Tricks and treats, coercion, threats, manhandling and extermination are the methods by which Christianity and Islam have spread throughout the world. If these tools had not been adopted, neither of the two religions would have ever crossed the territorial boundaries of the Middle East. 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. And anyone can become a hindu. The foreigners of the Hare-Krishna cult, I knew, were into the habit of wearing tilaks on their forehead and chanting Sanskrit slokas in their bid to pose as hindus. But it seems religious conversions are no longer limited to the Krishna devotees. 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 therein. If they are being coerced into it, I’ll protest. I have always been voluble against forcing people to do things, anything, in fact. The fact remains that hindu fundamentalists are coercively pressurising muslims to change their religion, and they are converting mostly out of fear. Fear of life exceeds love of religious faith. Consequently, everyone will try to avoid any active threats to their life and living by taking whatever measures he or she can. Greed is another factor: apparently, a lot of money is on offer for conversions. There is already a fund created for this purpose. It is exactly the same methodology adopted by christian missionaries or sufis. Hindus are calling this conversion wave ghar vapasi. Which means a ‘returning 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 safe and sound. I asked a hindu orthodox, “How much time do you think has elapsed before this apparent ‘return’ is taking place?” He kept silent. I added, “About eight hundred years, isn’t it?”
Almost all muslims in India are converts. Lower caste, untouchable, deprived and impoverished hindus converted to Islam either because they were brainswashed or bribed or beaten or attracted by the sufis or out of their hatred of brahminical Hinduism. It’s still going on. 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 at all possible for 25 crore muslims to be reconverted. Especially when converting even 25 of them has ended in stirring up a controversy. There is condemnation and criticism all around.
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! It’s not such an immovable, insurmountable existential truth that it is deemed irreplaceable. People should be able to change their faith as frequently as they like, whenever they like, to any 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. Anything they wish. 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?
It’s perhaps because religious fanaticism needs blind faith. And children are eminently ideal for such a scenario. Enlightened adults do not get carried away by faith-related fairy tales so very easily. If it actually becomes possible to stop the brainwashing of little children with religious jargon, then the concept of religion itself wouldn’t take very long to disappear.
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. What power can close the gates on time and evolution? When has it ever worked? Sumerian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Viking – all the religions that once ruled the planet with pomp – are now dead and dusty. The Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism as we know now – all shall inevitably die some day. I pray to nature that when that finally happens, no other new god, no other high priest comes to plague the planet with new lies, superstitions and tall tales.
Let humanism live. No religion has the power to make a civilisation survive. Only the love and human sympathy of one people for another can achieve that. Freethinking, rational humans with a scientific temperament, unencumbered by superstition, shall eventually save humanity.