Athira… and the violence of conversion

Credit:- This is a repost of the article that came in PGurus.com

“I didn’t know anything about my own faith and so I could not give them any responses to their accusations”

Yesterday, Janam TV, a Malayalam channel, carried the press conference called by Athira, a victim of the Love Jihad that has the people of Kerala alarmed these days. Though Athira’s case is strictly not one of Love Jihad, it has been treated in common parlance as being of the same category.

Athira, a girl who was lured into Islam by various means turned away from it and the press conference she called yesterday was to tell her story.

The video is a poignant one and it is embedded here. Please click on the captions option to view the subtitles.

The video is subtitled and we urge all Hindus to watch this video. As an aside, it is pertinent to note that no other mainstream channel other than Janam TV carried the press conference live or otherwise. Interestingly, no mainstream newspaper except Kerala Kaumudi either, thought this an important enough story to feature. Imagine, if the story was of a Muslim girl. We hope readers will recognise the obviously skewed narrative in this country which demonizes Hindus, the still majority community and the blatantly appeases the so called minorities who actually are part of a vast global majority.

While the video itself is very powerful, we at PGurus want to look at some other angles. The technical details of the case are available online and can be accessed by anyone. Here, we want to cover some of the deeper issues that Athira touches upon in a very poignant manner in the video. Our hope is that it wakes up Hindu families on the dangers that surround their existence.

How does conversion happen

In the video, Athira talks about how she was misled from the faith into which she was born. Athira is a resident of a place called Kasargod which has a sizable Muslim population. Therefore, willy nilly, Athira would be forced to deal with a Muslim in almost every sphere of activity. Naturally, her friends were all Muslims.

A brief profile of the people interacting is in order here.

Athira: Born into a Hindu family. Hindus don’t have a particular book that they MUSTfollow. Hindus don’t have any rituals that they MUST follow. Hindus don’t have any place of worship where they all congregate together at ONE PARTICULAR TIME to listen to preachers preaching from a PARTICULAR book, bestowed with a position of authority. Hindus do NOT have one single god that they pray to. Hindus do not have a mandate to PROSELYTIZE. They do not seek to convert people to their own faith. In short, there is NOTHING that is COMPULSORY in the Hindu faith.

Athira’s friends: By her own account, all her friends were Muslims. Muslims HAVE TO follow ONLY the Koran. Muslims HAVE TO do namaz five times a day. Muslims have moulvis who preach from the Koran to them, every Friday at a PARTICULAR TIME. Ordinary people have to follow the moulvi’s teachings because he is just teaching Allah’s word to them. Muslims are supposed to believe ONLY in the ONE and TRUE god, ALLAH. Muslims consider themselves to be the true believers. Therefore, all who don’t believe their god are KAFIR or infidel according to them. Muslims have a mandate to PROSELYTIZE. They are expected to convert people into true believers i.e to become followers of Islam.

Now, if you read the above two profiles, you will see some startling differences.

Athira is from a background that is pretty much open and inclusive whereas Muslims are from a background that has many injunctions and conditions and one which is extremely exclusive.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Since, Hinduism is so free and open, Hindus of today have actually abandoned learning about the deep foundations of their faith. Typically, a Hindu today is only Hindu in name. S/he is hardly aware of the profound and deeply reflective nature of the metaphysics of Hinduism. Moreover, a typical Hindu is fed on a narrative of sameness that claims that everyone is the same and all religions are the same. This idea that all religions teach us to be good, do good to others, is valid only up to a limited point. The Abrahamic faiths while propounding love and peace and brotherhood at the superficial level, are driven by deep metaphysics of exclusivism at the foundational level. This metaphysics of exclusivism is imparted to the collectives of each religion through their collective congregations that happen on a weekly basis. A Hindu has not such common meeting place to listen to a single exclusive scripture. A Hindu therefore, is blind to all but the superficial today and is a prime target for brainwashing.

