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Home > Communalism Repository > Taslima Nasreen: Religious Conversion a Fundamental Right

Taslima Nasreen: Religious Conversion a Fundamental Right

22 December 2014

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Financial Chronicle - 21 December 2014

by Taslima Nasreen

Tricks and treats, coercion, threats, manhandling and extermination are the methods by which christianity and islam spread throughout the world. If these tools had not been adopted, neither of the two religions would have crossed the territorial boundaries of West Asia. I always thought judaism and hinduism were two religions where that kind of conversion does not feature. It now appears, however, that the differences have dissolved somewhere down the line. Anyone can become a jew, if they so desire. Or a hindu.

For quite some time, India is undergoing a phase of mass conversions where groups of muslims are converting to hinduism. Are they becoming hindus because they are suddenly attracted to the religion? If indeed they are, then I see no problems. But if they are being coerced, I’ll protest. I have always been voluble against forcing people to do things — anything. The fact is hindu fundamentalists are coercively pressurising muslims to change their religion, who are obliging out of fear. Fear of life exceeds love of religious faith. Everyone will avoid threats to their lives.

Greed is another factor: apparently, a lot of money is on offer for conversions. There is already a fund created for this purpose and the methodology is exactly the same as adopted by christian missionaries or sufis. Hindus call these conversions ghar wapsi or ‘return’ to the fold: in other words, since they were once forced to convert to islam from hinduism, now it’s time for the prodigals to return to their home turf. I asked an orthodox hindu, “How much time do you think has elapsed before this apparent ‘return’ is taking place?” He kept silent. I added, “About 800 years, isn’t it?”

Almost all muslims in India are converts. Lower caste, untouchable, deprived and impoverished hindus converted to Islam because they were brainwashed, bribed or beaten or attracted by the sufis or out of their hatred of brahminical Hinduism. In case of a hindu-muslim wedding, the hindu has to convert to Islam. Its opposite, where a muslim embraces Hinduism after marriage, almost never happens. For hundreds of years, hindus have been systematically converted in this subcontinent. Today, when hindu fundamentalists are screaming revenge, and want to reverse the tide of history, the Delhi masnad trembles in the wake of their forceful slogans.

Hindus can be converted to muslims or christians, but none can be converted to hinduism ­­ this strange discrimination and discrepancy in practice shall no longer be tolerated. Hindus are going about it with a lot of enthusiasm, but, the question is whether it is possible for 25 crore muslims to be reconverted, specially when converting even 25 has ended in stirring up a controversy!

The right to conversion should be universal. Hairstyle, fashion statements, houses, cars, political parties, ideologies, husband, wife — if one has the right to change all of the aforementioned, then why can’t a person change their faith? People should be able to change their faith as frequently as they like, whenever they like, to whichever religion they like. Hindus to muslims, muslims to hindus, christian to jewish, jewish to mormons, mormons to Jehovah’s witnesses, from thereon to zoroastrian, to bahai to pagan. Conversion should be part of human rights.

Or if they so wish, they should even become atheists, free of all religious shackles. I have been free of religious faith since my childhood. Ideally, no child should be marked by any religious faith since no child is born with any innate religious beliefs. It is riddled with its parents’ faith almost forcefully. Every child is forced into adopting the faith it is born into, and coerced into believing it to be its own. In an ideal scenario, when a child reaches maturity, and acquires an objective knowledge of the religions of the world, along with adequate exposure to humanism or atheism, it should be left to choose which of them it wants to follow. If one has to be a mature adult to adopt ideological or political beliefs, then how is it that one does not require adulthood to adopt a religious faith?

And now, hindu fundamentalists have taken it upon their righteous selves to follow Islamic fundamentalists to the very last detail. Since muslims are violent, they have to turn aggressive. Since muslims convert kafirs, they need to do the same. Evidently, fundamentalists from all religions are verily the same. They have only one motive, one mantra: to destroy civil society.

News is that an anti-conversion bill is about to be passed. This is taking the whole issue too far. It makes absolutely no sense that human beings, who have the right to change anything about their lives, will be debarred from changing their faith. To imprison a person within the cages of a single religion is exceedingly cruel and unjust. If the Constitution allows for democracy and human rights, then this bill cannot be legally passed. It is inconceivable how fear of extinction of religious orders can drive communities.

(The writer is an author, poet and social commentator)


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