In the wake of Raj Nath questions: Conversion: natural phenomenon if allowed to be natural
Dr. Javed Jamil
Home Minister Raj Nath Singh has chosen a minority platform to ask a few questions on conversion: Is conversion necessary? Can social service not be performed without resorting to conversion? Can no religion prosper without encouraging conversion? Will any country allow changes in its demographic character? And is it not true that the minorities demand anti-conversion law all over the world but not in India?
The questions clearly bring to surface the fear that the majority community in India has about its losing a position of dominance in the country that it has been enjoying since Independence. They have succeeded in doing this through the use or misuse of the constitution that has guaranteed reservations for only Hindus, through misuse of India’s democratic exercise which makes it impossible for minorities to make an impact on the governance, through the use of privatization which has allowed the rich and Upper-caste Hindus to dominate the economic as well as educational scenario and through the brutal use of their muscle power with the support of the government machinery. The questions also reflect the lack of confidence in Hindu mindset about the survival of their own religion. They have already used the Constitution to stop conversion from Hinduism to Islam and Christianity through a blanket ban on the continuation of reservation in case Dalits convert to Islam or Christianity. Now they want to expand this ban further by just stopping the right of any man to abandon the religion in which he was born.
There are several basic concepts regarding conversion that need to be clarified. There is a general perception that “conversion” relates to change from one religion to another. The truth is that conversion is a ubiquitous phenomenon and involves all the ideologies and the subsects within the religions. As part of the international campaign against religion as a whole, the forces of economics have been relentlessly campaigning against religion calling it the root cause of all the problems. In this process, they are using all their arsenals to convert the people to their ideologies of various kinds of liberalism including the commonly known ones, the communism and the capitalism. There have been lobbies of various kinds – pro-abortion-anti-abortion, pro-gay-anti-gay, pro-war-anti-war, and many others that are always busy in converting people to their sides. NGOs these days are funded by the international agencies and corporate sector to advance the ideas that suit them. If for example, an NGO applies for funds to campaign against abortions as a whole, it is not likely to be solicited; but if it applies for an exclusive campaign against female infanticide, it is highly likely to get the funds. If an NGO wants funds to raise awareness against the threats posed by prostitution and to campaign for a ban on it, it will never get funds; but if it asks funds for the regular medical check-up of prostitutes to keep them of HIV-free (so that their clients need not fear coming to them), they will get a good amount.
The conversion has been used by Hindus themselves in the past to a great effect. Just before the beginning of this millennium, in the days of Asoka “the Great”, the majority of Hindus had converted to Buddhism. Later, the Hindu organisations swung into action, changed certain concepts of their own religion (stressing vegetarianism for instance) to reconvert the Hindus back to Hinduism. This was despite the fact that Buddhist did not come from outside. Within Hinduism also, there have been various movements aimed at converting from one ideology to the other. There was a strong Arya Samaji movement a few centuries back, and it continued to have a strong presence till Independence. Now, there are few Arya-Samajis left in the country. In recent decades, Sai Baba clan has continued to grow among Hindus.
Conversions within Islam and Christianity have also been a continuous phenomenon. There has been a war between Catholics and Protestants, both being busy in converting Christians to their respective ideologies. Within Islam also, Shiites, Ahle-Hadith and other Sunni groups have also been trying to lure people to their respective sects through reasoning and influences.
Atheism in itself has emerged as a formal ideology in the 19th Century. An overwhelming majority of “Christians” in European countries including Britain, France and Germany, is that of atheists; many of them refuse to call them Christians.
This proves that the change of ideologies is a permanent phenomenon, and no attempts to stop it can ever succeed. Nobody can be forced to continue in the ideology (religious or non-religious) of his family, and he has the right to follow what appeals to him most.Everybody has the right to think his religion/ideology is best and if he thinks so, he will always try to argue his case privately or publicly. What is to be stopped is the use of temporary lures or force in pursuing objectives.
Can social service not be performed without resorting to conversion? I would like to tell Raj Nath that social service is the right as well as the duty, which every group irrespective of its ideological positions wants to perform. Even corporate sector has a social sector attached to it. Political parties do also have programmes of social service. Almost all religions also want to prove to the world that their concern is not limited to a few theological issues but they are also concerned about the welfare of the people. This is a positive aspect of their activities, and it will be nonsensical to create obstacles in their way by levelling the allegations of attempts to convert in the garb of social service. Any ideological group has the right to influence people through service, and religion based organisations cannot be denied this right. Contrary to the popular perception that only Christian or Islamic organisations are using social service to influence the people, Hindu organisations too have been actively involved in expanding their clout through various social services. There is a chain of Shishu Mandirs in the country imparting primary and secondary education. Jains have a big chain of institutions, and of course Christians have been particularly successful in the field of education. Organisations belonging to almost all religions have established health centres and hospitals for public service. Muslims of India in fact lag behind in this area compared to other communities. These efforts need to be encouraged, not discouraged. Private institutions established by corporates are involved in spreading Western models of education because they suit their machinations.
Can no religion prosper without encouraging conversion?The fact cannot be denied that the proponents of every ideology, religious or non-religious, have the hidden desire to see the whole world accepting their beliefs and practices. There is no exception to it. This is natural. If anyone considers his religion or ideology as best, he would want everybody to do the same. Again, what is to be stopped is the use of questionable methods to influence people.
Will any country allow changes in its demographic character? Again, Mr. Singh has to be told that the demography of the countries has continued to change, and it has often changed quite rapidly. In the beginning of the 6th Century, the whole Arab world, East Africa, Persia and Southern Europe was following Paganism, Zoroastrianism or Christianity. The rise of a single man, Muhammad, the Final Prophet of the Religion of God, which assumed the Arabic name Islam with his advent, the whole of this area converted to Islam before the arrival of the next century. During the reign of Asoka, India became a Buddhist dominant country. Within a few centuries, it again became a Hindu country. The whole Europe used to be a Christian continent till the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Now the majority of Europeans are atheists even if they are counted as Christians, and in next twenty years, Muslims may well become the majority in most European countries. The demography of all countries continues to change depending on various factors including large-scale migration and reproductive tendencies.
Now coming to the final question: And is it not true that the minorities demand anti-conversion law all over the world but not in India? This is of course not true, at least in the case of Muslims. The confidence of Muslims in their own religion is so strong that they do not worry about the conversion of Muslims to other religions. Of course, they oppose any questionable ways of conversions. In Europe, they are in minorities, but despite all the adverse propaganda against Islam, the conversion to Islam is biggest in the continent. This is equally true of America, Canada and Australia. I have never heard about any minority demanding a ban on conversions in any country.
Every human being has the right to follow his beliefs. Every human being has the right to help others. But no one has the right to malign other beliefs or faiths, or use obscene words against the esteemed figures of any ideology. Use of force or lure of money and positions have to be stopped. But stopping people from joining any ideological clan, religious or non-religious, through law will be counterproductive. It will stall the evolution of thought. It will ultimately be an obstacle in the peaceful survival of the human beings as Mankind. India is a country where more than 95 percent of the people believe in God, religious morality and family system. There is a huge threat to religious morality and family system from the forces of economics, which are bent upon using human susceptibilities for commercial ends. It is high time all religious communities in India united against the threat to social and family system. Once they realize this larger aim, the differences between various communities and mutual rivalries will automatically subside, and India will emerge as a role model for the whole world.
· Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Quranic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or