India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh passed a law in late November criminalising religious conversions by marriage that aren’t approved by a district magistrate in a move that spits in the face of the country’s secular traditions. Although not stated in the text itself, the move was made in response to what Hindu radicals have alleged is a secret so-called “love jihad” conspiracy by Muslims to massively convert Hindu women to Islam. There’s absolutely no basis whatsoever for alleging anything of the sort, but as the Washington Posted noted in a recent op-ed about how “The hateful love ‘jihad’ conspiracy in India is going mainstream”, these groundless claims are being propagated to further radicalise Indian society.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has overseen India’s transformation from a constitutionally secular state to a de-facto Hindu nationalist one. This development has raised serious concerns among the country’s nearly 200 million Muslims that they’ll soon be doomed to second-class status or worse. Examples adding credence to their claims are last year’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act which officially discriminates against Muslim refugees by prioritising the granting of citizenship to non-Muslim ones from nearby countries. The National Register of Citizens also runs the risk of effectively stripping the citizenship of former Muslim refugees and their descendants who moved to India several decades ago but might have lost their documents over the years.
The “love jihad” fear-mongering campaign is the next step in the Indian government’s Islamophobic crusade. No state that’s constitutionally secular should meddle in interfaith relationships, nor should its representatives encourage radicalised members of their civil society to harass and harm those who participate in such. Religion is obviously a very sensitive subject for many people regardless of their faith, and interfaith relationships can be very controversial in many families, but these are private matters to be dealt with behind closed doors between consenting adults, not public ones where the government or even strangers have the right to interfere. If India was a constitutionally Hindu state then the standard might be different, but it isn’t since it’s officially secular.
Therein lies the primary contradiction since India is essentially behaving as a religious state even though its representatives routinely criticise many majority-Muslim countries like Pakistan whose laws are influenced by religious teachings. That’s a blatant double standard which proves that those attacks against others were never made on a sincerely secular basis. They were just intended to radicalise the domestic masses and virtue signal to India’s new Western allies that it deserves to be seen as their international equal after showing that it shares their suspicions of Islam. By implementing its own religiously influenced legislation, India is trading its secular reputation for a Hindu nationalist one which aims to boost its Islamophobic credentials in the eyes of the West.
What’s especially concerning about all of this is the silence from most members of the international community, especially Western countries. They always make a fuss about “spreading democracy” and protecting “human rights”, yet potentially tens of millions of couples in constitutionally secular India’s Uttar Pradesh no longer have the right to freely choose their spouse without worries that the government will reject their relationship and civil society might even lynch them just for falling in love with the “wrong” person. These same countries that are now silent are usually very outspoken at even the slightest indication that religious minorities in Muslim-majority states might be mistreated, which confirms their ulterior motives all along.
With this in mind, it can therefore be said that India has practically become a Western country. It receives a free pass from its peers for its domestic hypocrisy, and just like them, it also treats Muslims as second-class citizens. If Russia for example were to have imposed similar legislation in its largest region criminalising the conversions of Orthodox Christian women to Islam by marriage without government permission, then it would immediately become the world’s top “human rights” issue and sanctions might even be threatened against Moscow unless it reversed its policy. India, however, can criminalise the conversion of Hindu women to Islam by marriage without government permission in its largest region and know that its Western allies will never condemn it.