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I.A. Rehman on forced conversions – THE Hindu community, particularly in Sindh, has been in the grip of strong feelings of grief, anger and insecurity Unless its grievances are speedily addressed Pakistan stands to suffer incalculable harm in both material and moral terms

Unwelcome conversions

By I.A Rehman

THE Hindu community, particularly in Sindh, has been in the grip of strong feelings of grief, anger and insecurity for several weeks. Unless its grievances are speedily addressed Pakistan stands to suffer incalculable harm in both material and moral terms.

The issue of Hindu girls’ conversion to Islam and marriage to Muslim men, both transitions alleged to be forced and often after abduction, is not new. Indeed, it has always been high on the Hindu citizens’ list of complaints. What is new is the scale and intensity of their reaction and the large number of their appeals for justice. It seems three recent cases involving Rinkal Kumari, Lata Kumari and Aasha Kumari have unleashed the Hindu community’s long-brewing fears of loss of its religious and cultural identities.

The three cases are not identical in detail. Dr Murli Lal Karira, who belonged to Jacobabad and practised medicine at Suhbatpur, in Jafarabad district, was reported to have been abducted while travelling homeward. Some days later, his niece, Aasha Kumari Karira, who was taking lessons at a Jacobabad beauty parlour, did not return home after her work hours, and was believed to have been abducted. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Dr Lata Kumari, the 29-year old daughter of a medical practitioner from Jacobabad and employed at one of Karachi’s premier medical institutions, was reported to have married a young Muslim man after converting to Islam. Her father alleged that her conversion and marriage took place under coercion after abduction and he moved the high court for redress. The lady denies these allegations. She came to the court when her husband applied for bail before arrest.

The brother of Rinkal Kumari (18) says she was abducted by unknown persons, allegedly backed by an influential MNA. Her family had difficulty in filing an FIR. The next day she and the young man she was said to have married after conversion to Islam were presented in a court at Mirpur Mathelo, while her family had been told to go to a court in Ghotki. The family was not allowed to see her. It is said that she told the magistrate she wanted to go with her family but the latter reportedly expressed his inability to allow a Muslim girl to go to a non-Muslim house and sent her to a Darul Aman. Subsequently she is said to have modified her statement.

One suspects that these cases have provoked an unusual wave of protest because unlike the poor and voiceless victims in earlier cases of forced conversion-marriage affairs, the women now involved come of socially noteworthy families who have some access to electronic means of communication.

Several non-Muslim citizens have argued that these women have been, or are being, forced to accept conversion and marriage under threats of dire consequences to their families if they refuse to surrender.

The state of the common Hindu citizens’ mind is reflected in the e-mail Rinkal Kumari’s brother addressed to the chief justice of Pakistan (copied to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan). He says that Rinkal’s abductors have told her that “if she wants to save her parents’ life she should choose to convert [change] her religion and marry [an] unknown guy…. And yesterday [the] judge ordered that [the] girl wants to change her religion and want[s] to marry …Naveed…. [The] judge even didn’t allow [the] girl to meet … her parents or anybody from her family. There were 500-700 people in [the] courtroom all with guns and there was nobody from [the] girl’s family…. Now hundred[s] of people will take advantage of [the] 18-year-old girl and after that they will sell her to somebody”. Nobody with a reasonably sound heart will fail to be moved by the feelings of anguish and despair oozing from these words.

These cases raise several questions of a fundamental nature.

Continue reading I.A. Rehman on forced conversions – THE Hindu community, particularly in Sindh, has been in the grip of strong feelings of grief, anger and insecurity Unless its grievances are speedily addressed Pakistan stands to suffer incalculable harm in both material and moral terms

Forced conversion of Hindus in Pakistan jolts US out of slumber

By Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s state-endorsed discrimination, and in some cases extermination, of its minorities has finally caught the eye of Washington lawmakers. Coming on the heels of support in Congress for a Baloch homeland in the face of Islamabad’s depredations in the region, a US Congressman has zeroed in on the abduction and forced religious conversion of Hindus in the country highlighted by the case of Rinkel Kumari.

In a sharply-worded letter to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Congressman Brad Sherman urged him to take action to ensure the return of Rinkel Kumari to her family, pursuant to reports that she had been abducted with the help of a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker. In a case that has been widely reported in the liberal Pakistani media, Rinkel, who was abducted on February 24, was forced to marry one Naveed Shah and convert to Islam.

