Love Jihad, also called Romeo Jihad, is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men are said to reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love. Arising in a background of national religious tension, the alleged activity is based on the power of emotional appeal in religious conversion. The controversial issue has garnered international attention. Even though individual reports have spread, all official investigations in India launched in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 have found no evidence of the activity.
The concept first rose to national attention in India in 2009, with claims of widespread conversions in Kerala and Mangalore, but claims have subsequently spread throughout India and beyond, into Pakistan and the United Kingdom. With waves of publicity in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014, the allegations of Love Jihad in India have raised concerns in various Hindu, Sikh and Christian organizations, while Muslim organisations have denied the allegations. The concept has remained a source of political contention and social concern for many, although as of 2014 the idea of an organized Love Jihad was still widely regarded as a conspiracy theory by the Indian mainstream, according to Reuters.
Religious conversion through emotional appeal
The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion notes that the effectiveness of emotional appeals in converting people from one faith to another is well known and often exploited by religious leaders. Religious groups have utilized techniques like love bombing and Flirty Fishing to interest potential recruits. Love Jihad is an alleged activity wherein Muslim youth utilize such emotional appeals, using charm to entice girls into conversion by feigning love - in some reports, as an organized, funded behavior.
Regional historical tensions
In a piece picked up by the Chicago Tribune, Foreign Policy correspondent Siddhartha Mahanta reports that the modern Love Jihad conspiracy has roots in the 1947 partition of India. This partition led to the creation of the sovereign states of the Dominion of Pakistan (it later split into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). The creation of two countries with different majority religions led to large-scale migration, with millions of people moving between the countries and rampant reports of sexual predation and forced conversions of women by men of both faiths. Women on both sides of the conflict were impacted, leading to "recovery operations" by both the Indian and Pakistani governments of these women, with over 20,000 Muslim and 9,000 non-Muslim women being recovered between 1947 and 1956. This tense history caused repeated clashes between the faiths in the decades that followed as well, according to Mahanta, as cultural pressure against interfaith marriage for either side.
As of 2014, Hindus were the leading religious majority in India, at 81%, with Muslims at 13%.
Marriage traditions and customs
India has a long tradition of arranged marriages, wherein the bride and groom do not self-select their partners; one 2000 book reported that 90% of marriages in India at the time had been arranged, mostly within caste. Through the 2000s and 2010s, India witnessed a rise in love marriages, although tensions continue around interfaith marriages, along with other traditionally discouraged unions. In 2012, The Hindu reported that illegal intimidation against consenting couples engaging in such discouraged unions, including inter-religious marriage, had surged. That year, Uttar Predesh saw the proposal of an amendment to remove the requirement to declare religion from the marriage law in hopes of encouraging those who were hiding their interfaith marriage due to social norms to register.
One the tensions surrounding interfaith marriage relates to concerns of required, even forced, marital conversion. Marriage in Islam is a legal contract with requirements around the religions of the participants. While Muslim women are only permitted within the contract to marry Muslim men, Muslim men may marry "People of the Book", interpreted by most to include Jews and Christians, with the inclusion of Hindus disputed. According to a 2014 article in the Mumbai Mirror, some non-Muslim brides in Muslim-Hindu marriages convert, while other couples choose a civil marriage under the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
Scope and history
Allegations of Love Jihad first rose to national awareness in September 2009. Love Jihad was initially alleged to be conducted in Kerala and Mangalore in the coastal Karnataka region. According to the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, by October 2009 up to 4,500 girls in Kerala had been targeted, whereas Hindu Janajagruti Samiti claimed that 30,000 girls had been converted in Karnataka alone. Alleged incidents spread. Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana general secretary Vellapally Natesan said that there had been reports in Narayaneeya communities of "Love Jihad" attempts. Reports of similar activities have also emerged from Pakistan and the United Kingdom. According to an opinion piece by Liberal Politics blogger Sunny Hundal, "In the 90s, an anonymous leaflet (suspected to be by Hizb ut-Tahrir followers) urged Muslim men to seduce Sikh girls to convert them to Islam."
The Sikh Council received reports in 2014 that girls from British Sikh families were becoming victims of Love Jihad. Furthermore, these reports stated that these girls were being exploited by their husbands, some of whom afterwards abandoned them in Pakistan. According to the Takht jathedar, "The Sikh council has rescued some of the victims (girls) and brought them back to their parents."
