‘Love Jihad’ BJP’s latest weapon against India’s Muslims

27th Nov 2020

Sajeda Haider

‘Love Jihad’ a ludicrously Islamophobic conspiracy theory once confined to the fringe elements of India’s far-right is now part of the mainstream.

Lexicon such that Chief Ministers of states ruled by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is threatening to introduce a law to prevent Hindu women from marrying Muslim men.

‘Love Jihad’ is a derogatory term used by BJP leaders and supporters that describes a conspiracy claiming that Muslim men seduce Hindu women with trickery and expressions of false love for the sole purpose of converting them to Islam.

Once converted and married, vulnerable Hindu girls are then forced to have lots of children so that the number of Muslims overtakes the Hindu majority turning India into an “Islamic country”, claims the ‘Love Jihad’ narrative.

The fact that Hindus make up 85% of India’s 1.35 billion population, while Muslims are only 12-13%, and it would take many generations to make it a Muslim majority country, if they were to use the ‘Love Jihad’ route, is lost on those who the conspiracy theorists.

More importantly, 90% of all marriages in India are arranged by families who insist on fixing alliances only among their co-religionists, castes and even sub-castes. Interfaith marriages are rare, with one study putting the figure as little as 2.2% of all marriages.

Until the end of the 20th century, interfaith marriages were considered modern, secular and a symbol of a multi-religious and multi-cultural India.

However, in the last 20 years conservatism has gained support, religious polarization has grown, and with a Hindu Nationalist Government in power interfaith marriages — particularly of Hindu women to Muslim men — have been ascribed with a sinister motive.

Since Modi became Prime Minister, ‘Love Jihad’ has become another tool to demonise Muslims. If a law preventing interfaith marriages is created it will be yet another weapon to use on Muslim men. Much like the law that banned Triple Talaq, a little-used practise in India, ‘Love Jihad’ will be used to criminalise Muslim men.

The claims that Muslims indulge in ‘Love Jihad’ continue to find support in India’s now deeply polarized society, even though official investigations in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 have found no evidence of the activity.

As recently as February, the Modi Government told Parliament that ‘Love Jihad’ persists despite its legally undefined status and no cases reported by any Government agencies. At least four BJP-ruled states have announced plans to introduce legislation to curb this ‘social evil.’

Just how Islamophobic India has become was brought into sharp focus last month when a popular jewellery brand was forced to withdraw an advertisement featuring an interfaith couple after a right-wing backlash on social media. The ad featured a Muslim mother-in-law lovingly organizing a baby shower for her Hindu daughter-in-law.

Popular brand Tanishq, owned by the Tatas, one of India’s oldest and biggest corporate houses, called the new jewellery range Ekatvam (meaning ‘unity’) to celebrate ‘unity in diversity’, the concept that India is built on. However, this concept offends Hindu nationalists who wish to turn India into a monolithic Hindu country.

Radical Hindu groups many of which owe allegiance to the RSS, the parent body of the ruling BJP, accused the ad of promoting ‘Love Jihad.’ Social media trolls quickly led calls to boycott the brand forcing Tanishq to withdraw the advert citing fears over the safety of its employees.

Despite finding no evidence of ‘Love Jihad’, the concept has gained so much acceptability among the Hindu right-wing that it is used even during election campaigns to garner votes. Yogi Adityanath, an Islamophobic Hindu monk, who is the Chief Minister of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh and considered one of the BJP’s star campaigners, invokes it regularly in his speeches.

Adityanath recently issued a “warning” to those who “played with the honour” of Hindu “sisters and daughters” to mend their ways, or they will be “receiving their funeral processions.” He is leading the charge to legislate against ‘Love Jihad.’ Like many of the laws brought in by BJP governments, it will be yet another stick to beat Muslims with.

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