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  CONVERSION - Why & How ?  

The followers of Christianity and Islam are under constant attacks by Hindu hardliners for their ‘allegedly forced’ conversions of hapless and gullible Hindus. There are physical and brutal attacks on priests and moulvis to frighten them off and then also the enactment of ‘forced reconversion & shuddhikaran’ campaigns under the media spot light, without a comment by the otherwise vociferous media, as to who is resorting to forced conversion among the two parties under question.

There can be little doubt about the importance of this issue, which can also be gauged by the fact that none other than Prime Minister of India had expressed his desire to have a national debate on it. Hence, one needs to dispassionately and objectively analyze facts and figures to understand various issues involved in it, instead of letting oneself, getting carried away by mob frenzy.

The article 25 of the constitution of India provides every citizen the fundamental right of ‘freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion,’ of his or her choice. If this is true (and which is indeed true; that is why people want to review (read change) the constitution), then change or acquisition of a new faith should be treated as natural as, change of residence, job or companion, provided only if the person desirous of such a change, is convinced that the change offers him better prospects.

One must also understand that the thing called faith or religion is a result or manifestation of deep-rooted conviction and hence cannot be brought about by force or coercion. Hence just change of names to gain temporary worldly gains should really not be considered either conversion in the real sense of the term or for that matter threat to any other religion. In fact a religion is ‘better off’ without such followers who do not have the necessary confidence and conviction in the ideology of the religion, they claim to profess. Realizing the futility of such an exercise of change, Islam prohibits force in the matter of conversion. Says The Holy Quran:

"There is no compulsion (force ) in religion” (2:256)

And that is why Islamic Law expressly recognizes for Non-Muslims the liberty to preserve their beliefs and it forbids categorically all recourse to compulsion for converting others to Islam. But at the same time Islam not only welcomes with open arms, all those who consciously accept it’s ideology, but also makes every possible effort to assimilate the entrants, as a part and parcel of universal Muslim brotherhood. In fact Islam earmarks a portion of Zakaat (an annual alms donation compulsory on every Muslim) for the stabilization of such people.

Islam also maintains a rigorous discipline among its own adherents; that is, it does not permit apostasy (conversion to other religions). Since the basis of the Islamic nationality is religious and not ethnic, linguistic or regional, apostasy has naturally been considered political treason, which is punishable. But the necessity scarcely arose as history has proved. Even in our own age of political as well as material and intellectual weakness among Muslims, apostasy of Muslims is surprisingly non-existent. Even for the sake of argument, if one accepts that, some people were forcibly converted to Islam, there are no evidence whatsoever of such victims of ‘mass forced conversions’ relinquishing the new faith forced upon them, after withdrawal of the alleged force.

On the other hand Islam today is gaining ground with leaps & bound even among western people, solely on the merits of its ideology. According to a survey report published by The Reader’s Digest World Almanac, Islam is the fastest growing religion of the world having a growth rate of 285 percent; this inspite of the absence of any organized missionary activity. Those who always criticized and maintained that the spread of Islam was a handiwork of rulers wielding swords, may be now asked that which sword, or money power (Muslim being the poorest community) is spreading Islam now???. To quote D’Leary in ‘Islam at the Crossroads’ and I quote “History makes it clear however that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated”.

It is our most sincere and humble appeal to all our non-Muslim brothers and sisters to study for themselves, the comparative merits & demerits of the world religions to have better understanding of the subject, instead of getting misled by hearsay. We strongly feel that, in today’s fiercely competitive world, they have every right to know what other religions offer them. The ultimate choice is theirs’.

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