Forceful Conversion to Islam: Rising Fear in Minorities

380

“Islam itself forbids the idea of forcing someone to take a religion they do not truly believe in. It goes against the teachingS of Prophet Muhammad.” — Peshawar-based religious scholar Ghulam Rahim

Christian girls at a school in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Christian girls at a school in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

Minorities in Pakistan Account for just 10 percent of this country’s population of 180 million. They are no unfamiliar to marginalization, discrimination or even violence.According to persistent reports that Christian and Hindu girls are being forcibly converted to Islam might just take the top spot in a long list of carnages that non-Muslims are forced to suffer.

“The situation is extremely grim. About 1,000 Hindu and Christian girls are kidnapped in Pakistan every year. They are converted to Islam through the use of forced marriages,” Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, chief patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), told IPS..

A number of cases are reported against the forced conversions issue but these are failed to capture the true extent of problem because girls themselves are reluctant say anything against the criminals and families are unable to reports complaints against them too.

Last year in December, a six-year-old girl named Jumna, and her 10-year-old sister Pooja, went missing from their home in Mirpur Khas, a city in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province. After searching day and night, their parents discovered that girls were living with a man named Rajab Pathan.

The girls’ mother, Soma, told IPS that the case quickly blew up in the media, leading to a trial at which both girls confessed that they willingly accepted Islam.

This, according to a report released last month by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, is representative of young girls who are abducted, forcibly kept away from their families. They are threatened by their abductors. Furthermore, report stated, “Once in the custody of the abductor, the victim girl may be subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse.”

The report of Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan  says approximately 700 of the girls kidnapped each year are Christians, while “conservative estimates” show that about 300 are Hindu. Most of the girls are likely to be between 12 and 25 years of age.

The report authors say that a lack of press attention and reluctance on the part of the police to reveal details of such cases indicate that the actual figures could be much higher.

Even when families do file a case in the form of First Information Reports (FIRs) for kidnapping or rape, the kidnappers straightaway register counter-claims on behalf of the victims, stating that the conversions were voluntary and blaming the families of “harassing” the happily married girls. The cases are then closed without further investigation and relief to families.

PHC’s Vankwani told IPS he is unhappy with administrators’ reaction so far to the problem. “The government fears reprisals from fundamentalist groups, so our complaints go unheeded,” he said.

A famous case in 2012 of a girl named Rinkle Kumari demonstrated the darkest side of the forced conversions. She was abducted from her home in the Sindh province in February, and she was afterwards made available before a judge to whom she apparently stated that she had married her abductor, Naveed Shah, of her own free will.

According to PHC General Secretary Hotchand Karmani, “That statement was “made under duress” due to the presence of “dozens of armed men in the court premises.”

For religious experts, forced conversions are against the teachings of Islam and its most basic tenets of peace, love and brotherhood. “People should be free to live in line with their chosen religions,” Peshawar-based religious scholar Ghulam Rahim told IPS.

He further added, “The government should protect them. Islam itself forbids the idea of forcing someone to take a religion they do not truly believe in. It goes against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him.”

The report of Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan  says approximately 700 of the girls kidnapped each year are Christians, while “conservative estimates” show that about 300 are Hindu. Most of the girls are likely to be between 12 and 25 years of age.