There is a bizarre case out of India this week where four people were arrested after they allegedly converted to Islam without state approval. In India, under the ironically named Freedom of Religion Act, you must get state approval before changing religions. The law is meant to guarantee that people are not coerced into conversions. In light of the ongoing forced conversions of ISIS or the Islamic State, that is a legitimate concern. However, it would seem a problem that can be addressed by just criminalizing forced or coerced conversions as opposed to forcing everyone to get state permission to change faiths. The obvious concern is that in the largely Hindu nation, such permission can itself be coercive for those who want to leave the Hindu faith.
Tularam Jatav, his son Keshav and relatives Manikram and Makhubhai Jatav were arrested in Madhya Pradesh despite telling a court that they had not been forced into adopting another religion. Seven others have been held for questioning.
The Jatav family went to a district magistrate with affidavits affirming that they were converting willingly. Notably, local Hindu activists arrived and began protesting the conversion. After hours of such protests, charges were filed against the family. The appearance and timing of the protest/charges magnifies the concerns over the law and its use against religious minorities. Villagers were the ones to alleged forced conversions to Islam despite the family’s insistence that it was voluntary.
Notably, Tularam Jatav reportedly converted to Islam two years ago, but retracted the move to settle a property dispute. He then reportedly converted to Islam again last year. (Such recantations do not sit well with some Muslims who view it as apostasy and subject to the death penalty).
Source: NDTV as first seen on Reddit