Monday, September 1, 2014

Love Jihad And The Perils Of Interfaith Marriage

           ‘Love Jihad’ is one of the contemporary trending topics in certain sections of Indian media. Love jihad is an interfaith marriage arguably with a deeper intent and consequent ramifications.

            Wikipedia defines Love Jihad as, “…also called Romeo Jihad, is an alleged activity under which young Muslim boys and men reportedly target young girls belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love. The term has been used to describe the activity in India, while similar activities have been reported in places like the United Kingdom.”1

            Love jihad in its context of use by the India media seems to incriminate Muslim boys. But aren’t there are two players in this game – a Muslim boy and a non-Muslim girl? If it takes two to tango, then incriminating the Muslim boy, and absolving the non-Muslim girl seems unjustified and irresponsible.

            The non-Muslim girl is an active party to this wedlock, so she should be held equally responsible. If force remains unemployed in this so-called coercing relationship, the non-Muslim girl becomes a willful participant to this interfaith marriage. If she is a willful participant, then she is equally responsible, if not more, for the act of marriage. 

            It’s plausible that a girl be attracted to a charitable, loving, kind, handsome, well educated or an affluent boy and be married to him. The boy could be attracted to a girl for the same reasons. So attraction is aided by a particular trait or a combination of traits inherent in the individuals.

            As much as religion is an identity, it’s also a personal trait, for religion is a serious lifestyle of an individual. But it is implausible that a girl marry a boy merely for the sake of his religion and not for any of his other personal traits.

            Religion could be a secondary or tertiary appealing trait that attracts a girl to a boy or vice versa, certainly not the primary. The primary trait that attracts a girl to a boy, I maintain, cannot be religion, but one or more traits such as good looks, affluence, benevolence, education, vocation etc.

            Elaborating briefly, in quite a few occasions, a boy and girl would silently observe each other or at least one would silently observe the other before making the first move to initiate a verbal conversation. I contend that, during this phase of silent observation, the girl gets attracted to the boy, not for the sake of his religiosity, but for the sake of his personal charms.

            In the first few silent interactions (or observations) between a boy and a girl, the individual’s personal charms achieves the task of attracting the opposite sex.  This is the preliminary attraction. Since words are not spoken during this phase, the religious identity need not be established for the attraction to mature.

            If we concede that the boy may have malicious intent in coercing the girl towards marriage for religious purposes, then we contend that the girl succumbs to the boy’s play not for the sake of his religion, but for one or the other personal trait that she finds attractive in him.

            If the girl discards her faith to marry the boy and his faith, then this is purely the decision of the girl, barring any act of explicit coercion (e.g. threat). After all, in the absence of any direct and explicit coercion for the sake of religion, the girl merely bites the attractive ‘carrot’ the boy dangles. While the boy merely dangles the carrot, it is the girl who bites the carrot. Hence the girl, through her act of accepting the boy and his faith, becomes an active and a responsible partner in the act of marriage. 

            If love jihad were to be factual, the non-Muslim girl becomes an active and an equal partner if the relationship were to culminate in a marriage. Therefore, it is unfair to entirely blame the Muslim boy and absolve the non-Muslim girl of any responsibility, or shall we say irresponsibility.

            Steering away from love jihad, let’s for a moment discuss the deep concerns that could plague an interfaith marriage. Yes, I presuppose that an interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster.

            However, we should concede that if the husband and wife in the interfaith marriage are not passionate (the word ‘passionate’ is employed in a very deep sense here) about their respective religion, then the interfaith marriage would remain healthy from a worldly perspective. Such a marriage is a purely a marriage of convenience.

            On the other hand, if one partner of the marriage covenant is passionate about his/her religion, then he/she will encounter stumbling blocks that could potentially ruin their marriage.

            First, religious tolerance within the marriage is a fallacy, for it states that ‘you-practice-your-religion-and-I-will-practice-mine.’ The essence of religious tolerance is ‘you-do-what-you-like-and-I-will-do-what-I-like.’