She was subsequently produced before a civil judge twice, but she was reportedly coerced into claiming that she had converted on her own will, even as her family was denied access to her in kangaroo court proceedings that revealed in video clips to be led by a frenzied mob of zealots, including armed followers of the Pakistani lawmaker. According to Pakistani civil liberties activists in Washington DC, Rinkel was allegedly threatened while in police custody that if she did not change her statement, she and her family would be killed.

”Rinkel Kumari’s case is just one case of abduction and forced religious conversion in Pakistan,” Congressman Sherman said in the letter to Zardari, citing the Asian Human Rights commission figure of 20-25 kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls in Sindh every month. ”I urge you to take all necessary steps to bring an end to this practice and other harassment of Hindus in Pakistan.”

The Rinkel Kumari case was brought to the attention of US lawmakers not by Hindu activists but by the Sindhi American Political Action Committee (SAPAC), a lobby group that, like the Baloch groups, is increasingly asserting the secular and syncretic identity of Pakistan’s Sindhi community in the face of growing Islamization in the country. Sapac activists are telling US lawmakers that state sponsored discrimination against minority groups in Pakistan is rampant and is causing Hindus to migrate out of Pakistan in droves.

Hindus, who constituted more than 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population soon after Partition, have now dwindled to less than two per cent, mostly in some districts of Sindh. There have been several reports in recent months of Hindu families seeking to migrate to India in the face of growing radical Islamization of Pakistan, including abduction and forcible conversions, but it is the first time that Washington, which literally slept over Pakistan’s genocide of Bengalis in 1970-71, is paying attention to the issue.

US interest in the Rinkel Kumari case comes close on the heels of sudden support in Congress for Baloch self-determination, an effort led by California lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher. That effort has rattled Islamabad to the extent that it has told American interlocutors that Pakistan-US ties will be deeply affected if Washington interfered in Balochistan, even though the Obama administration has clarified that support for an independent Balochistan is confined to the Hill, where lawmakers are free to introduce any legislation they deem appropriate. That in turn resulted in Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S.,, writing to House Speaker John Boehner, expressing deep concern over Congressional action on Balochistan.

Courtesy: TOI

BBC – Pakistan Hindu woman Rinkle Kumari ‘forced to marry’

By Riaz Sohail

A court in Pakistan has ordered police to find a Hindu woman who was allegedly abducted and forced to marry her Muslim husband.

In a petition before the Sindh High Court, the family of Rinkle Kumari say that her abduction was supported by a powerful politician.

But her husband’s friends say that she voluntarily left home in Sindh province and willingly converted to Islam.

Judges at the court said that Ms Kumari must be produced before them next week.

Human rights activists say that other reported abductions of members of minority communities in Pakistan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, have not been properly investigated by the authorities.

In the most recent case, Hindu community leaders say that an oath Ms Kumari made in front of a court in her home town that she had freely got married and converted to Islam was made under duress.

They say that many others like her have been forcibly taken away by powerful politicians – some allied to the governing Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The Hindu community has accused one of the party’s MPs, Mian Abdul Haq, of supporting the abduction and the forced conversion.

But in an interview with the BBC he strenuously denied the allegations.

“I contacted her family when Rinkle came to me last month,” he said.

“But they refused to respond – and then I was left with no choice but to convert her to Islam and get her married [according to] her will.”

Ms Kumari’s family say that she was kidnapped from her home on 24 February by Naveed Shah – who later married her.

They say that they have registered a police complaint against Mr Shah even though he appeared in court on 25 February with Ms Kumari, who made a statement before the magistrate that she had married him of her own free will.

The family and community leaders, however, say that the magistrate was under “a great deal of pressure” because hundreds of armed tribesmen loyal to Mr Haq were in the court premises.

Mr Haq said that his supporters would abide by the court ruling and that Ms Kumari would appear in court on 12 March.

Courtesy: BBC

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Marry her alleged rapist – Chief Justice of India Says

Give regard to rape victim’s wish to marry rapist: CJI

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) In a radical suggestion, India’s Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan Sunday said that judges, lawyers and social activists should give “due regard” to the wishes of a rape victim if she chooses to marry the rapist or have the baby conceived from the crime.

