07/20/2012, 00.00
INDIA
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Kerala: the (perceived) threat of "love jihad"

by Nirmala Carvalho
The term refers to Muslims forced conversions of girls on the promise of a marriage. The Kochi police have arrested a woman who converted to Islam on charges of ties to terrorist activities. Christian and Hindu groups launch campaigns of hatred, but the chief minister Oomen Chandy (Christian) warns against using pretext of interfaith marriages to harass the Islamic community.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Fear is mounting in Kerala over the so-called "Love Jihad", or alleged forced conversions of Christian and Hindu girls by Muslims, with the offer of marriage, the young would then be forced to embrace Islam. Adding fuel to the fire, is the arrest of a woman in Kochi, accused of being involved in terrorist activities. According to Kochi police, Shahina provided phone sim cards to Thadiyantavide Nazir, a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (the group responsible for the attacks in Mumbai in 2008), while in jail. The woman's original name was Deepa Cheriyan, which she changed after marrying Naushad, a Muslim friend of Nazir, and her conversion to Islam.

The epsiode has reignited the issue of the "love jihad"  and countless hate campaigns of Hindu and Christian communities, in spite of several Islamic associations always denying the existence of this practice. Oomen Chandy, Christian and chief minister of Kerala, has tried to quell the controversy by declaring that, "there are no forced conversions in enlightened Kerala Society ".

The statement made on 16 July, was in reply to a question asked by KK Lathika, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the State, who noted that expressions like "love jihad" or "moral police" had appeared on the front pages of newspapers. For the chief minister instead, forced conversions are not yet a threat or danger, and the fact that marriage is one of the first reasons for conversion gives no-one any right to harass the Islamic community.

These statements have not, however,  convinced public opinion, and the tension that has arisen in Kerala is also apparent in a file published by Wikileaks from the U.S. Consulate in Chennai (Tamil Nadu). In it, the "love jihad" is defined as an "alleged conspiracy of 'attractive' Muslims, financed by foreigners, trying to seduce, marry and convert Hindus and Christians to use for terrorist purposes". The document also points out that "the controversial phenomenon" is exacerbated by the "religious tensions" in southern India.

According to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), not all young Muslims are involved in this practice, and for that "all Indians, irrespective of creed, must speak out and condemn this tragic results, in the interests of peace and harmony within the community, their country and the world. "

A report by the central government alleges that from 2006 to date 2,687 women have converted to Islam in Kerala. Of these, 2,195 were Hindus and 492 Christians.

 

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