Suspicion about “Love Jihad” — an alleged Islamist plot to increase the share of Muslims in the population by incentivizing Muslim men to marry outside the community — is probably the result of the overall paranoia and religious tension in South India, US Consul General Andrew Simkin told his government in February last year.
However, the consulate took the matter seriously enough to bother meeting with a Christian group to find out for themselves the ‘Love Jihad’ details.
The Chennai Consul General’s interaction and report happened soon after the Karnataka High Court issued a directive to the state police to investigate the matter.
After the Consul General’s report, the matter had again hit the headlines in July last year when Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan said that that reports indicated that money was being “pumped in” to incentivize Muslim men to marry non-Muslim girls in Kerala.
Echoing concerns raised by some fundamentalist Hindu organizations and politicians, Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the ‘Global Council of Indian Christians’ too tried to convince the Americans of the seriousness of the threat.
George, the only religious leader who was personally approached by Simkin to gather information, “was convinced that there was a concerted effort in South India by Muslim men to get Christian women to fall in love with them in order to convert them,” the Consult General said.
The Consul General Simkin also pointed out that a body under the powerful Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) had even sent out warnings and suggestions to Christians on avoiding the “love trap.”
“The Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) reported that there had been 2,868 female victims of the “Love Jihad” in Kerala from 2006-09.
“The Commission made several recommendations to parents through its newsletter, including a recommendation to monitor children’s mobile phones and computers, to fight this “social evil,” the Consul General’s report on Love Jihad said.
Dr George gave further details to the Consul General, according to the report contained in a cable leaked by Wikileaks.
“He said that his organization was publicly tight-lipped about the incidents because it did not want to exacerbate religious tensions in Kerala and Karnataka, which he said were already high.
“Dr. George said that his group found it necessary, however, to warn Christian parents and young girls of the danger posed by the “Love Jihad” so that they can be better prepared to resist what many call “charming” young Muslim men involved in the scheme,” the cable said.
The Consul General also pointed to the role played by the media and Hindu groups.
“The media and some religious groups have been fueling the hysteria by making vague statements about large numbers of missing
young women in Karnataka over the last six years, suggesting that these disappearances are related to the “Love Jihad.”
“Multiple Hindu extremist groups held a rally at Mangalore’s district headquarters on October 15, alleging that over 3,000 Hindu girls
from the region and more than 30,000 from the rest of the state had gone missing since the alleged launch of the “Love Jihad” in 2008, figures that were reportedly repeated on the websites of various Hindutva organizations..
“[However,] Official statistics reportedly show that 404 women were reported missing in 2009, and that police tracked down 332 of them,” he added.
In the end, the Consul General pointed out that allegations of a “Love Jihad” were probably unfounded and did not have any solid evidence to back them up. On the Hindu side, the report said, the worries may be part of an overall concern over the extension of foreign religions into the country.
“While it may be easy for outsiders to ridicule the “Love Jihad” allegations, the fact that they have gained so much traction in the popular imagination illuminates the very real paranoia and social tensions that sometimes exist in relationships among Muslims, Hindus, and Christians in the region.
“In some areas, it would be hugely embarrassing for Hindu parents to reveal to friends and relatives that their daughter has fallen for a Muslim man, and the hypothesized existence of a nefarious, foreign-funded organization that targets innocent Hindu women likely makes it easier for the parents to explain to themselves and others what has happened.
“The “Love Jihad” brouhaha also illustrates the perceived threat that many Hindus in the region feel from “forced conversions,” and the general encroachment of “alien” religious forces into what they see as a Hindu religious space. These perceptions — and the related tensions — will likely continue regardless of the content of Karnataka’s official report on the alleged “Love Jihad,” Simkin predicted.
Interestingly, while the Karnataka High Court’s directive to submit a report on the matter in six weeks was widely reported in the media, there has been no information about what was contained in the Police report.
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