Instead of making gratuitous comments, the Supreme Court must at least penalise the man who lured the woman into marriage by misleading her about his faith.
This case could well qualify as ‘love jihad’.
One wonders whether the Supreme Court should be making gratuitous comments whenever it admits some sensitive cases for hearing. In a recent case, a Muslim man apparently forged documents to claim he was Hindu and, after marrying a Hindu woman on this false pretext, either reconverted or revealed his true faith as Islam.
As The Times of India reports it, her father approached the apex court last year and the girl expressed a willingness to return. But the husband filed a complaint, and the police took her away and lodged her in a home. When the Chhattisgarh High Court heard the matter, the girl changed her mind and said she was willing to live with her husband, and the court passed an order allowing her to do so.
The woman’s parents have now moved the Supreme Court, which made comments that amount to needless virtue signalling. The court said: “We are not against inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. They should be encouraged. But we are concerned about the girl’s future, and about how to protect her interests.”
While the second part of the statement, about protecting the woman’s interest, is unexceptionable, the loose talk about encouraging inter-faith marriages was not only unwarranted, but completely misleading in this case.
If you marry someone who claims to have converted to your religion, it is not an inter-faith marriage in the first place. And, if subsequently, the spouse claims he is reverting to his old faith, one should see it as dishonesty, and breach of trust. He should, at the very least, be penalised heavily by the court, even if the woman no longer wants her husband punished. This is the only way the court can protect women like her, who are first lured into marriage, and then told the truth.
If anything, this case could well qualify as ‘love jihad’, where the intention is to marry someone from another faith by misleading her about your own faith, and then reverting to your old self when the woman’s options are narrowed. The woman faces a Hobson’s choice. Which woman, after having married and co-habited with her untrustworthy husband, will not be in a dilemma about walking out or learning to live with his perfidies?
A man may walk out easily, but a woman would face heavy social penalties, and her hopes of starting a new life with someone else can be thwarted by a conservative society. And assuming she genuinely loved the man, how easy will it be for her to abandon him merely for betraying her trust once? If she is into a physical relationship, and gets pregnant, her options narrow down further, especially if her own faith does not welcome her back and provide psychological and financial support to build a new future.
The phrase ‘love jihad’ is a loaded one, for it implies that the main objective of marrying someone outside the Muslim faith is to convert the person and the progeny. This is always difficult to prove, for the woman concerned may convert and claim she did it voluntarily, for that is the most sensible way to live with her new family in a patriarchal society.
Additionally, if a nikah is done, by definition she would have had to convert. Nikahs are not performed for someone who is not a Muslim. And once in, Islam allows no exit. At best, you can stop practising the faith, and become a silent ex-Muslim.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb notes in his book, Skin in The Game, religions are often a one-way street. The reason why the whole of the Middle East, which was once largely Christian, is now Muslim is because Islam followed two asymmetric rules for growing its numbers.
Writes Taleb: “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….”.
Under these asymmetric rules, says, Taleb, “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.”
‘Love jihad’ need not be something overt and deliberate. It may be embedded in the asymmetric rules of religions like Islam.
In the Hindu case, our own asymmetric practices work against us. If a Hindu is converted, even circumcised, he is almost never welcomed back. Think of all the Nairs and Kodavas who were forcibly converted by Tipu Sultan, or the Moplahs in the last century, and never came back. They are now foot soldiers of Islam as memories of persecution get erased over the generations.
It is this asymmetry – practised to advantage in Islam and to our detriment by Hindus – that needs to be understood, internalised and corrected. If Hindu society is to prevent ‘love jihad’, whether by design or through long-term conversions that are easy to implement in Islam, its attitude to both fresh conversions and 'ghar wapsi' must change. A conversion ban, which many Hindus are seeking, is not a winning strategy; it is defensive, and will ultimately fail.
Hindus also need to be educated on the implications of inter-faith marriages, and how agreeing to a nikah has consequences for his or her own existing religious identity. In the absence of a uniform civil code, this plays to the same asymmetries that Taleb talked about. While a Hindu-style wedding does not necessarily convert a non-Hindu, a nikah is something else. At the very least, a new law must ensure that a nikah does not automatically force a non-Muslim to be governed by Muslim personal law, thus losing her earlier rights. No one should be forced to lose rights she already had before marriage.
It may be too late for the Supreme Court to effectively intervene in the recent case of alleged ‘love jihad’ (or bad faith, or deliberate betrayal of trust of the Hindu woman concerned), but it should look closer at the issue and lay down rules about a woman’s rights. These right simply cannot be erased just because she opted for an inter-faith marriage. She should also have the right to propagate her faith with her children. If the court is so keen to promote such marriages, surely it must lay down rules to protect the women concerned?
As for Hindu society and activists in general, they need to understand what is happening, and understand how to react to inter-faith marriages, especially when this is carried out through subterfuge. Education and the spread of awareness is key.