Kashmir zealots push Christians into valley of fear
SRINAGAR: From the toast of Srinagar to a man with a question mark about his intentions, it's been quite a journey for Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentinian football coach and star of the documentary, 'Inshallah Football'.
In 2009, Marcos was credited with reviving football in Kashmir. 'Inshallah Football' is about one of Marcos's best players, Basharat, the son of a former militant, and his dream to play in Brazil. Though initially denied, Basharat got his passport and went to Brazil a few months ago. But there is no smile of satisfaction on Marcos's face. Much has changed since 2009.
Kashmir is in the grip of a controversy surrounding religious conversions by priests and foreign NGOs. Everyone, it seems, is under the scanner. Troia, who has been questioned by the state football association about the funding for his clubs, is now the target of a whisper campaign. Fundamentalists are ratcheting up religious mobilization.
His house vandalized, Marcos is now running around asking cops for help. "We have to fend for ourselves," says his dejected wife, Priscilla.
The controversy began when a video surfaced showing a pastor C M Khanna baptizing young Muslim boys. A Sharia court "summoned" Khanna and accused him of converting Muslims by luring them with money; a claim that the Christian Council of India denies. Khanna was arrested for disturbing communal peace. He is now on bail but the Sharia court ordered his "expulsion" from the state. Although this court has no legal sanctity, political parties have remained silent.
This has left the field open for further pressure on the 400-odd Christians in the Valley. The two missionary schools in Srinagar are now facing calls to include Islamic prayers as part of the curriculum and prove they do not promote Christianity.
The few foreign nationals who live here are harassed. "I got a call around midnight, and this man on the phone asked me how many Bibles I had, how my 'real motive' was known to him," said one foreigner.
Local converts are worse off. A few weeks ago, the mere rumour that a few boys in a Ganderbal village had converted led to a raids by five carloads of men led by a maulvi from a madrassa. Their homes were ransacked.
Adding to this climate was an article in Kashmir's leading English daily on Friday last. Titled 'Apostasy unveiled', the full page spread is an alleged first person account of one of the boys pastor Khanna had converted. The story of Class 10 student reads like a film script.
He was trapped by the pastor who used a girl to entice him to drink alcohol. Then blackmailed him with a video recording. The student is "progressively addicted to alcohol, women, money, drugs, and the promise of weapons".
At each stage, pastor Khanna's personal involvement is recorded. The highlight is this passage: "There were candles and an empty glass on the table. As the prayers went on, someone brought a jug full of red liquid and poured it into the glass. It was swine blood which we all had to drink. Khanna took some sips, then his daughter and I joined the others."
This is the most talked about news in Srinagar - on twitter and facebook, in living rooms and cafes. "One comes to know the extent to which these people will go to convert," read a facebook comment.
Even educated people this reporter spoke to believe sex, booze and money is the only reason why anyone would convert to Christianity. For the Christians here it's an indictment they shall have to learn to live with.
Srinagar: A self-styled sharia court of Kashmir on Thursday issued fatwa asking three Christian priests to leave the state for "luring the valley Muslims to Christianity". The court also directed Jammu and Kashmir government to take over the management of the Christian missionary schools, besides monitoring their activities in future.
Last summer, a controversy arose over the conversion of some Muslim youths to Christianity after they were allegedly lured by the pastor MC Khanna of All Saints Church in Srinagar. The video clips were distributed across the valley, showing conversion of local youth to Christianity, which made the Mufti Azam of Kashmir, Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, to summon the pastor for explanation. Mufti Bashir runs a sharia court in the valley and is promptly known for announcing appearance of moon on the occasion of Eids in Kashmir.
According to Nasir-ul-Islam, a deputy of grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din, four Christian priests were involved in alluring the Muslim youth in Kashmir to Christianity. An investigation against the principal of the local Christian missionary school Parvez Sameul Koul is going on.
The Naib (deputy) Mufti Nasir said: Punjabi M C Khanna, Dutch national, Jim Borst, and Gayoor Messah were directed to leave the valley forthwith for their involvement in the conversions in the valley. "However, the case against the principal of Tyndale Biscoe school Parvez Sameul Koul is under investigation and judgment will be announced in due course of time," Naib Mufti said.