The fundamentalist Muslim organization Popular Front of India and the Campus Front have been accused of promoting this activity. In Kerala, some movies have been accused of promoting Love Jihad, a charge which has been denied by the filmmakers.
Following the controversy's initial flare-up in 2009, it flared again in 2010, 2011 and 2014. On June 25, 2014, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy informed the state legislature that 2667 young women were converted to Islam in the state since 2006. However, he stated that there was no evidence for any of them being forced conversions, and that fears of Love Jihad were "baseless." In connection with an alleged case in Delhi, India TV indicated in September 2014 that the number of cases of reported Love Jihad were rapidly increasing admidst "intense debates" over relationships between Muslim boys and Hindu girls.
India's National shooter Tara Shahdeo in 2014 alleged her husband forced her to convert to Islam and that she was tortured upon her refusal to convert. Her husband was later arrested.
One Indian Taekwondo player in 2014 claimed that she was a "victim" of Love Jihad while she was still a minor. Her husband was later arrested for kidnapping and compelling the minor for marriage.
Various organisations have joined together against this perceived conduct. Christian groups, such as the Christian Association for Social Action, and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) banded against it, with the VHP making a specific Hindu helpline that it indicates answered 1,500 calls in three months related to "Love Jihad". The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) has reported that the Catholic Church is concerned about this alleged phenomenon. The Vigilance Council of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) raised an alert for the Catholic community against the practice. In September, posters appeared in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala under the name of right-wing group Shri Ram Sena warning against "Love Jihad". The group announced in December that it would launch a nationwide "Save our daughters, save India" campaign to combat "Love Jihad".
Muslim organizations in Kerala called it a malicious misinformation campaign. Popular Front of India (PFI) committee-member Naseeruddin Elamaram denied that the PFI was involved in any "Love Jihad", stating that people convert to Hinduism and Christianity as well and that religious conversion is not a crime. Members of the Muslim Central Committee of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts have responded by claiming that Hindus and Christians have fabricated these claims to undermine the Muslim faith and community.
In July 2010, the "Love Jihad" controversy resurfaced in the press when Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan referenced the alleged matrimonial conversion of non-Muslim girls as part of an effort to make Kerala a Muslim majority state. PFI dismissed his statements due to the findings of the Kerala probe, but the president of the BJP Mahila Morcha, the women's wing of the conservative Bharatiya Janata Party, called for an NIA investigation, alleging that the Kerala state probe was closed prematurely due to a tacit understanding with PFI. The Congress Party in Kerala responded strongly to the Chief Minister's comments, which they described as deplorable and dangerous.
In December 2011, the controversy erupted again in Karnataka legislative assembly, when member Mallika Prasad of the Bharatiya Janata Party asserted that the problem was ongoing and unaddressed — with, according to her, 69 of 84 Hindu girls who had gone missing between January and November of that year confessing after their recovery that "they'd been lured by Muslim youths who professed love." According to The Times of India, response was divided, with Deputy Speaker N. Yogish Bhat and House Leader S. Suresh Kumar supporting governmental intervention, while Congress members B. Ramanath Rai and Abhay Chandra Jain argued that "the issue was being raised to disrupt communal harmony in the district."
That same month, the alleged phenomenon was raised by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader during a protest organized by Hindu Hitarakshana Vedike about the arrest and reported mistreatment of 15 people on an unrelated matter, when Sangh suggested that police feared to interfere with Muslim youth who practice "Love Jihad" and cautioned young Hindu women against using cell phones, suggesting these play a major role. It was also raised by filmmaker Paromita Vohra, who labeled the phenemonen as VHP conspiracy theories.
During the resurgence of the controversy in 2014, protests turned violent at growing concern, even though, according to Reuters, the concept was considered "an absurd conspiracy theory by mainstream, moderate Indians." BJP MP Yogi Adityanath alleged that Love Jihad was an international conspiracy targeting India, announcing on television that the Muslims "can't do what they want by force in India, so they are using the love jihad method here." Conservative Hindu activists have cautioned women in Uttar Pradesh to avoid Muslims and not to befriend them. In Uttar Pradesh, the influential committee Akhil Bharitiya Vaishya Ekta Parishad announced their intention to push to restrict the use of cell phones among young women to prevent their being vulnerable to such activities.
Following this announcement, Times of India reported, Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur "said the term 'love jihad' had been coined only to create fear and divide society along communal lines." Muslim leaders have referred to 2014 rhetoric around the alleged conspiracy as a campaign of hate. Feminists voiced concerns that efforts to protect women against the alleged activities would negatively impact women's rights, depriving them of free choice and agency.
