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India

Church worried about 'Love Jihad' in India again

Kerala cases spark call for national inquiry into Muslim men courting women to convert them to Islam

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Church worried about 'Love Jihad' in India again

Indian communist workers join a protest in Kolkata on Dec. 8, 2017, about the murder of Muslim man Mohammad Afrajul, who was hacked to death in Rajasthan state for allegedly committing Love Jihad. (IANS photo)

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Catholic leaders have supported a call to investigate two cases of “Love Jihad,” an alleged practice of Muslim men courting women with the aim of converting and marrying them.

George Kurian, vice-chairman of the National Commission of Minorities, has asked the federal Home Ministry to press its National Investigation Agency to probe two cases reported by Christians in Kerala state.

"The spate of organized religious conversions and using the victims for terror activities by trapping them through Love Jihad has shown that the Christian community is a soft target for Islamic radicals," said Kurian in a Sept. 22 letter.

Kurian said his commission had received complaints from two Christian families in the southern state this month.

In one case, a college student was raped after sedatives were added to her soft drinks. The sex act was filmed to put pressure on the victim to convert by blackmailing her. When she refused, she was abducted from her hostel.

In the other case, a Christian girl was abducted to a West Asian country and her parents fear that she could be brainwashed to take part in terrorist activities or to become a sex slave.

The fears of the "parents are not misplaced, given the experiences in earlier similar cases," the letter said.

It noted that five of the 21 Kerala people who joined the Islamic State terror group were converts from Christianity.

The letter quoted data from the regional bishops' council's Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance to say that from 2005 to 2012 some 4,000 girls were converted to Islam "after they fell in love."

"The victims are sexually harassed or have to spend the rest of their life in a pathetic condition without any freedom," said the letter.

Father Saju Kuthodiputhenpurayil, secretary of the commission, told ucanews.com that there had been 2,868 female victims of Love Jihad from Kerala between 2006 and 2009. They included Hindus and Christians.

"The data has never been challenged by the government or any other state organization, so that means our concern was right," he told ucanews.com.

The priest said his commission had made several recommendations to parents, including to monitor children's cellphones and computers "so that they can be better prepared to fight the phenomenon and resist charming young Muslim men involved in the scheme."

For the past 10 years, the bishops' commission has been fighting the movement, also called Romeo Jihad. It hit national headlines in 2009 following complaints of religious conversions in Kerala and Karnataka.

Although Hindu and Christian groups complain about such activities, Muslim groups have dismissed it as fiction.

Police investigations in Kerala and Karnataka in 2009 and 2010 could not find any organized movement behind such marriages.

However, several cases were reported in the media from across India in the following years. In some instances, Hindu mobs attacked and killed Muslim men who were accused of committing Love Jihad.

A.C. Michael, a former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said the new development in Kerala "is indeed a matter of concern because it affects our love and respect for other religions.”

However, Muslim leader Muhammad Arif, chairman of the Center for Harmony and Peace, said "it is clear case of divide and rule because for centuries Muslims and Christians have lived peacefully."

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which runs the federal government and several state governments, has no political prominence in Kerala. "They are behind it. They want to divide Christians and Muslims for political gains," Arif said.

Arif, whose organization is based in Uttar Pradesh state, said cases might be simple interreligious marriages. "They all could be simple cases of love and marriage, nothing else," he said.

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