Continue reading Marry her alleged rapist – Chief Justice of India Says

Issue a verdict allowing women to marry four men simultaneously to equate them with men in the Sharia – Nadine Al Bdair, a female Saudi writer says

Polyandry call is ‘akin to blasphemy’ – By Duraid Al Baik, Associate Editor

* Traditionalists argue that Islam forbids women to marry more than one man at once to determine the fatherhood of the child in case the women becomes pregnant. This argument has now collapsed because modern science can identify the father of any child through DNA testing, Nadine Al Bdair says.

Dubai: A 790-word opinion article by a female Saudi writer, Nadine Al Bdair, might start a fierce legal and social confrontation between traditionalists and reformists.

In her weekly article published on December 11 in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masri Al Youm, Nadine cynically urged religious scholars to issue a verdict allowing women to marry four men simultaneously to equate them with men in the Sharia, a move that was considered by many Muslims as blasphemous and a blunt call to wreck the foundations of the religion.

Her argument was that women could now marry more than one man thanks to scientific developments.

“Traditionalists argue that Islam forbids women to marry more than one man at once to determine the fatherhood of the child in case the woman becomes pregnant. This argument has now collapsed because modern science can identify the father of any child through DNA testing,” she said.

Nadine, a Dubai-based Saudi journalist, who started her career as an opinion writer in a number of Saudi and Gulf newspapers, has lived in Dubai, Cairo and Washington. She also works as a presenter of a TV show at the Virginia-based Al Hurra TV Arabic Channel. Nadine’s weekly programme, Mosawat, that translates into equality, focuses on issues related to women’s rights in the Arab world.

Lawyer Khalid Fouad Hafez, who is also the secretary general of the People Democratic Party in Egypt, filed a complaint against Nadine and Magdi Al Galad, editor-in-chief of Al Masri Al Youm, for his role in publishing the opinion article in the newspaper.

In a telephone interview, Hafez told Gulf News the literal meaning of the article is blasphemous and includes a call for an immoral act, which, he stressed, is a violation of the Egyptian criminal code.

He said the case was filed at the public prosecutor office on December 15 under the number of 21663.

“I am waiting for the decision of the public prosecutor in order to start legal investigations in the case,” he said.

“Regardless of the nationality of the writer and the place of her residency, the prosecutor has to take action against a crime committed in Egypt and has to do whatever is possible to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

Hafez believes that Egyptians have every right to secure the society against Nadine’s call to ‘legalise adultery’ and allow women to marry four husbands at the same time.

“People who have little knowledge about Islam might be seduced to think that Islam permits polygamy for women based on the advancement of science and DNA test technology according to [Nadine’s] call,” Hafez said.

This a crime and unless Nadine repents it in the same newspaper, he said the law must take action to protect the society. Hafez said he has never been against freedom of expression. He said he had volunteered to defend many journalists in the past in court cases.

Free speech

“I am known amongst journalists as the ‘lawyer of journalists’. I represented journalists in courts free-of-charge in a number of major cases in the past and won verdicts in their favour. In this particular case which I filed against [Nadine], I would not have reacted this way if Nadine limited her call to expressing her own views without calling for fatwa to alter the religion in accordance with her sexual desires,” he said.

Gulf News contacted Nadine to comment on the complaint filed against her in Egypt and if she was willing to appear in courts to defend her views, but she declined to comment.

Staff members at Al Hurra TV in Dubai and in Washington, who were reached for a comment on the case refused to give an official statement.

A senior official from Al Hurra told Gulf News on condition of anonymity that the Nadine issue this time is related to her activities outside Al Hurra and the station has nothing to do with it.

“We will review the level Al Hurra would support [Nadine] once the legal action starts against her,” he said.

Salwa Al Lubani, a female Jordanian writer based in Cairo, told Gulf News that she believes Nadine has the right to discuss any issue and the society has the right to discuss the points being highlighted.

“Filing a case against [Nadine] or any other writer is inappropriate and such a move in the 21st century reflects the rise of fanatics in the Muslim world. In the 60s and 70s [of] the past century, writers [had] more freedom of expression than we have nowadays.

“I read [Nadine’s] articles and I have a feeling that she sometimes expressed her views in a confrontational manner that diverts her aim from the main course, but this is not an excuse to refer [Nadine] or any other writer to courts.

“We have crisis in the Arab and Islamic world and we should work together to resolve them before they hit the nerve of the society which is about to explode.”

Courtesy: Gulfnews.com

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