            Imagine a wife as a stickler for ethics and the husband expressing his desire to rob a bank. Wouldn’t the wife, if she is a true stickler for ethics, prevent her husband from robbing the bank? But if the wife tolerates or does not oppose or prevent her husband’s desire to rob the bank, would we not say that the wife’s passion for ethics is a convenient lie? 

            Second, to affirm religious passion and at the same time training their children in both religions is fallacious as well. To allow their children to dabble with both religions in order to choose one is akin to endorsing the child to indulge in both religions.

            Endorsing the child to practice both religions, as if both were fundamentally same, either reveals the poverty of religious knowledge in the parent or is a serious blot on the factor of religious passion. No sane parent would endorse their child to both study and simultaneously indulge in lazing or gaming or being a cybernaut. These are highly destructive and distractive activities preventing the child from studying.  

            Therefore, not being passionate about their religion is to remain religiously unobtrusive (pun intended) in the marriage partnership. To be passionate about their religion and at the same time being religiously unobtrusive is to betray the true meaning behind the religious passion.

            So far, I have presented two reasons from the perspective of ‘religious tolerance’ and ‘parenting’ to assert that an interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster for those who are passionate about their religion.  

            The third reason is based on the ‘exclusivity of religions.’ As the term suggests, all religions are highly exclusive and contradictory to each other.

            Allow me to explain through examples. What would be the state of a marriage between a conservative girl (being holy and prude) and a hedonistic (pleasure seeking) boy? It does not take an astrophysicist to answer that this marriage would be disastrous, unless one party gives in to the other’s ideologies, although they are mutually exclusive, totally unacceptable and thoroughly unfathomable.

            Holiness and hedonism cannot coexist. A conservative girl is by definition not pleasure seeking and a hedonist is never holy. Such opposites could never coexist. Similarly every religion opposes the other in every essential doctrine, so two different religions cannot coexist in a marriage covenant.

            An interfaith marriage would suffer irrevocably even in the most common aspect of dispensing with the household’s finances. Just as how a passionate supporter of a particular political party would never financially support the opposing political party, a passionate religionist would rather give his money to a project of his own religion than to an endeavor of another religion. (This does not imply that a Muslim / Hindu / Christian would not be charitable to a desperately needy person from another religion.)

            Therefore when all religions are mutually exclusive, partnership between two individuals passionate about their respective religions, would not be successful, unless one subscribes to the other or dilutes his/her own stand.  

            Does the Bible endorse interfaith marriages?

            The Bible does not teach anywhere that a Christian can marry a non-Christian and live happily to glorify God.

            The responsibility of every Christian is to glorify the only true and the living God of the Bible (1 Chronicles 16:25-29; 1 Corinthians 10: 31, Colossians 3: 17 et al.). Therefore, living with a spouse who practices another religion is synonymous to agreeing with the truthfulness of that religion or denying the truthfulness of Christianity, which consequently does not glorify the God of the Bible.

            The bible does not encourage or endorse a Christian towards interfaith marriage (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6: 14-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 33). The 1 Corinthians 7: 12-14 passage is at times referred to endorse an interfaith marriage. But this passage refers to a non-Christian who converts to Christianity while being married to an unbelieving spouse. This passage does not refer to a Christian marrying an unbeliever. 1 Peter 3:1 is another similar passage that suggests a marriage between a Christian wife and a non-Christian husband, where the conversion of the wife into Christianity happened during the marriage.

            But don’t these passages suggest a happy marriage between a Christian married to an unbeliever?

            While these passages do not refer to a happy married life, they merely suggest that the commitment to the institution of marriage be honored. However, if the unbeliever desires to exit from the marriage covenant, the Bible teaches that the Christian spouse should not prevent the unbeliever’s exit (1 Corinthians 7: 15). 

            Therefore, my conclusion is two-fold:

            (1) I personally do not subscribe to jihad of any form or size. However, within the context of love jihad, the non-Muslim girl exercises her freewill to marry and convert to Islam. Hence, the non-Muslim girl is equally responsible, and it is unjust to ascribe blame purely on the Muslim boy.

            (2) Interfaith marriage is a recipe for disaster provided one or both spouses are passionate about their religion.

            May God bless us all. Amen.  




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