The Christian pastors have already migrated from Kashmir valley soon after CM Khanna was released on bail on December 1, 2011 after Jammu and Kashmir police arrested him on November 19,2011 on charges of fomenting communal trouble in the state.
Besides, the decree of the sharia court said that Jammu and Kashmir government should involve itself in the management of the missionary schools and renowned Kashmiri educationists should form the part of the management.
The sharia court even directed the school management to allot a class for Islamia studies as well for the students of other faiths. "Given the Muslim majority character of the valley, the Muslim students should be taught Islam and daily prayer written by Syed Mohammad Iqbal should also be sung in the morning prayers," Naib Mufti Nasir said.
All India Christian Council at in New Delhi on January 13, 2012 had expressed its apprehensions that the community members may face backlash by the verdict of the self-styled Srinagar's Islami shariat court against Christian pastors Jim Borst, C M Khanna and Gayoor Messah for their alleged involvement in luring the people to convert to their religion across Kashmir valley.
The Deputy Mufti,Azam Nasir-ul-Islam, and son of grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din, Mufti Muhammad Nasir-ul-Islam, in a statement on January 11, 2012, had said that it was proved beyond doubt that the accused pastor Khanna, who is putting up in Kashmir for past many years, was along with other accomplices luring Muslim people to change religion.
Dr John Dayal, the spokesman of the Indian Christians, has rejected that that any conversion took place by force.
"A fact finding team which went to Srinagar in the wake of the arrest of Rev Khanna, and interviewed Church personnel, Ulema, school authorities and the police, found no evidence of force or fraud in baptisms that have been carried out over a period of time. Each baptism has been proved to be voluntary," John Dayal said.
Srinagar, Jan 27: Most Christians in the Valley have taken a strong exception to a misinformation campaign launched by some vested interests about they being unsafe after the recent conversion controversy came to fore.
Christians who spoke to Greater Kashmir dispelled reports about any threat perception to them. They described it as a “vicious campaign” aimed at creating a sense of insecurity among the community members who have been living here amicably for decades. “We were born here and have been living here for the past many decades. We never felt threatened. We stayed here in the most difficult times. When militancy was at its peak no one touched us, neither did anyone ask us to leave the Valley,” said one of the teachers of famous missionary school Burn Hall.
Another teacher, Munni Mam, of Burn Hall School, who retired 2-years ago, said that thousands of Muslim students whom she taught are at the top positions within and outside JK. “We feel proud when we see our students achieving big goals,” she said.
“Our roots are in the Valley, and nothing has shaken them over centuries. I don’t see any threat from my Muslim neighbors who always come to my rescue when I need them and are part of my grief and celebrations,” said Jacob Masih of Shivpora, Srinagar.
“It seems some people want to give an ugly twist to conversion controversy by unleashing propaganda that Christians are unsafe in the Valley. Had we felt any threat we would have left long back. History stands testimony to the fact that not a single Church was ever attacked in the Valley even during the turmoil,” said James Mathews, of Sonawar.
A teacher of a missionary school said she has been putting up in the Valley for the past 21-years and has never felt “insecure” or threatened. “Many of us were even unaware about the conversion controversy till it came up in the media. But the mudslinging has hurt us. No one is guilty till it is proven,” she said. “No one till date has stopped us from performing our religious duties nor has anyone ever interfered in our religious affairs. We are very much safe and secure in the Valley.”
Farooq Ahmed Parray of Sonawar said he was surprised when he came to know about that some people were claiming that Christians are not safe in the Valley. “Many Christians are putting up in Sonawar area of the city for ages and they are like our own brothers and sisters. They have been a part and parcel of our society,” he said. “It seems that some people want to create a wedge between Muslims and Christians by resorting to such propaganda.”
Most of the Christians in the Valley blame the ‘ignorant’ national media for “spreading canards” about their safety.
Notwithstanding, what is being said, there is a threat, like it or not.
If there was none, why was the padre Khanna targeted and ordered to present himself to an unauthorised and unconstitutional Sharia court?
