and concern and maybe a bit of everything, put together with a flashy lifestyle. This is what lacks in many of our houses. Our women are not given the respect that is their due and right. In the vacuum, someone else provides this. Furthering this, have we thought about how it will be when these girls/women come back? What will be their status? A girl who has brought dishonour upon the family? A girl who went astray and has come back and therefore has to be looked after because there is no other alternative? Which girl would then come back?

I have come across a similar instance in my home church. A young girl similarly left her house. She is in touch with her father but won’t talk to her mother, because they are not on good terms. As far as I understood, she doesn’t mind coming back. But the church members have already started talking about her and how she has brought a bad name to the family and church. I couldn’t help but wonder how this girl could come back to a land of stigma, exclusion and judgement! Would girls like her be given legal advice and lawyers to argue their case? Which is why we should look at this phenomenon of the love jihad, which truly is not anything new but the same old story of women being treated as objects. This then is a time for acceptance and rehabilitation and not war mongering.

(Many thanks to Cissy George, my school mate, who provided the initial push and material on the 'Love Jihad' which was helpful and responsible for the writing of this post)


Zach George Arapura said...

'The black-haired Muslim youth lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood and removing her from the bosom of her own people. The Muslim uses every possible means to undermine the racial foundations of a subjugated people.'

This seems to be the attitude of many. But this is similar to the Nazi propaganda against Jews. In fact so similar
such that if you replace Muslim with Jew you will get what A.Hitler wrote in Book 1 Chap 11 of Mein Kampf

Fr Jerry said...

Thanks for the comment Zach George. I feel there is a lot of hate against Muslims. There are certain issues like fundamentalism, freedom of women, etc. But these cannot be attributed to all Muslims. If there are Muslim fundamentalists, there are Christian fundamentalists as well!
So Muslim bashing is not the need of the hour. We have to look inwards and see where we are and how we treat our women and other fringe groups. We are unfortunately not prepared for that.
The Huntington thesis is a very generalised thesis. We cannot accept it perse. I like your reference to the Nazi propaganda and the similarity to the present propaganda.
It is useful to look inwards and correct ourselves rather than looking outwards to prevent people from seeing the injustice happening inside. Thanks.