Almost a month ago, a local Muslim cleric at Kodinji in Kerala’s Malappuram district suggested to Anil Kumar, who had converted to Islam a few months ago and taken on the name Faisal, that he should seek protection from the community. Faisal, 30, turned down the suggestion, saying, “After embracing Islam, I have entrusted everything to Allah (God). If they want to kill me, let them’’.
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Early morning on Saturday, a day before he was to fly back to Saudi Arabia, where he had been working as a driver for the last six years, Faisal was hacked to death by unidentified men. He was on his way to the local railway station to pick up his parents-in-law, who were coming from Neyyattinkara in Thiruvananthapuram.
Although police have not arrested anyone, sources said Faisal appeared to have been targeted not only for embracing Islam but for encouraging others to do so.
Faisal, who belonged to an upper-caste Hindu Nair family, converted to Islam eight months ago while he was in Riyadh. After he came home in August, he converted his wife Priya, now Jesni, and three children, all below 10.
Local sources in the Muslim community said Faisal wanted his mother Meenakshi to convert too. “Since he was to leave for Saudi Arabia on Sunday, he asked a local Muslim leader to make arrangements for mother’s conversion,’’ sources said.
Police sources said Faisal wasn’t the first in the family to convert to Islam – years ago, his uncle and wife and their two daughters took on the new faith. The uncle’s family continues to live in the district.
“Many others in our family had converted earlier. Why only my son was targeted,’’ asks Faisal’s mother, Meenakshi.
At their home in Kodinji, Faisal’s father Krishnan Nair said, “He became a Muslim by choice. No one compelled him. It was his decision. But he was not allowed to live.’’ Nair, however, added that some of their relatives were not happy about Faisal’s conversion.
While Faisal’s parents, who work as daily-wage labourers, live in their ancestral home, he lived with his wife and children in a rented house nearby.
A Muslim neighbour of the Nairs too said Faisal’s relatives were upset about his conversion. “After he reached home in August, they protested and threatened to attack him. But Faisal did not take it seriously. He wanted Priya and their three children to convert. Priya stood by her husband’s decision, despite the threat from relatives,” the neighbour said, adding that “Faisal wanted to take his wife and children to Saudi at a later stage”.
Kodinji village in Malappuram is dominated by Muslims, with only four Hindu families near Faisal’s home. While the Hindu families mostly work as labourers, the Muslim families have members working in the Gulf. Before moving to Riyadh, Faisal had worked for a local Muslim businessmen.
Members of the Muslim community in Kodinji say Faisal had been planning his conversion for years, even sending to son for Arabic and religious classes. “Though the child went to a regular school, he also studied Arabic separately. He was the only Hindu student in that Arabic class,’’ said a local Muslim leader.
Even after his conversion, his family says, Faisal continued to support his parents and maintained a good relationship with his two sisters.
“We are verifying various statements given by the family members and others. The family had told us about the threat Faisal faced from some of his relatives,’’ said a police officer who is investigating the case.
Faisal’s is the second case of a convert to Islam being killed in Malappuram district, where Muslims form 70.24 per cent of the population. In 1998, Ayyappan, a part-time temple priest, had been hacked to death, allegedly by workers of the RSS, after he converted to Islam and took on the name Yasir. A trial court had acquitted the six accused in the case, but the High Court later convicted them and sentenced them to life imprisonment. But, on July 20 this year, the Supreme Court acquitted all the accused in the case.
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