And when one is from a minuscule community and in a place where there is radicalism as the normal course of life, who will come forward and say that they are in danger?
In a State where dissident leaders of a dissident group Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, are killed by their own organisation, what is the guarantee for a minuscule community that they will not be targeted by the virulent people or by the foreign terrorists wanting to show themselves as defenders of Islam and soldiers of Islam?
Will anyone speak out?
Even the Pandit community was living in Kashmir for ages and centuries as 'brothers and sisters' (I love this phrase so flippantly used all the time!). They just took off on their own? Indeed, they were not threatened (sic!)!
Srinagar : Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani Tuesday locked horns with the local Sharia board over a fatwa seeking expulsion of four Christian priests from the Kashmir Valley.
Geelani, a Hurriyat leader, said in a statement from New Delhi: "Muslims should protect their religion themselves. Expelling somebody from Kashmir is no solution.
"Kashmiris cannot ignore the contributions of Christian missionary schools towards the educational system in the Valley.
"Unfortunately, Muslims have not been able to build an educational institution like those by the Christian missionary schools despite all available resources."
The local Sharia court had Jan 19 issued a decree seeking the expulsion of four priests from the state who were allegedly involved in converting some local youth to Christianity through financial allurement.
The decree had also demanded that a prayer written by Urdu poet Iqbal should be compulsorily recited at the morning assemblies by all Christian missionary schools in the Valley.
Rights groups and civil society members in Kashmir have slammed a self-styled sharia court which ordered externment of four pastors from the state over allegations of forcible conversions.
What’s more, experts are pointing out there is no precedent of such a court. “Sharia court
never existed in Kashmir. Muslim laws apply through state legal apparatus,” Shiekh Showkat, who teaches law at Kashmir University, said Tuesday.
The chief justice post of the sharia court too has been termed arbitrary.
Saleem Beg, head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage — which conserves historic sites in Kashmir — said, “We only have the seat of mufti azam (grand priest) who issues riwayat (religious backdrop of issues) and not fatwas. To issue fatwas, a sharia court needs the state’s legal backing, which this sharia court does not have. The chief justice designation is self-conferred.”
On January 19, the self-styled sharia court, headed by Mufti Bashiruddin, had issued a fatwa banning the entry of four pastors into Jammu and Kashmir after finding them “guilty of luring Muslims of Kashmir to Christianity by exploiting their financial conditions”.
Lawyer Pervez Imroz said, “Sharia is a board, not a court. It has no legality to extern any individual.” Rights activists see a ploy in the conversion row. “The clergy remained silent on all rights abuse issues in Kashmir before suddenly becoming active on the conversion issue,” said Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society coordinator Khurram Pervez.
Pervez pointed out it was the police which had externed pastor Jim Brost in 2010. “The clergy is being used as cover to chase other pastors.”
Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani too condemned the sharia court’s move and distanced the separatists’ conglomerate from it. “Banishing someone is no solution. As Muslims it is our responsibility to create awareness about Islam,” said Geelani, assuring security to the Christian minority in the valley.
“No Kashmiri can ignore the contribution of missionary schools like Burn Hall, Biscoe and Convent in the education system of the Valley,” the leader added.
In the case of Christians Kashmiri separatists need to worry about their image in the West, hence Geelani's statement as well as the Kashmiri rights activists in the valley.Geelani has made it very clear on earlier occassions that Kashmir is about `Islamiyat` more than `Kashmiriyat`. In the case of Kashmiri Hindus driven out of the Valley, our `secular` leaders are too cowardly to take a stand on their plight. So we have Arundhati Roy taking the stage with Geelani and making provocative statements.
The next central govt should take immediate steps to abolish Aricle 370 ASAP, settle the ousted Kashmiri Hindus in their homeland. Let Biharis, Punjabis, Bongs, etc settle there - end of problem. Any Kashmiris pining for the land of the pure can move across border.
Welcome to the future(by probably 2050) of Assam and West Bengal. I dont think many will understand i meant here but if you do you cant deny it outright. Anyway dont say that the signs were not clear then!!!!