Uma Bharti, water resources minister and a leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, called for communal discussions between leaders of the communities to protect young men and women regardless of religion.
In September 2014, controversial BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj claimed that Muslim boys in madrasas are being motivated for Love Jihad with proposals of rewards of, "Rs 11 lakh for an “affair” with a Sikh girl, Rs 10 lakh for a Hindu girl and Rs 7 lakh for a Jain girl." He claimed to know this through reports to him by Muslims and by the experiences of men in his service who had converted for access. Abdul Razzaq Khan, the vice-president of Jamiat Ulama Hind, responded by denying such activities, labeling the comments "part of conspiracy aimed at disturbing the peace of the nation" and demanding action against Maharaj. Uttar Pradesh minister Mohd Azam Khan indicated the statement was "trying to break the country".
On 13 October, India Today reported that the woman who claimed in Love-Jihad case that she had been gang-raped and forcefully converted into Islam, changed her statement and said to the Police that she had in fact eloped with the accused. She said that she had given a wrong statement previously as she was threatened by her parents.
On January, Vishwa Hindu Parishad 's women’s wing, Durga Vahini used actor Kareena Kapoor’s morphed picture half covered with burqa issue of their magazine, on the theme of Love Jihaad. The caption underneath read: "conversion of nationality through religious conversion".
In October 2009, the Karnataka government announced its intentions to counter "Love Jihad", which "appeared to be a serious issue". A week after the announcement, the government ordered a probe into the situation by the CID to determine if an organised effort existed to convert these girls and, if so, by whom it was being funded. One woman whose conversion to Islam came under scrutiny as a result of the probe was temporarily ordered to the custody of her parents, but eventually permitted to return to her new husband after she appeared in court, denying pressure to convert. In April 2010, police used the term to characterize the alleged kidnapping, forced conversion and marriage of a 17-year-old college girl in Mysore.
Following the launching of a poster campaign in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, purportedly by organisation Shri Ram Sena, state police began investigating the presence of that organisation in the area. In late October 2009, police addressed the question of "Love Jihad" itself, indicating that while they had not located an organisation called "Love Jihad", "there are reasons to suspect ‘concentrated attempts’ to persuade girls to convert to Islam after they fall in love with Muslim boys". They documented unconfirmed reports of a foreign-funded network of groups encouraging conversion through the subterfuge, but noted that no organisations conducting such campaigns had been confirmed and no evidence had been located to support foreign financial aid.
In late 2009, The Karnataka CID (Criminal Investigation Department) reported that although it was continuing to investigate, it had found no evidence that a "Love Jihad" existed. In late 2009, Director-General of Police Jacob Punnoose reported that although the investigation would continue, there was no evidence of any organised attempt by any group or individual using men "feigning love" to lure women to convert to Islam. They did indicate that a large number of Hindu girls had converted to Islam of their own will.
On 9 December 2009, Justice K T Sankaran for the Kerala High Court weighed in on the matter while hearing bail for Muslim youth arrested for allegedly forcibly converting two campus girls. According to Sankaran, police reports revealed the "blessings of some outfits" for a "concerted" effort for religious conversions, some 3,000 to 4,000 incidences of which had taken place after love affairs in a four-year period. Sankaran "found indications of ‘forceful’ religious conversions under the garb of ‘love’", suggesting that "such ‘deceptive’ acts" might require legislative intervention to prevent.
According to The Indian Express, Sankaran's conclusion that "such incidents under the pretext of love were rampant in certain parts of the state" ran contrary to Central and state government reports. In early 2010, the State Government reported to the Karnataka High Court that although a large number of young Hindu women had converted to Islam, there was no organized attempt to convince them to do so. A petition was also put before Sankaran to prevent the use of the terms "Love Jehad" and "Romeo Jehad", but Sankaran declined to overrule an earlier decision not to restrain media usage. Subsequently, however, the High Court stayed further police investigation, both because no organised efforts had been disclosed by police probes and because the investigation was specifically targeted against a single community.
In January 2012, Kerala police declared that Love Jihad was "[a] campaign with no substance", bringing legal proceedings instead against the website hindujagruti.org for "spreading religious hatred and false propaganda."
