‘People will act if the state fails to stop conversion’

Bashir-ud-DinJ & K, March 01, 2012: Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-Din tells Riyaz Wani that missionary activities have to be halted to ensure communal harmony.

The Sharia court headed by you has passed strictures against alleged missionary activity in the Valley. What was the provocation?
Yes. We want the three Christian priests, MC Khanna, Jim Borst and Gayoor Messah, who have been involved in conversions, to leave the Valley immediately. We are still investigating the case against the principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, Parvez Samuel Koul, and we will soon announce the judgment on him.

The Sharia court has also decreed that the state government involve itself in the management of the missionary schools. Besides, we also want a prayer written by Sir Muhammad Iqbal to be read in these schools and a class allotted for Islamic studies.

You say that missionaries are forcibly converting people. What is the proof?
They use methods that force people to convert. There are several missionary agencies charged with harvesting souls for Christianity. People are deployed outside schools to lure students. They usually start with impressionable children or vulnerable people with problems and offer solutions. We also have reports that during the 2005 earthquake, Christian missionaries built houses worth Rs 7.5 crore and they were given to people who were willing to convert. Our Sharia court is still investigating the matter.

But will the Sharia court be able to execute its decisions?
Yes, if there has to be communal harmony in Kashmir, then the decisions of the Sharia court have to be implemented. Kashmir is a very sensitive state. We already have problems of our own, of a very complicated kind at that. So we hope the government will carry out the court judgment. It would be for the good of the state.

Is there any way the Sharia court can ensure that its orders are implemented?
If the state government doesn’t fulfil its obligation, then the people of the state will do it for themselves. In fact, the people are waiting to see what the government does. And if it fails to act, then the people will act.

What will you do if there is violence?
That is why we are warning the government in advance. In case the government fails to do its duty, things can go out of our hand. Violence is but natural under the circumstances. We are not for violence and want it averted. So, in the interest of peace and communal harmony in the state, we feel the missionary activities need to be stopped forthwith.

What is the number of converts in the Valley?
In the course of our investigation, Khanna said that 10 people have converted. He would have revealed more but he was arrested soon. We questioned many persons who had first converted and then returned to the Islamic faith. In fact, it is their account that has helped us understand the full scope of missionary activity in the Valley. We learnt that the persons who convert are given money, all their needs are met, they are taken to California, provided accommodation and jobs and settled there.

How will you deal with those who have converted and won’t return to their original faith?
I call upon them to return and revive their faith in Islam. And if they don’t, then we will respond in the light of what Islam says on apostasy.

– riyaz wani

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