To my mind, the two words “love jihad” are contradictory. Jihad is generally considered to be a struggle, a “sacrifice” for attaining “spiritual satisfaction” in the path of god. It is a purely religious goal. Love, on the other hand, is a concept that generally states a relationship between two persons, which may or may not be pious or religious. Love can happen between persons of different religions but jihad does not permit anything that is not according to religion.
So my first objection to the term “love jihad” is that it has nothing to do with any religious movement. This term has been coined, perhaps, only to malign Muslims and create an emotional atmosphere against Muslims in pursuit of political results; the term re-emerged into prominence recently, when by-elections were to be held. The circumstances were such that the RSS had perhaps realised that the “Modi wave” is in decline and that people will now not be attracted to the BJP and its slogans of removal of poverty, unemployment and corruption, because in three months, no such thing had happened.
And then we were also shown a few such “incidents”, such as that in Ranchi, where a Muslim person is said to have adopted a Hindu name and married a Hindu girl, ultimately forcing her to convert to Islam. But how can this be Islamic? Islam recognises nikah between two Muslims alone, and what that person did is not permissible in Islam. The Ranchi case, like others, may be a case of fraud by one person and can in no way be generalised. But the media, at least a section of the electronic media, was complicit in generalising it.
Then, it is also being claimed that this is being carried out in a planned manner with the aid of foreign money. But what could be the motive? For what is it being done? Those who carry out violent terror attacks may have some idea of destabilising the country and foreign forces may be involved. But “love jihad” is not going to destabilise the country. It has no effect on the system. And what is cited as instances of “love jihad” are so few in number that they cannot make a difference. Muslims number around 20 crore in India and it would make little sense to add a few hundred girls to the population. “Love jihad” is nothing but propaganda created by the RSS.
In the Lok Sabha polls, the propaganda that when Narendra Modi will become prime minister he will solve all the problems of corruption, unemployment and inflation worked because it directly affected people. This was complemented with the rhetoric against Pakistan, against the UPA and Modi’s corruption-free image. But eventually, when none of the promises were fulfilled, people realised that the propaganda was false and it reflected in the bypoll results, where the “love jihad” propaganda also didn’t work. Also, people could see for themselves that there were no cases of what was being called “love jihad” in their villages.
More than 25 per cent of the otherwise secular electorate, especially Hindu, was polarised in the Lok Sabha polls due to the concerted efforts of the RSS and BJP, while Muslims were divided. But in the UP bypolls, Muslims were cautious and one-sided, except for Saharanpur. Also, the previously polarised electorate, including Yadavs, SCs and OBCs, saw through the BJP and returned to vote for the Samajwadi Party, like in 2012.
Take the Hamirpur assembly seat, for example. It has about 40,000 Muslims. As almost 60 per cent voting took place in Hamirpur, it can be said about 25,000 Muslims voted in the bypolls. The BJP fielded Jagdish Prasad Vyas, an RSS man, while the Congress fielded Keshav Babu; the BJP got only 44,439 votes while the Congress garnered 42,200 votes. But it was the SP’s Shiv Charan Prajapati who registered a win by securing 1,12,995 votes. The point here is that the Muslim electorate couldn’t have made a difference. Yet, even the Congress and BJP put together couldn’t match up to the SP. So where was the polarisation? Certainly, the BJP’s polarisation methods did not work according to its expectations.
Also, the issue of love jihad is unlikely to work again, at least in Uttar Pradesh. Once a slogan is used, it is difficult to revive it. A similar case in point is the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, which does not now raise communal passions as much as it did two decades ago. Before the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP made noises to perhaps gauge how much impact the Ram temple issue would create. But subsequently, the BJP didn’t play it up much, which may indicate that the issue is waning.
A clear pattern suggests that we should be on the lookout for what new slogans the RSS comes up with when we next approach polls. We don’t know to what extent the BJP will be able to deliver on its promises. But there are certain shortcuts, such as communal riots, that can always create a favourable atmosphere for the BJP.
What Muslims need to do is to clear the misconceptions spread by the BJP. We need to educate non-Muslims, especially Hindus and those in rural areas (where this propaganda had its chunk of impact), about jihad, nikah and conversion, that Islam doesn’t permit forcible conversion or conversion to Islam for the sake of marriage, that it isn’t nikah at all when it is between two non-Muslims, that any Muslim person is free to change his or her religion and marry a non-Muslim and that Islam doesn’t say that they should be forcibly stopped.
The difficulty is that Muslims do not want to reach out to Hindus in general. About a decade ago, there was a misconception among many Hindus that various instances of looting or bombing of trains, among other events, are permissible in Islam. Then the ulemas held conferences and clarified that Islam doesn’t allow the killing of innocents of any religion, that this isn’t jihad at all and that Muslims in general don’t practise it. We need to once again take up the cause of clearing misconceptions, this time about “love jihad”.
The writer, a lawyer, is legal advisor to the All India Muslim Personal Law Boar.