In September 2014, following the resurgence of national attention, Reuters reported that police in Uttar Pradesh had found no credence in the five or six recent allegations of Love Jihad that had been brought before them, with state police chief A.L. Banerjee stating that, "In most cases we found that a Hindu girl and Muslim boy were in love and had married against their parents' will." They reportedly indicated that "sporadic cases of trickery by unscrupulous men are not evidence of a broader conspiracy."
That same month, the Allahabad High Court gave the government and election commission of Uttar Pradesh 10 days to respond to a petition to restrain the use of the word "Love Jihad" and to take action against Adityanath.
- "Muzaffarnagar: 'Love jihad', beef bogey sparked riot flames". Hindustan Times. 12 Sep 2013. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- Stephen Brown (2009-10-16). "The "Love Jihad"". Front Page Mag. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- Ananthakrishnan G (2009-10-13). "'Love Jihad' racket: VHP, Christian groups find common cause". Times of India. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- Nair, Rupam Jain; Daniel, Frank Jack (5 September 2014). "'Love Jihad' and religious conversion polarise in Modi's India". Reuters. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Rambo, Lewis R.; Farhadian, Charles E. (18 February 2014). The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-19-971354-7.
- "'Love jihad' piqued US interest". The Times of India. 6 Sep 2011. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Nelson, Dean (13 Oct 2009). "Handsome Muslim men accused of waging 'love jihad' in India". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
- Mahanta, Siddhartha (5 September 2014). "India’s Fake ‘Love Jihad’". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
- Bhavnani, Nandita (29 July 2014). The Making of Exile: Sindhi Hindus and the Partition of India. Westland. pp. 253–255. ISBN 978-93-84030-33-9.
- Huynh, Kim; Bina D'Costa; Katrina Lee-Koo (30 April 2015). Children and Global Conflict. Cambridge University Press. pp. 274–275. ISBN 978-1-316-29876-3.
- Mandhana, Niharika (4 September 2014). "Hindu Activists in India Warn Women to Beware of 'Love Jihad'". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Ahloowalia, B. S. (2009). Invasion of the Genes: Genetic Heritage of India. Strategic Book Publishing. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-60860-691-7.
- "Indian Laws, Culture Boost Inter-Faith Marriages". Voice of America. 12 August 2002. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- "Jihad in the time of love". Mumbai Mirror. 31 August 2014. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- Dhar, Aarti (24 January 2012). "Law Commission's new draft wants khap panchayats on marriages declared illegal". The Hindu. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- "Two booked for forcing wives to embrace Islam in Madhya Pradesh". Times of India. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- Cornell, Vincent J. (2007). Voices of Islam: Voices of life : family, home, and society. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 61. ISBN 9780275987350.
This includes Jew, Christians and Sabeans (a sect that most Muslims believe no longer exists). Zoroastrians, certain types of Hindus, and Buddhists are accepted by some Muslims as 'People of the Book' as well, but this is a matter of dispute.
- Brown, Stephen (16 Oct 2009). "The "Love Jihad"". Front Page Mag.
- "Beware of ‘love jihad’". Mathrubhumi. Kochi, Kerala, India: mathrubhumi.org. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2009-10-18.[dead link]
- "Is 'Love Jihad' terror's new mantra?". Rediff. 2009-10-14. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Mangalore: Eight Hindu Organisations to Protest Against ‘Love Jehad’". Daijiworld.com. October 14, 2009. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "SNDP to campaign against Love Jihad: Vellappally". Asianet. 19 October 2009. Archived from the original on 2012-03-10. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
- "SNDP to join fight against ‘Love Jihad’". ExpressBuzz. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 20 October 2009.
- Yudhvir Rana (2011-01-10). "'Not just White girls, Pak Muslim men sexually target Hindu and Sikh girls as well". Times of India. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Police protect girls forced to convert to Islam". Thisislondon.co.uk. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- metrowebukmetro (2007-02-22). "Hindu girls targeted by extremists". Metro.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Now ‘Love Jihad’ case in Bihar, girl forced to change her religion, pleads for justice". Daily Bhaskar. 2 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "Taekwondo national player from UP says she is love jihad victim". India Today. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "MP Love-Jihad: Nurse accuses husband for religion conversion and nikah". Daily Bhaskar. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- HT Correspondent (27 January 2014). "'Love jihad': UK Sikh girls' exploitation worries Takht". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Raghavan, B. S. (30 July 2010). "Kerala's demographic trends bear watching". The Hindu Business Line. The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
- Raj, Rohit (27 July 2012). "Filmmakers protest Love Jihad slur in social media". Deccan Chronicle. Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-09-16.
