Love Jihad Can’t Be Wished Way Purely For Reasons Of Political Correctness
Love jihad may be a fringe phenomenon right now, but over decades it will have a clear demographic impact.
Many interfaith couples have been putting out happy pictures of their families on Twitter in the wake of the brouhaha over a Tanishq ad about interfaith marriages. The ad was withdrawn after many Hindu groups expressed anger as it seemed to promote love jihad. Love jihad is a pejorative term applied to a phenomenon that can be loosely defined as a Muslim man pursing a woman from another religion which results in a conversion of the latter.
One wishes these couples well in their assertion that their story is all about love and not jihad, but just as one swallow does not make a summer’s day, a handful of such happy stories do not negate the possibility that love jihad may exist at least as a fringe phenomenon among some Muslim groups.
The anecdotal evidence clearly supports this theory (read here, here, here, here) and it is premature for “secularists” to reject the idea out of hand, as Santosh Desai has said in a column in The Times of India.
He dismissed the idea out of hand: “Love jihad as a formulation is difficult to take seriously. And the fact that it does not exist has been asserted by this government on the floor of Parliament.”
He hasn’t asked himself a basic question: when no government survey has been done on this issue, how can it assert that the phenomenon does not exist? In fact, what the government said is that the term love jihad has not been defined under law – and that is why it did not have statistics on it. But consider the hue and cry that would be raised if the government were to indeed try and ascertain the facts through a survey.
The difficulty clearly is in proving statistically that love jihad exists (or does not exist), for this can only be done with deep sample surveys. In the survey, respondents will be asked intrusive questions not only on their faith, but also why they abandoned their old faith (or didn’t do so), or the pressures they may have had to face in marrying a person from another faith.
However, there are structural reasons for assuming – aided by anecdotal evidence – that love jihad exists at the subtle level, even if it is not overtly pursued as a community strategy.
These subtle reasons relate to the nature of the Abrahamic faiths, combined with patriarchy. Patriarchy is the norm across all faiths, and women across faiths tend to accept that they have to make more efforts to adjust to their husbands’ chosen identities (rather than vice-versa). But when patriarchy is combined with Abrahamic exhortations to seek conversions from other faiths, one would be surprised if many interfaith marriages do not actually result in at least a soft form of love jihad.
In fact, this factor cannot be ruled out even with Christians, though they may not go about abusing or beheading spouses who refuse to convert.
So, the first structural issue that abets love jihad is the Abrahamic religious pressure to seek conversions, and it would be a folly to presume that in a patriarchal world the converting faiths will not subtly be pushing conversions through marriage.
Actor Shah Rukh Khan’s wife Gauri may not have converted to Islam on marriage, but she is called Gauri Khan and not Gauri Chibber, and her children will all be Khans. Regardless of which faith – or lack of it – they ultimately choose as adults, they will be known as Khans by the world, and hence presumed Muslim.
The second structural issue relates to how religious ceremonies are viewed by various faiths. If you have a church wedding or a niqah, it implies that you have converted. Without conversion, no Christian priest or mullah will perform a religious ceremony.
On the other hand, a Hindu wedding is not tantamount to conversion, as Hinduism largely does not seek to convert and accepts divergence in matters of faith. Hindu wedding rituals remain rituals, and post-marriage the spouse can continue to be a Muslim or Christian in her personal preferences.
Very often, the Hindu spouse may even accompany them to a church or mosque, but it is very unlikely to happen the other way round, for the Abrahamic faiths warn against worshipping false gods. Of course, among the elite, who have evolved beyond religion and are individualistic in outlook, no identity matters too much, and this is what we are seeing in those happy Twitter photographs.
Third, there is also the question of how communities view the identities of offspring. According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Islam follows two asymmetric rules that enables one-way conversions after marriage. As I have noted in an earlier article on love jihad, Taleb has this to say in his book, Skin In The Game:
“The two asymmetric rules are as follows. First, under Islamic law, if a non-Muslim marries a Muslim woman, he needs to convert to Islam – and if either parent of the child happens to be Muslim, the child will be Muslim. Second, becoming Muslim is irreversible, as apostasy is the heaviest crime in the religion, sanctioned by the death penalty….”.
With these rules, “one can do simple simulations and see how a small Islamic group occupying Christian (Coptic) Egypt can lead, over the centuries, to the Copts becoming a tiny minority. All one needs is a small rate of inter-faith marriages.” (italics mine)
The last line is actually the point that many Hindus are realising today: that small changes over decades and centuries will change religious demography. Love jihad may be a fringe phenomenon right now, but over decades it will have a clear demographic impact. Combine it with higher Muslim birth rates and the changes in demography can be irreversible – as many parts of Europe are discovering to their dismay.
It is worth recalling that the term love jihad has been used even by the church in Kerala, and both Hindu and Christian groups have created helplines to prevent vulnerable women from being lured away by Islam or Muslims. The reason why the church raised the issue should be obvious: converting faiths know that marriage is one way to convert a person from another religion. It takes one converting faith to call out another.
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