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Love jihad? No, it’s all about mutual respect, say inter-faith couples

Sandhya Soman & Mohammed Wajihuddin
Mumbai
TNN


They worked till afternoon, stopped to pick up two new kurtas, and went home to get married by the specially summoned registrar. “We didn’t want a big wedding. We also didn’t want to stand in a queue to get married,” says Shalini, who tied the knot with Amir in a civil ceremony in 2006. They agreed to not interfere with the other person’s faith. In the last eight years, the only time their Hindu-Muslim identities have come up is when they go househunting as some societies try to avoid Muslim tenants.
For couples like these, it’s not love alone that conquers all but pragmatism and trust. With poll politics pushing the spectre of love jihad in many states, a few inter-faith couples from the city remain matter-of-fact about how mutual respect is keeping them going when there is pressure to convert, find social acceptance and raise children.

Most often, it is the immediate family, which puts pressure to convert. Saby Pinto, who accompanies his church-going wife Sumangala to Ganpati mandals in Lalbaug, had a tough time when they decided to marry 12 years ago. There were tears, threats and emotional appeals. “When I went to the family court to find out more about civil marriage, a lawyer said I should get her to convert as it happens in every such case,” says Pinto, a businessman.

The pressure intensified after a quick church wedding, as they didn’t have time for a civil union. “My father agreed to the wedding hoping Sumangala will convert later,” says Pinto.

Sumangala struggled to cope with the new set of demands. Finally, the couple moved out of the family home to follow their faiths. “He stood up for me. And the families came around after we had our kids,” she says.

Shalini gets asked why she hasn’t changed her surname, a euphemism for conversion. “I was born a Hindu. I have no wish to change that,” she says.

The biggest challenge is to bring up children as open-minded individuals, says Rajesh Naik, a Hindu with a Catholic wife. “All talk of religion is use less, people should focus on providing youngsters good education,” he says. As for love jihad in Mumbai, there might not be time to set in motion such elaborate conspiracies. “If you can accept another person, why not their right to religious freedom too?” asks Sumangala.

Human and women’s rights activists on Thursday condemned the atmosphere of hatred allegedly being created in the name of love jihad. “The propaganda is being spread in states like UP, where BJP wants to win assembly polls. Every adult irrespective of religion has the right to choose the person to marry. This is just an excuse to polarize voters,” said activist Shabnam Hashmi, who issued a list of famous Hindu men who have married Muslim women, such as late actor-politician Sunil Dutt, fiction writer Kishan Chander, actor Sunil Shetty and politician Sitaram Yechury.

“No Muslim has ever started a movement against Hindu boys marrying Muslim girls. Love jihad is to use women as a weapon to foment communal trouble.”

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