Forced conversions a religious duty in Pakistan
Pir Abdul Haq, aka Mian Mithu, specializes in the marriage of Hindu women to Muslim men in Pakistan and their simultaneous conversion to Islam. His certificates preceded court verdicts before the partition of British India.
“Even then, my father was jailed for four months when local Hindus protested. The British gave us a logbook to keep a register of newly converted Muslim girls or anyone and share their receipt, ”he said at a press briefing on September 15.
“I don’t send Hindu girls away even if their community offers money. My faith is greater than millions. I even refused Asif Ali Zardari [former president of Pakistan] about this question. Do what you want, I say to his minister. Allah will help me. I am doing his duty. I live and die for Islam.
“The girls, mostly maids, often come to us. Urgent marriages are arranged so that they can live with a mehram [male guardian]. We keep the couple until the husband finds a job. I guarantee them protection at the seminary. Many courts forcibly return girls to Hindus. Those who protest against these conversions aim to defame Pakistan. ”
Another speaker accused the National Commission of Catholic Bishops for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of securing foreign funding and raising an outcry. Their annual monitoring is based on media reports of alleged victims of forced conversions, he said.
Mithu, 85, is the guardian of Dargah Bharchundi Sharif Seminary, one of the two main centers in Sindh province for the conversion of religious minorities to Islam. The former member of the National Assembly was a candidate for Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party in the 2008 general election. In 2017, his photos with Prime Minister Imran Khan went viral on social media. He is also leading mobs over allegations of blasphemy.
The culture of intolerance is fostered when religious figures like Mian Mithu celebrate conversions and forced marriages as a victory for the Muslim faith
“Women in this country, especially non-Muslim women, and especially underage girls, don’t stand a chance,” author Maria Rashid said in a recent tweet sharing photos of Mithu with Khan and General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Last week, the Council for Islamic Ideology invited him to discuss forced conversions in a session. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony then rejected a bill proposing regulations on conversions to Islam.
On September 24, the Lahore High Court ruled that Muslim jurists considered a child’s mental capacity to be of crucial importance for conversion to Islam. The age of discernment is generally considered to be the age at which one reaches puberty, said Judge Tariq Nadeem while rejecting a petition filed by Gulzar Masih, a rickshaw driver from Faisalabad seeking to recover his daughter Chashman Kanwal.
In the first information report, Masih claimed that his 14-year-old daughter was abducted by Muhammad Usman and his accomplices on July 27 when he dropped her off at school. Two days later, the police handed over the documents of his conversion to his family with the letterhead of Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, a hardline Islamist group, and her new Muslim name is Ayesha Bibi. She was 19 on the marriage certificate.
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New research by the NCJP has accused religious institutions of failing to investigate growing cases of kidnappings, forced marriages and forced conversions of minority women.
The study, titled “Orderly Transgressions: Misery of Minority Girls and Women,” recorded 15 such cases from January 2020 to April. The victims included nine Hindus and six Christians.
“The culture of intolerance is fostered when religious figures like Mian Mithu celebrate conversions and forced marriages as a victory for the Muslim faith of the local community. This sends a terrible message to the most vulnerable minority communities that their daughters and wives are not safe, ”the study says.
“The mosques and local seminaries did not question the age of the bride and simply accepted the kidnapper’s word. A conversion certificate is therefore produced in a very practical way. These certificates are used to take unfair advantage of the police and the courts to excuse violations and obtain bail. .
“Some religious organizations encourage this practice by offering rewards. They see it as the equivalent of Haj-e-Akbar or the greatest religious duty to Muslims. The police often refuse to record an initial information report or falsify the information. fear reprisals from extremist groups. The personal convictions of the judicial officers push them to accept their claims.
Some Christian girls, with weak faith and loose family ties, marry Muslims to get away from it all. But there is no tolerance within the Christian community for interfaith marriages.
Speaking at the report’s launch in Lahore on September 24, the researchers called the marriages a failure. According to the Center for Social Justice, 20 girls were reunited with their families after seeking protection from the courts.
Naeem Yousaf Gill, Executive Director of NCJP, recently helped rehabilitate two victims of forced conversions. “There are no specific institutes for this purpose. We had to ask for families. There is no mutual understanding in such interfaith marriages, ”he said.
Ayra Indrias, educator, activist and member of the National Lobbying Delegation for Minorities, calls them one-way conversions. “Girls from poor Christian families fail to be accepted into Muslim families. The shadow of their old religious identity is heavily hiding. Questions arise about their funeral rites. The pain continues, ”she said.
Father Bernard Emmanuel, diocesan director of the NCJP, agrees. “Some Christian girls, with weak faith and loose family ties, marry Muslims to get away from it all. But there is no tolerance within the Christian community for interfaith marriages. Especially our men are getting aggressive in the youth seminars on the issue of conversions. They consider it a death sentence, ”he told UCA News.