- "Kerala CM criticised for speaking out against ‘love jihad’". The Economic Times. 27 July 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- "Love jihad sparks hate". The Times of India. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- "Over 2500 women converted to Islam in Kerala since 2006, says Oommen Chandy". India Today. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
- India TV Web Desk (2 September 2014). "Love Jihad: Hindu girl commits suicide after conversion". India TV. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "Love jihad: National shooter Tara Shahdeo's husband arrested". TOI. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- "Taekwondo national player from UP says she is love jihad victim". India Today. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
- "Church, state concerned about ´love jihad´". Wayback.archive.org. Retrieved 2014-04-22.
- Babu Thomas (26 September 2009). "Poster campaign against ‘Love Jihad’". expressbuzz.com. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
- "'Rama Sene to launch 'Save our daughters Save India'". times of India. 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "'Love Jihad' a misinformation campaign: Kerala Muslim outfits". Times of India. 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "'Anti Muslim forces phrase 'Love Jihad''". Sahilonline.org. Retrieved 2014-04-18.[dead link]
- "Kerala CM reignites 'love jihad' theory". Times of India. 26 July 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- "Love jihad cases: Mahila Morcha for NIA probe". Express News Service. The New Indian Express Group. 25 July 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- "Sullia: Prabhakara Bhat Resents Injustices Inflicted on Hindu Society". Daijiworld.com. 17 December 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- Vohra, Paromita (18 December 2011). "Love, Sting Aur Dhoka". The Indian Express. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- "Love Jihad: High Court asks UP govt, EC to file response". India TV. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Mishra, Ishita (2 September 2014). "In UP, community bans mobiles for girls to fight ‘love jihad’". The Times of India. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Saha, Abhishek (1 September 2014). "Amid rage over ‘Love Jihad’ what about what women want?". New Delhi. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Aravind, Indulekha (6 September 2014). "Love Jihad campaign treats women as if they are foolish: Charu Gupta". Business Standard. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- Akram, Maria (29 August 2014). "‘Netas using love jihad as a tool for polarization’". Times of India. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- Nelson, Dean (2 September 2014). "'We need to talk about 'Love Jihad says minister: India's Muslim boys seducing Hindu girls to force their conversion". Telegraph. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
- "BJP Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj claims madrasas offering cash rewards for love jihad". Indian Express. 15 September 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
- "Muslim Cleric Blasts Sakshi Maharaj for Jihad Factory Remark". Times of India. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
- "Azam slams Sakshi Maharaj on madarssa issue, calls him "rapist"". India TV News. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
- "Meerut woman denies 'love jihad', says she eloped". India Today. 13 October 2014.
- "Star Power Kareena Used As Warning Against Love Jihad". Hindustan Times. 7 January 2015.
- "Kareena Kapoor is now the face of VHP's love jihad campaign". India Today. 8 January 2015.
- "Karnataka to take steps to counter 'Love Jihad' movement". Deccan Herald. 2009-10-22.
- "Govt directs CID to probe ‘love jihad’". Times of India. 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Love jihad: HC orders thorough probe by DGP". Times of India. 2009-10-22. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Woman denies ‘love jihad’, court lets her to go with lover". Thaindian News. 2009-11-13. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Love Jihad: girl rescued". Times of India. 2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "No ‘Love Jihad’ in Kerala". Deccan Herald. 2013-05-21. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "Kerala HC wants probe into 'love jihad'". Indian Express.
- "DGP suspects presence of 'Love Jihad' in Kerala". Mathrubhumi.[dead link]
- "Karnataka CID finds no evidence of 'Love Jihad'". The Hindu. 2009-11-13.
- "Kerala police have no proof on ‘Love Jihad’". Deccan Herald. 2009-11-11.
- Staff Reporter (2010-04-23). "No love jihad movement in State'". The Hindu.
- "Kerala HC asks govt to frame laws to stop ‘love jihad’". The Economic Times. 2009-12-10.
- "HC calls for law to check ‘love jehad’". The Indian Express. 2009-12-10.
- Padanna, Ashraf (4 January 2012). "Kerala police probe crack ‘love jihad’ myth". The Gulf Today. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11.
- "Kerala cops fail to establish 'love jihad' conspiracy". Ibnlive. 2009-12-23. Retrieved 2014-04-18.
- "'Love-jihad' row: Allahabad High Court issues notice to Centre, Uttar Pradesh government". DNA. 4 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Religious persecution.|