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(32): ‘Love Jihad’: An Anti-love Campaign in India

Muhammad Muhsin Ibrahim

I was passing by a group of students in our department, drying my face with a handkerchief after performing my ablution for namaz (i.e. prayers/salat) when one girl approached me and said she would like to do the prayers with me that day. I thought she was just joking, so I inattentively went by, saying she was welcome. I was about to start when she came with a run. It took me many minutes to convince her that she couldn’t (and shouldn’t) follow me. Disappointed, she gave up. I trembled, internally, through the prayers’ session for the fear of what might have happened had I given in to her ‘request’ and we were seen afterwards. It would have been suspected as what’s commonly called “Love Jihad”.

Forgive the detour: I am happily married to a dutiful and, of course, beautiful wife. We have been together here in Jalandhar, India for nearly a year and a half. So, I am not here for love or for any congenial relationship beyond ordinary. However as humans as we are, described ungainly as social animals, we cannot resist friendship and acquaintanceship with many people we meet. This girl happens to be one of them. 

‘Love Jihad’ is an oxymoronic term used chiefly in India and scarcely in the UK to refer to an alleged ploy by Muslim boys to convert girls of other faith. The boys purportedly pretend to love their targets but, in reality, conspire only to convert them to Islam after, or as a prerequisite to, marriage. The perpetrators, according to their accusers, get monetary support and reward from their so-called sponsors. Many marriages are dissolved due to this indictment, and the persons involved beaten, imprisoned or even killed.
A protest march against 'Love Jihad'
Marriage in Islam is a legal contract between a man and a woman. While Muslim women can be married to Muslim men only, Muslim men are permitted to marry “People of the Book” who include Christians and Jews. Marriage to other faithful (besides these two) is prohibited, or, at best, very much contested. Polytheism is often cited as one of the reasons. In Hinduism, for instance, there are 330 million gods!

Prominent Bollywood Muslims actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan are, however, married to Hindu women. Despite their ‘de-tribalism’, though decried by some Muslims, interfaith marriage is still a divisive subject that’s frequently (mis)used by many fraudulent, pseudo-religious politicians for cheap political gains in their constituencies. 

According to my numerous unbiased and reliable sources and findings, ‘Love Jihad’ is simply a myth and malice popularized primarily by some Hindu right-wing groups with direct complicity of the Hindu-nationalists led government. The government has however yet to find any evidence of the supposed scheme. Therefore, Muslims groups unreservedly condemn the allegation and call it a move to undermine Islam. They further mention that Muslims also convert to other religions. But this, actually, rarely happens in comparison with the conversion to Islam. Be it as it may, the campaign is a woeful, awful war on romance, freedom and choice of being. In most, if not all, cases the love happens without any plan, much less ulterior motive. I am a witness to a particular case.

A Muslim boy from Kashmir and a Hindu girl from Calcutta are deeply in love in my fried’s class. Being married, we often chat and I encourage them and wish them well. I am 100% sure that the Kashmiri guy does just love her, for religion means little or nothing to him. I said this because my friend and I have tirelessly urged him and his friends several times to pray with us but they always say no and give clumsiest excuses. He, in particular, never attends even the Friday Jumu'ah prayers, for it coincides with a lunch break, a period he will be with his heartthrob. How come you tell me that if in the end they marry and she converts that this fellow’s aim was to convert her to Islam, while he too needs to ‘revert’ to the faith? There are numberless similar stories.

Love is one feeling that doesn’t, easily, succumb to any pressure or barrier. It not only every so often trespasses the boundary, it demolishes it and conquers all as well. I think it is dim-witted and impractical for some persons to try to stop love from thriving amongst the dwellers of the same community who speak the same language, dress the same way and so on. Choice of who to worship does not make anyone less Indian, less human and therefore unworthy of being loved. On many accounts ‘Love Jihad’ ‘victims’ deny any persuasions to change their religion.

The rise of ‘Love Jihad’ can be traced, among others, to how girlhood/womanhood is treasured the least in India. So many horrible stories are often heard of girls being murdered (infanticide and feticide); attacked with poison, raped; intended mothers getting slain for carrying a baby-girl, etc. In other cases, fathers commit suicide for failing to raise a ‘decent’ or a required dowry (sadaki/daheej) for their daughters. India is infamously called “A Dangerous Place to be a Woman”. Therefore, irrespective of faith and sometimes even race, the girls, in most instances, readily accept whoever seems to have a serious interest in them, respects their being and offer to marry them.

As per my encounter with that girl, I have no ounce of intention to love any girl, let alone marry her. It’s a personal reason, not because it’s unattainable or costly. Africans (and Blacks!) have married Indian girls. I am sure some friends around know my ‘relationship’ with her is a normal one, I must nonetheless decline her request to join me in the prayers, for that could easily be misperceived by many others. Only Allah knows the repercussion that may trigger. I always believe in the maxim that says “better safe than saved”.

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