Bengaluru: Kerala’s Syro-Malabar Church has alleged that nearly 12 Christian women have been converted to Islam through ‘love jihad’ in the last three years and taken to Syria where some of them might even have been killed.
The church issued a statement Wednesday, expressing concern over the “rising number of love jihad” cases in the state and called it a part of a larger agenda of the Islamic State (IS) to “threaten the religious and social harmony of Kerala”.
‘Love jihad’ is a term coined by Hindu fundamentalist groups, referring to an alleged campaign by Muslim men to convert Hindu girls in the guise of love.
Father Antony Thalachelloor, a member of the church’s media commission, told the Print: “The Islamic State has been luring Christian women as part of their international agenda of hunting down Jewish and Christian women.”
The synod (council of bishops) of the church headed by Cardinal George Alencherry alleged that the 12 Christian women converted to Islam were among the 21 women who moved to Syria after being recruited by the IS in 2016.
Accusing the Kerala Police of being incompetent in controlling the forced conversions, the synod has now decided to alert the Christian community about ‘love jihad’.
“In the next few months, we will sensitise families and girls through our pious organisations so that they are educated enough not to fall in this trap,” said Thalachelloor.
Several suspected cases of ‘love jihad’ have been reported in Kerala with the Hadiya case being the most famous among them. While initially, it was alleged to be a ‘love jihad’ case, the Supreme Court finally ruled that it wasn’t.
Suspected ‘love jihad’’ cases
The Syro-Malabar Church, which is the second-largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world after the Ukrainian Church, claimed the sudden increase in ‘love jihad’ cases has been reported to the police, but they did not investigate the matter properly, forcing them to pass a resolution on 15 January.
According to the resolution, Christian women in Kerala are being targeted and killed in the name of ‘love jihad’.
The church’s statement assumes significance in the light of an incident of a 19-year-old Christian woman who was allegedly threatened by a Muslim man for conversion in Kozhikode last year.
The case came to light in September when the woman’s parents filed a police complaint, alleging that she was lured by a man named Jasim, whom she met at her coaching centre.
The father of the woman alleged that Jasim drugged his daughter and recorded obscene videos of her, which were later used to blackmail her.
“The complaint said that the accused was not only trying to convert the girl but the entire family by blackmailing them,” said an officer from Nadakkavu police station over the phone.
The church sources also told ThePrint that individual dioceses have been receiving complaints that Muslim men are trying to convert Christian women in the guise of love.
‘Conversion was not into Islam but into terrorism’
George Kurian, Vice-Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, told The Print that he had written a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah last year in September, seeking a probe into ‘love jihad’ cases by “Islamic radicals” in Kerala.
“The spate of organised religious conversions and using the victims for terror activities by trapping them through ‘love jihad’ has shown the Christian community is a soft target for Islamic radicals,” he wrote in the letter, seeking intervention of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“It was based on my letter that the NIA intervened in the Kozhikode case and the accused has been arrested. While the central government is doing enough to try and stop these ‘love jihad’ cases, the allegation is that the Kerala government needs to pull their socks up,” he told ThePrint.
Kurian said there was another case of a Christian girl from Delhi who went missing last year. “She was traced to the UAE after I alerted the government about this. The girl was brought to the Indian embassy in UAE where she told her family that she was forced to convert,” he added.
Explaining that ‘love jihad’ is a reality, Kurian cited a report by the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council’s Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance that said there were 4,000 instances of ‘love jihad’ between 2005 and 2012.
“Conversion, per se, is not a problem, but in these cases, the conversion was not into Islam but into terrorism,” he said.
Kurian has written a letter to Kerala DGP Loknath Behera Thursday, seeking a report within 21 days on the alleged ‘love jihad’ cases.
Church’s claims are baseless, says Kerala minister
Denouncing the church’s claims of an increase in ‘love jihad’ cases, Kerala Minister for Minorities Welfare K.T. Jaleel told ThePrint the allegations are “completely baseless and exaggerated”.
Jaleel said ‘love jihad’ does not exist in Kerala and that police have conducted detailed investigations into such suspected cases and found no evidence of ‘love jihad’ in them.
“If a Muslim boy marries a girl from another community, it becomes ‘love jihad’. What if a Muslim girl marries a boy from another religion? What do you call it then? Their allegations are baseless. The Kerala government takes such complaints seriously and has investigated such cases when the police have received complaints,” he said.
When asked about the 21 women from Kerala who were allegedly converted to Islam and taken to Syria to join the IS, Jaleel said a larger number of Muslim girls have been taken there. “You can’t blame and single out one community,” he added.
The church’s statement also drew reaction from the radical group Popular Front of India (PFI). The outfit asked the church to immediately withdraw their statement as it would affect the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country.