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Love Jihad: The Undefined Dilemma

The Indian news channels these days are bombarded with another insignificant issue, that is, “Love Jihad”, which has nothing to do with public welfare, yet reiterated that it has public concerns. Recently the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government came up with the ‘the Uttar Pradesh prohibition of unlawful conversion of religious ordinance 2020’. According to this ordinance, a marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” was to “change a girl’s religion”. It further says that, if the conversion is done “forcibly through cheating or atrocity”, the offence will be non-bail able. According to the new law, if an individual want to marry after converting to any other religion, they will need to take permission from the district magistrate two months before the wedding. The opposition view this move as encroachment on personal liberty and an attempt to create a communal divide in the country. Following UP, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh also brought laws to check what they call “Love Jihad”. The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government has not provided any said definition for the term “Love Jihad”, neither during parliament sessions nor state legislatures. The center affirmed that the term is not defined under the extant laws and no such case of “Love Jihad” has been reported by any of the central agencies.

The Urban Dictionary define “Love Jihad” as an act “when a Muslim male/female marries a non-Muslim and converts them”. On the other hand, if one closely look at the definition flashing on Wikipedia, it says, “Love Jihad’ or “Romeo Jihad” is an islamophobic conspiracy theory alleging that Muslim men target women belonging to non-Muslim community for conversion to Islam by feigning love”. However, there are some problematic areas in the Wikipedia’s version, firstly, it nickname’s “Love Jihad” as “Romeo Jihad”, which typically suggests that it is initiated by Muslim men and not by a Muslim woman. It is not always necessary; it can be the other way around. This whole idea is patriarchal in nature, which puts more pressure on girls to confine themselves and to limit their public and private life. Secondly, this definition paves the way for communalism and religious animosity. Apparently, it classifies “Love Jihad” as “islamophobic conspiracy theory”. When there is an urgent need of toleration and harmony, such remarks on such platforms should not be entertained.

The term “Love Jihad” appears to be hiding behind a bush, seeming blur and only a vague layout is visible. When there is no clear understanding of the term is available, from where does this theory of love jihad arises? The Hindu fundamentalists who make the most widely use of the term “Love Jihad” has failed to provide it a proper definition.

Historian Charu Gupta in her article, “Hindu women, Muslim men: Love Jihad and Conversions” throws light on the fake claim by the Hindu right wing that there is a “Love Jihad” organization which is forcing Hindu women to convert to Islam through false expressions of love. She further says that, all these campaigns reflect the Hindu patriarchal notions whereby any possibility of women exercising their legitimate right to love and their right to choose is absolutely ignored.

“Love Jihad” gained popularity during 2009 in the Kerala Hadiya’s case. Where incidents of conversions were witnessed, although the supreme court ruled that it’s not a case of love jihad. “Jihad” is basically an Arabic word, which means, “to strive for a good cause”. There are controversies around the term and it largely remain undefined, but some organizations have interpreted it in their own ways to fulfil their own personal goals. “Love Jihad” is a multifold issue, hence, it is difficult to define it. There are questions over its existence, is it actually exists, or it’s a mere theory?

Recently, there has been a growing controversy over a Netflix series “A Suitable Boy”. As expected, the Hindu fundamentalists alleges that the series depicts love between a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl, which falls under the category of “Love Jihad” and encourages such practices among the youth. They further assert that, the couple in the series has been portrayed kissing under a temple premises, which is inappropriate and is an attack on the Hindu culture. In the backdrop of this, one must take a note of the Kathua gang rape case, in which an 8-year-old girl was gang raped and murdered by a retired government official, 4 police officers and a juvenile. All the accused had some connections with the BJP government. The girl was raped in a temple in Kashmir. How hypocritical it is that, a crime like rape happens to be in a temple, but one cannot shoot a kissing scene within the temple premises? Is this being the Hindu culture, the right wing is fighting for?

The term “Love Jihad” is just an illusion, and the right wing is making the best use of it to foster its own political gains. Their claim is that, inter-faith marriages is an attack on their culture, but are they tolerant and supportive of the inter-caste marriages within their own culture? The answer to this is “Honor Killings”. The Hindu right wing is targeting every Hindu-Muslim marriage as the case of “Love Jihad”. Even the Hindu-Muslim couple who are truly in love with each other, where no conversion has taken place, have been dragged into the realm of “Love Jihad”. This has always been the strategy of the BJP government, distract people from the “real issues” and bring their attention towards some irrelevant practices. Ignoring the rise in COVID deaths, increasing pollution, farmer’s protests, unemployment, and much more valid issues, the BJP government is bringing in the sphere of “Love Jihad” for its own political benefits. We as citizens, has to ponder where to invest our time and energy, otherwise, we are anyway vulnerable as citizens of a democratic country.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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