Athira expresses her confusions very poignantly. Let us illustrate. In the video, she says that for Hindus, if they were going to write an exam, the exam would be their foremost concern. They would take every opportunity to study for the exam in order that they do well. However, for her Muslim friends, when it was time for namaz, they had to drop everything they were doing and sit for their prayer. She would be very amazed at this discipline in their faith. Seeing a vulnerable person in front of them, they would further make her feel ashamed of her own faith by telling her that theirs was a faith that had a very deep and intimate connection to god. In reality, neither child is to be blamed, because they are each coming from their own worldview. However, the scars are made on the psyche of the Hindu girl because when her friends tell her that their god has a personal connect with them, she feels that her own faith of Hinduism is very deficient. In her impressionable years, such a Hindu girl, who is asking questions and is curious, is bound to get more attracted to a faith that seems to have so much devotion and discipline. Thus begins a slow and inexorable movement away from the faith into which she was born. Since Islam anyway has the mandate to proselytize, it does not see it as anything wrong when a Hindu girl is getting weaned away from her original faith.

Conversion is violence

Since Muslims and Christians have the explicit mandate to proselytize and convert others, they are impervious to the violence that is caused by conversion. If one person converts to these faiths out of coercion or by a steady process of brainwashing, it is an entire family that suffers. In the video, it is heartrending to hear of the suffering undergone by Athira’s parents when she was in the throes of her wish to convert to Islam. Parents who have not been swayed by the tenets of these predatory Abrahamic faiths are simply clueless about how to deal with the situation. The most tragic part is that they themselves are not rooted in Hinduism. They do not themselves know the deep foundational metaphysics of Hinduism and hence find themselves incapable of handling such situations or explaining to their wards. Most Hindus of today only follow the outer trappings of their faith like going to a temple once in a while, or doing some pujas to propitiate the gods and so on. They neither know the reasons for what they do in the name of Hinduism nor are the priests in the temples able to give them guidance when they are in trouble. Further, many Hindus, especially in Kerala follow the communist ideology which fosters an ambivalence sometimes tending to hatred on the subject of religion itself. However, it is only Hindus who shun their religion. Muslims and Christians who follow the communist ideology are pretty sure of their own individual identities as Muslims or Christians first and then communists. In the easy go fashion of Hinduism therefore, Hindus are safe until something like this strikes to shake them out of their complacency. But then, without adequate knowledge, they are completely clueless about handling the situation. One of two things usually happens. Either the converting individual leaves the family to go and stay with the people of the new faith, thereby creating a deep and painful divide in the family, or the family makes an uneasy peace with the situation and continue with their lives without stopping to reflect on the situation.

Athira’s lament and a warning to Hindus

In a very candid moment at the end of the press conference, Athira says that she was misled into following Islam only because she did not know her own faith. She laments that she had not been taught anything about the deep philosophies of Hinduism which would have helped her to counter the exclusivist claims put forth by her friends. She thanked the Arsha Vidya Samajam, one of the many organisations that owe allegiance to the Chinmaya Mission, for helping her study Hinduism at its deepest levels. Armed with what she feels are the superior truths of Hinduism’s truly inclusivist philosophy, she says she feels so much at ease now in her own faith. In fact, using her new found confidence and knowledge of her own faith, she exposes the Koran’s double standards and asks some very pertinent questions of Islam itself.

Finally, young Athira has a dose of advice to Hindu parents and this can be taken as a serious warning too. She says that Hindu parents MUST create opportunities for their children to study about Hinduism itself. She also says that parents themselves must also study their own faith. She says that unless this happens there will be more stories like hers. There will be more Athiras in this world if Hindus don’t get their act together.

Conclusion

We hope this story of Athira is sufficiently provocative and is able to plant a few questions in the minds of largely unsuspecting and naïve Hindus. It is a wake up call for Hindus and especially parents to teach their children about Hinduism. After all only the light of knowledge can dispel the darkness. And Hindus are today definitely groping in the dark regarding who they are.

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