The malady of ignorance

          It needed someone with impeccable credentials to exhibit moral courage and step in. And set things right after the recent conversion controversy came to fore. Hurayat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani exactly did that and at the right time. ‘We are not’, the leader of firm conviction and candor, defying decree of ‘Shuriah Court’, stated unambiguously, ‘with the decision taken by the Shariah Court to banish a few persons from the state for their alleged role in conversion’. ‘Banishing someone’, the renowned leader cautioned, ‘is no solution’. Reminding majority community of their duties to society. Geelani exhorted, ‘As Muslims it is our responsibility to ensure that we reach out to our youth and create awareness about Islam’. (GK: 28 Jan, 2012).

          Some ten days before the ‘Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat’ issued a decree in Srinagar seeking expulsion of five Christian priests from state of J&K. The court accused the guilty of indulging in ‘unethical activities’ and ‘attracting youth through monetary allurement’. The court, it is worth to mention, conducted a ‘trial’ after, as the clergy emphasized, a video clip showed Pastor Khana ‘baptizing’ seven Muslim youth at a church in Srinagar last year. The pastor was arrested by police and is currently out on bail.

          At the very outset one would like to say that although it was not a forcible conversion, nonetheless it was a case o0f manipulated conversion bought through indecent and questionable means. Offering a bait and snare one into a web of deceit leaving the conversion the only exit of the dark tunnel is not conviction-based conversion. It is ugly and hateful conversion. That may satisfy the intoxicated minds of some over zealots but cannot win moral sanction of a religion. After all, which religion sanctions, least encourages, its followers to use immoral means to swell its number. Using drugs, liquor, money and even sex to seduce a youth to apostasy is brazenly shameful, and a crime too.

          This is where, we believe, all saner voices converge. The question is where lies the fault-lines we are sitting atop and unmindful of the ‘gravity of the tragic implications’? Which are the loopholes that needed to be plugged so as to avert the ‘imminent disaster’?

          The truth is we, as a society, have become completely immune towards the plight and sufferings of the people.

The barriers of high and low, rich and poor we have erected and are dead to protect them. Thousands of widows, orphans and destitute we have left to stray and have their animal instincts satisfy the way they think is accessible and affordable. The sermons of social justice from the pulpits have just become the worn out clichés for the preachers they download on Jumma Prayer. The credibility deficit serves a big impediment for a change. Exploitation of religion to serve self, sect and school leaves little to empathize with the needy. Thus if some odd one gets entrapped, we cannot escape responsibility. But mind it Islam rests on such an unshaken foundation that such little events never stop it from its onward march of captivating souls solely on the basis of its ideological strength.

          No one disputes the ‘impatience’, ‘restlessness’ the clergy showed to ‘win back’ the apostate to Islam. Or, to expose the wicked mentality of the persons behind the surreptitious campaign. But, let us be emphatically clear, no religious authority or religious institution can conduct trials of its own and pronounce sentences. Even in the matters of ‘personal’ affairs, we have no ‘Shariah Courts’ to sit in judgment. They are to be settled by state-run courts in light of Muslim Personal Law (Shariah law). The ‘ Shariah Court ’ has in the instant case ‘convicted’ the accused and sought ‘expulsion’. Even it asked state government ‘not compensate the convicts at any case’. By all means, it looks a verdict handed over by a parallel court. But the question is at what point shall clergy’s proclivity for conducting criminal proceedings and asking state to implement their ‘verdicts’ come to an end?

          Then there is another angle to the issue. Does the muck of ‘unethical activities’ close at the door of Pastor Khana and his accomplice only? Why ‘ Shariah Court ’ can’t take cognizance of other graver issues which too have adverse implications on the moral hygiene of our society and are as much sinful. Sex Scandal rocked legislative assembly some years before and people demonstrated on streets for many weeks and demanded stern punishment for the guilty involved in sexploitation.  Sale of liquor for generating revenue and promoting tourism found advocates from some high-profile leaders. These are just a tip of the ice-berg. Do they not come under the domain of immoral activities? Why these shameful acts do not come under the radar of our vigilantes. And why a criminal silence is maintained on gross human rights violations they witness themselves. Why it is that big sharks are not touched, only minnows held accountable? Or is it a diversion tactics to change the dominant discourse, or an attempt to gain head-line prominence to showcase their presence?

          Well, if ‘Supreme court of Islamic Shariat’ has ventured to do something memorable, let it from now on start holding trials without any discrimination. Selective trials smack religious bias which Islam is averse of.

          A vicious campaign was launched by some vested interests, in particular some sections of Indian media aimed at creating a ‘threat perception’ and ‘sense of insecurity’ among the Christian minority who have been living here amicably since many decades. But all such notions and reports were dispelled by the Christian community and acknowledged and praised the brotherly attitude of their Muslim brethren. Even in difficult time they stayed here and never felt threatened when militancy was at its peak. Geelani is right in saying: ‘They are part and parcel of our society and it is our duty to protect them. No Kashmiri can ignore the contribution of missionary schools’.