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Love Is Pure And Sublime: Can It Be Jihad?

Our spiritual texts like Vedas and Gita do not speak of caste and interfaith marriages but a deep-rooted caste system does, seeking to prevent inter caste marriages, inter ‘gotra’ marriages and by credence, interfaith marriages.

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We are all born the same. ‘Vasudaiva Kutumbakam’ should have been the natural corollary binding us all, for none of us could have chosen our parents our faith and our religious identity. Why is such an identity required? Is it for control of the mind and body of others so we can perpetuate our ideologies? As our ancestors evolved from small hunter-gatherer tribes into large agrarian cultures, labour was hard to come by and hence control. Religion and belief in a moralizing God, were probably the only cultural adaptations to these challenges. Conversion of people from one faith to the other was then, a way to perpetuate those beliefs. ‘Love Jihad’ as it is loosely called springs from such an idea, though love can never be ‘Jihad’

We have Freedom of Religion Acts, enacted at the State level, to regulate religious conversions, from as far back as the 1940’s. At least eight of twenty-nine states: Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand had such laws though the new 'MP Freedom to Religion Bill, 2020 nullifies the earlier law of 1968. Most of them are similar in content and structure and seek to prevent all conversions through “forcible” or “fraudulent” means, or by “allurement” or “inducement.”. UP, Haryana and Karnataka have now similar laws to prevent "forcible conversions" through marriage, enacted in the past three months. It is a major concern that conversions happen in the name of seduction, feigning love, deception, kidnapping, and marriage. Is it not vile to convert only to propagate a certain religion? That these laws have come to be misused is more a case of something apparently good gone soar.

How important is religion in our life? As thinking individuals, we seek meaning to our existence. When we go wrong or do wrong, there is an inner voice that cautions us. How many times, would we have contemplated its meaning and purpose? Or its relation to the way we behave, treat each other, and interact with the society? Does religion influence us on all these facets irrespective of us being a person of faith, a skeptic, or something in between? Are concepts of spirituality and organized religion define our morality? Does religion define our cultural constructs, our power dynamics, and set historical narratives?

For every thesis there is an anti-thesis. If there are believers there are non-believers too. Can we really define atheism without defining theism? The French revolution drove the prioritization of human reason over the abstract authority of religion. Science inspired it and was inspired in the process. A more rational idea would have been agnosticism. It does not argue whether there is or isn’t a deity. Instead, it argues that the limits of human reasoning and understanding make the existence of God or Gods, the origins of the universe, and the possibility of an afterlife. Is this not the essence of both ‘Dwaita; and ‘Adwaita’ philosophies albeit set in different contexts?

All religions of the universe, no one knows how many exist, teach us the same, though some are philosophies, some are spiritual ideologies and still some a way of life. Whatever be the semantics, they define a set of principles for simple living, respect for others freedom, and universal love. However, humanity has always thrived on extending a hegemony that defines personal choices. Should we be showing spiritual and religious one upmanship? Theistic triangulation is God cantered and openly aligns with a Higher Power used against others to reinforce one’s own position in conflicts with others, whereas non-theistic one-upmanship is openly drawing upon religion or spirituality to reinforce one’s position in conflicts with others. Both are equally irrational. But they exist even within families and progress from there into the outer world. Should we not invest in spiritual intimacy that appears to help relationships?

Love is sublime and pure. Should it be dissected in the context of religion, spirituality, dualism and the like? When two adults choose to marry and live together, should they have to explain

their conduct to the conscious keepers of their Religion? Marriage vows, as enshrined in Hindu ‘Saptapadi’, or in the Book of the Common Prayer in Christianity, "To have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us apart", recited from time immemorial are also similar for other religions. Formal agreements and marriage certificates are more recent happenings. Interfaith marriages are most often contracted as civil marriages since the doctrines of their religions prohibit them or allow in limited circumstances. Several major religions are mute on such marriages for there are no easy answers to vexed questions like what faith the children would follow even as each partner adheres to his or her own religion.

Our spiritual texts like Vedas and Gita do not speak of caste and interfaith marriages but a deep-rooted caste system does, seeking to prevent inter caste marriages, inter ‘gotra’ marriages and by credence, interfaith marriages. The rural India is still captive to these ideas though some changes are seen in the cities. Are we not witness to most horrific honour killings? Be that as it may, Sunni Islam, believes the offspring shall be a Muslim in inter faith marriages and does not allow Muslim men from intermarrying unless the woman converts to Islam. Even when Muslim women intermarry, the men must convert. Having converted the marriage no longer remains interfaith. When religions have such disparate postulations there is no meeting ground. Various religious faiths have never agreed on anything except that an interfaith marriage is a bad idea. Marriages must unite minds and people. If that were not to be, what purpose does an interfaith or any marriage serve? Or what purpose do laws serve? Statistics show 61% of interfaith marriages in the world end in divorce and that kids in an interfaith marriage are twice as likely to be brought up in the mother’s faith rather than the father’s faith and that most would prefer cohabitating to being tied up in an interfaith marriage. Does this ring a bell for some religions? All religions, must introspect especially marriages in an interfaith context. As mature human beings, should we ban love because of religion? Jihad in any context certainly cannot be a way of life.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Dr S S Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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