The Catholic church in Kerala has identified a new threat to its female flock: Love Jihad. In an article ‘Love Religious Terrorism; Parents Beware’ in the October issue of Jagratha, a community newsletter, the Church’s Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance warns Catholic parents that their daughters are being wooed by young Muslim men whose real intention is to convert them to Islam. Schoolgirls, college students, young working women and even housewives are listed as targets. ‘Forums known as Love Jihad and Romeo Jihad use love as a terrorist weapon,’ says the article. ‘Love jihadis have drawn a very smart plan to entrap young women by using love as bait.’
Young men, alleges the article, are supplied with weapons necessary for their cause: motorbikes, cellphones, fancy clothes and pocket money to take their temporary girlfriends to hotels and restaurants. ‘After they convert, these girls are forced into purdah, their freedoms are taken away and their lives become hell, even undergoing sexual abuse,’ it goes on to allege.
Rev Stephen Alathara of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council says over 2,500 girls from Kerala have been victims. “Several girls who’ve been cheated into converting have come to our rehabilitation centres,” he says.
The term ‘Love Jihad’, coined by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has gained mileage in Kerala since a recent High Court case in which two Hindu girls were allegedly entrapped by Muslim men and converted to Islam.
The Church’s joining cause with the VHP has come as a surprise to Kerala’s Muslim community. “Muslim girls also convert to the religion of their husbands when they marry Hindus and Christians, but we’ve never complained,” says Naseeruddin Elamaram, state chief of the Popular Front of India, a Muslim NGO whose activists have been accused of being love jihadists. “Conversion is a constitutional right, and Christian organisations are involved in more conversion activities than us, but nobody cares about the facts.”▪