The caption reads: "When Hadiya was brought from Kerala to Delhi and presented before the Supreme Court... Hadiya's religious dignity was worth seeing." (Image: Urdu.News18.com)
In India and other countries, there exists a societal phenomenon: In cases of interfaith marriages, Hindu and Christian women convert to Islam to marry a Muslim man. Predominantly, it is the non-Muslim women who convert to marry, though there are cases where non-Muslim men have embraced Islam to marry Muslim women. In the eyes of non-Muslim parents, this phenomenon is notable for the fact that the Muslim man does not convert to the religion of his partner to marry. In Indian society, this phenomenon has come to be known as "love jihad."
There may be exceptions – notably in the cases of atheists, communists, and truly secular interfaith couples who marry without seeking their partner's conversion. The best example of this exception is Shahrukh Khan, the celebrated Muslim actor in Bollywood, whose wife is a Hindu. There may also be exceptions in which some Muslims have converted to Hinduism or Christianity to marry, though such cases appear to be rare.
Ideally, love is something that uplifts us as humans. It helps us transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, caste, and language – and therefore interfaith marriages must be encouraged. However, when an interfaith marriage involves the necessary conversion of one partner to Islam or any other religion, it cannot be called love. Thus, the phenomenon of love jihad has entered India's political discourse. Christian groups in the southern Indian state of Kerala were the first to voice their concern over such conversions to Islam for marriage.
Journalist Suhail Anjum On Marital Conversions To Islam: "Salute To The Fervor Of The Faith Of Hadiya, Whose Embrace Of Islam Has Caused An Earthquake In The Enemy Circles"
Now, Hindu parents too are worried over this phenomenon of love jihad. Currently, the Supreme Court of India is hearing the case of Hadiya, a Hindu woman from Kerala who married a Muslim man after converting. Hadiya, 24, is the Islamic name of Akhila Ashokan who married Shafin Jahan, a Muslim, after converting to Islam. Under Indian law, Hadiya is an adult and her constitutional right to marry a Muslim and her decision to convert to Islam too must be respected by all, including the courts.
While some Hindu parents are worried that their daughters are being lured to convert to Islam, some Muslims view it as a victory of Islam. Writing for the leading Indian media house NEWS18, senior Muslim journalist Suhail Anjum, on December 3, 2017, published an article titled "Salute to The Fervor Of The Faith Of Hadiya, Whose Embrace Of Islam Has Caused An Earthquake In The Enemy Circles." Here, Suhail Anjum describes Hindus as an enemy and goes on to compare the non-Muslims of today with the kuffar (infidels) and mushrikeen (idolaters) of Mecca in the Prophet Muhammad's era. The article was published by the Urdu website of NEWS18 at urdu.news18.com (see the screenshot below).
A screenshot of the article on Urdu.News18.com. The headline refers to Hindus as the enemy: "Salute to The Fervor Of The Faith Of Hadiya, Whose Embrace Of Islam Has Caused An Earthquake In The Enemy Circles"
Suhail Anjum begins his article by describing the acceptance of Islam by Umar ibn Khattab, the second caliph of Islam. Anjum writes: "Before entering the sphere of Islam, the second Caliph Umar Farooq was a life-threatening enemy of the Prophet Muhammad. One day, he was very angry. He decided to kill the Prophet of Allah, took a naked sword, and went out. On the way, he met a man called Nayeem, who asked: What's the matter, you are in much anger, where are you going? He [Umar ibn Khattab] responded: Muhammad has engulfed all of Mecca in mischief; I want to end this story by killing him today. Nayeem said: Before going there, first visit your sister's house. What happened? he asked, and was informed: Your sister and brother-in-law have already embraced Islam."
Suhail Anjum: "If You See, In The Beginning Days Of Islam, The Atrocities The Kuffar [Infidels] Committed Against Those Who Embraced Islam – No Lesser Atrocity Than That Was Committed Against Hadiya"
The article continues: "Carrying the same naked sword, he reached his sister's home. Up until that time, the preaching of Islam had not been carried out publicly, due to the fear of mushrikeen [idolaters] of Mecca. When Umar approached his sister's home, he heard the sound of some recitation. His sister and brother-in-law were reciting the Koran. When the sister saw the brother in extreme anger with the naked sword, she hid the pages of the Koran. The brother asked, What were you reading? She refused to say. The brother became angrier. He started beating the sister and the brother-in-law, and beat them so much that their bodies became bloody. After tiring of beating them, Umar again asked the sister, and when he became aware that she had accepted Islam, he pushed her to leave Islam. On this, his sister replied with bravery and bluntly: You can kill me, you can have my body parts snatched by dogs, but I cannot revert from Islam..."
The Hadiya case is essentially about the religious freedom granted by the Indian Constitution to all citizens, including a right to convert to another religion and marry a person from any religious community. The case is also about whether a woman above the 18 years of age should exercise these constitutional rights without interference from the Indian courts and her parents. However, Suhail Anjum is bent on viewing this entire case as a kind of victory for Islam. He writes: "This courage and bravery of Kerala's neo-Muslim girl Hadiya, her religious dignity, faith in Allah and steadfastness of faith make me remember an incident." Suhail Anjum does not narrate any incident, but goes into the details of the Hadiya case here.
Suhail Anjum, described by NEWS18 on its website as an "essayist," "renowned journalist," and "political analyst," expresses his satisfaction at the fact that that Hadiya did not deviate from her new faith when she was produced before the justices of the Supreme Court of India. He notes: "Praiseworthy is Hadiya, in whose faith there was not the slightest faltering, and she declared her faith in full court, and said that no one had pressured her to embrace Islam, that she had accepted Islam after studying it, and that she would now remain in this religion." He added: "If you see, in the beginning days of Islam, the atrocities the kuffar [infidels] committed against those who embraced Islam – no lesser atrocity than that was committed against Hadiya." Clearly, Suhail Anjum is comparing the non-Muslims of today's India to kuffar and mushrikeen – terms from the jihadi discourse.
"Love Jihad" – Neither Jihad Nor Love
Jihad is understood in two meanings: first, a military fight against infidels in a war; second, an individual's personal struggle to cleanse his soul of corrupt and evil influences. With regard to both the meanings, the term "love jihad" is inaccurate. It is neither jihad nor love. But, if conversion to Islam through marriage is an objective for Islamists like Suhail Anjum, Hindus' worries about this phenomenon are real, compounded by the fact that a Muslim generally does not convert to the religion of his partner.
It is not incidental that Suhail Anjum describes Hindus as an "enemy." Such articles are indeed published in religious magazines, journals and websites. However, it is surprising that a mainstream media house in India published such an article filled with religious fervor. This article also reveals a key point about the Muslim mind: In their writings, Islamic clerics and Urdu journalists are promoting the cause of Islam, not dispassionately analyzing issues.
* Tufail Ahmad is Senior Fellow for the MEMRI Islamism and Counter-Radicalization Initiative.