In Pakistan, as I’ve written before, paranoia about the Hindu faith is rife. And many madrassas teach students to despise Hindus as much as any other “infidel.” Such attitudes have taken center stage in a bizarre legal-religious case that has unfolded in recent weeks in Pakistan’s Sindh province — one of the few areas of South Asia where Muslims and Hindus generally do get along. On Feb. 24, men took a 19-year-old Hindu woman named Rinkel Kumari from her home in a small village named Mirpur Mathelo. A few hours later, an Imam called the woman’s family to inform them that Kumari had converted to Islam. A few hours after that, she was married to a Muslim man. She had been renamed “Faryal Bibi.”
The woman herself has claimed that her conversion was voluntary. But during the whole process, the woman has been surrounded by well-armed Muslim minions of a local politician renowned for such gaudy stunts.
In any event, Pakistan’s 3-million remaining Hindus have grounds for suspicion. “In many Sindhi towns, wealthy Hindu traders have been targeted by kidnappers,” the New York Times reports. “Conversions, which are freighted with notions of collective honor, can present a jarring social fault line. Officials with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan have spoken of up to 20 forced conversions a month — and Hindu families fleeing for India — but they admit that the research is thin.”
The good news is that, in Kumari’s case, some powerful people have begun speaking out in favour of Hindu rights, including legislator Azra Fazal Pechuho, the sister of Pakistan’s president, who on March 15 gave a speech in Parliament calling on fellow lawmakers to protect the many Hindu women who are being forcibly confined in Muslim madrassas, and forced to marry Muslim men.
Good on her for standing up against targeted Hindus. Here in the West, where we always are on guard for hatred against Jews, Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, we should do the same.
— Jonathan Kay is Comment Editor for the National Post, and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Courtesy: National Post