Waris Pathan. Pics/Atul Kamble
Waris Pathan. Pics/Atul Kamble

With a top counter-terror agency probing Kerala's simmering 'love jihad' case, a debate rages on marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women, with the lens on cosmopolitan Mumbai. MLA Waris Pathan and Mumbai-based joint secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (Konkan chapter) Sriraj Nair battle it out, giving their views on the burning issue.

Advocate Waris Pathan, puts a huge question mark on the concept of love jihad, says it is part of a wider campaign to impose 'cultural nationalism' or Hindutva on people. The Mumbai-based advocate and MLA speaks to mid-day:

Does love jihad exist?
What is love jihad? What is the meaning of this phrase? I think the National Investigation Agency (NIA) needs to explain the meaning of love jihad, since it is investigating the Kerala case. Love jihad is not a reality, it is rhetoric.

Today, the spotlight is on a Muslim man marrying a Hindu woman...
Where are all these people who have so much concern that Muslim women are not independent, not given their rights? Today, a 24-year-old Muslim woman's choice is being questioned, her independence about who to marry and which faith to embrace is under scrutiny; so where are these people who say Muslim women aren't given freedom? I want the nation to answer.

Does a woman of another faith have to convert to Islam if she wants to marry a Muslim man?
Nikaah can be solemnised only with a Muslim woman; she converts of her own free will. The kaazi will then register the nikaahnama with the registrar.

The motive of conversions are seen as suspect...
Then, the law must be amended and whosoever converts to any religion should be held guilty. This is rhetoric gaining in stridency for the past three years. Give me examples and figures of the number of girls here who have converted to Islam of their own will and become jihadis.

There may be substance in these charges, they can't be dismissed so easily...
This is BJP's way of diverting attention as they have failed in their 'sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas' agenda. This is an attempt to impose cultural nationalism, rather than constitutional nationalism.

Does this affect the youth in Mumbai?
Muslim youngsters simply say 'I am in love with a Hindu girl. I hope she converts and agrees to marry me. I do not want to make her into any kind of jihadi!' They want to live a life like anybody else.

Why then is the (Kerala) case being investigated?
I want to ask you - why, why? The NIA has been involved, but how does this affect our country's security? Has the girl complained to anybody? Has she said she is being radicalised? Why don't you ask her, a 24 year-old adult, instead of forcing an ideology on people.

Sriraj Nair, Mumbai-based joint secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Konkan chapter, says love jihad is part of a wider conspiracy to convert and, subsequently, push women into jihadi activity. Edited excerpts:

Sriraj Nair of the VHP
Sriraj Nair of the VHP

Does love jihad exist?
Yes, it does. It is not rhetoric, it is a reality. The Kerala High Court and Supreme Court order proves what we have been saying all along, that love jihad exists; it is not a figment of anybody's imagination.

It may throw a shadow over every Hindu-Muslim marriage...
We are not against love or marriage. Or every inter-faith marriage. How can anybody be against that? Yet when the marriage is for ulterior motives, converting the girl and then, luring her towards jihadi terror, then it is love jihad. In fact, love jihad is one of the most robust gateways to join terror groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda, and it is happening in India.

Isn't the love jihad label tantamount to abusing a woman's intelligence and abusing her right to marry who she wants?
Cases have proved that men too can be brainwashed, it is not just women or kids. It is necessary to probe love jihad, which is an organised way to sway women to a certain ideology, and it is rampant.

Where was love jihad earlier? Why has it sprung up only in the last two-three years?
It existed earlier too. It was not brought out because of the appeasement policy and vote bank politics. In fact, this (Kerala) case does not appear to be an isolated one, like the court says. The earlier government did not want to bring this out.

What proof do you have that these girls have become jihadis?
The high court has declared the marriage a sham, and now, the NIA has been roped in. What bigger 'proof' do you want? Girls have gone to Syria to fight for terror groups, namely the ISIS, in the past. There may be many who are always in denial mode, but that does not change the reality.

The current ruling party and right-wing Hindu outfits are, say accusers, trying to inflict cultural nationalism on people, or a Hindutva ideology... gau rakshaks and love jihad are the tools.
The VHP perspective is that we are duty bound to protect our holy mothers. Hindus have a right to live with dignity and self-respect. Hindus are not converting any community. We are safeguarding a civilisation and we aspire towards reforms and to be in sync with science. VHP is a responsible organisation, we need to keep mum and let the NIA continue its investigation.

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