‘Love jihad’ in India — a Catholic viewpoint

Once again these types of headings challenge us to sit up and take note. We know that the term “love jihad” has been coined by ultra-nationalist forces that have used it to push through stringent legislation against forced conversions in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and and Uttarakhand — all Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states.

In BJP lingo it implies that Muslim men, hiding their religious identity, are luring gullible young Hindu girls into marriage and conversion to Islam; despite no real evidence of the same. The word “love” does not require any definition here, but “jihad” does; more so since it is often used to describe violent acts of certain Islamic groups.

However, the original Arabic word means to struggle or strive for a noble cause. It could be for the defense of Islam or for a spiritual struggle against sin. According to the Holy Quran it is a defensive, not aggressive act. However, like all noble acts, it can be misused. The closest Christian equivalent would be the much-maligned Crusades. In Hinduism it could be termed Dharamyudh.

Where is the Catholic angle in all this? A recent case was of two doctors (the man was a Muslim and the woman a Catholic) getting married in a church in Kerala. Even a retired bishop participated in the nuptials. A section of the church in Kerala vehemently protested, leading to Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, declaring the marriage null and void, apparently because it had not followed canonical procedures.

Even the participating bishop issued an apology, obviously under pressure. Earlier too the Catholic bishops of Kerala have spoken out against love jihad for Catholic girls, drawing howls of protest from the Muslims who accused the bishops of cozying up to the BJP, to protect their financial and institutional interests.

When I went to Agra last month to attend the installation of Archbishop Raphy Manjaly, a priest of that diocese rushed up to present me a copy of his book “Pastoral Care of Mixed Marriage Families in the Agra Ecclesiastical Region: Challenges and Response.” The book is the doctoral thesis of Rev Dr Maxim D’Sa. It is 386 pages with 1100 references.

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The writer Chhotebhai was the founding secretary of the U.P. Regional Youth and Vocations Bureau and later a resource officer for the CCBI Family Life Commission.

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