Not unlike a similar case of bias that has arisen at Bikya Masr, this report talks out of both sides of its proverbial mouth, abruptly shifting the focus to women who say they have “found love.”
It is not enough that a Pakistani journalist quoted below says he has spoken to a few women and thus offers anecdotal evidence as the rule. It is a well known practice in abductions and forced marriages in Pakistan to coerce statements from the women and girls under duress, and even to compel them to sign documents or appear in court to state that they converted of their own free will.
MUMBAI: A Pakistani minister has claimed that 100 non-Muslim women, predominantly Hindu, have been forced to convert to Islam in the country in recent months.
Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill, a Christian, said that if true, the practice went counter to all things established by Islam as the faith prohibits forced conversion.
Islamic law itself is rife with means of coercion to convert (see also: Qur’an 9:29). Where the line is between persuasion and compulsion is but an academic exercise to those who wield power.
“We will seek a religious decree from the Council of Islamic Ideology and a ruling by the Federal Shariah Court on the issue before introducing the required law,” Gill told The Express Tribune newspaper.
The draft of the proposed law is likely to be tabled in Parliament after the passage of the budget in June.
Gill said he was unsure about the exact number of forced conversions in the absence of accurate data, but believed that the “figure of such cases is about 100″³.
But journalists in Pakistan say that many of the conversions are likely do to religious restrictions on marriage.
Kamal Javaid, a local reporter in Karachi, told Bikyamasr.com that “many of the women I have spoken with say they found love and that their families were against the marriage to a Muslim man, so they converted and ran off with him.
“This is not to say that all are this way, but we must always be weary of groups pointing to a large number like this without facts being investigated.”
Parliamentarians from minority communities have recommended that the federal government introduce legislation to check forced conversions, he said.
The minister’s remarks came against the backdrop of an order issued by the Supreme Court, directing authorities in southern Sindh province to produce three Hindu women, who were allegedly forcibly converted, in court on March 26.
Backing Javaid’s assertion, however, two of the women — Rinkle Kumari and Lata Kumari — have claimed in lower courts that they voluntarily converted to Islam and married Muslim men.
The issue of conversion has been a tenuous topic in recent months in Pakistan after reports of religiously induced violence and crimes have become more commonplace.