For the past few days, we have been reading news reports about an international gang illegally converting deaf and dumb children to Islam. The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh Police has so far made six arrests. The last arrest was made of one Salahuddin Sheikh from Ahmedabad, Gujarat on Wednesday. Earlier, the ATS had arrested two clerics Mufti Qazi Jahangir Alam Qasmi and Umar Gautam from Jamia Nagar, Delhi, who were working for Islamic Dawaah Centre, an outfit which has been getting funds from Pakistan’s spy agency ISI. Salahuddin has admitted that he used to send money received from Gulf through ‘hawala’ channels to Umar Gautam.
Terror and religious conversion issues apart, think about the parents who suddenly find their children being converted to another religion. In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed how a middle class family member narrated her ordeal when she found that her 17-year-old son had been converted to Islam by a lady, who used to stay in their neighbourhood in Noida.
The parents found their son, Darsh Saxena, working on his computer regularly, but they never checked whom he was in contact with. Three years ago, the teenager left his home, and the parents later came to know that he had changed his name to Rehan Ansari. He had converted to Islam. The family members are still in the dark about Darsh’s whereabouts. He has been incommunicado with his family since May, 2018.
The teenager’s mother Shivani Saxena narrated how she and her husband used to find Darsh engrossed in chat with a ‘didi’ on social media, but, in reality, the ‘didi’ was teaching how to convert his religion. Her mother later found, Darsh used to hide his skullcap inside his school bag. She also found that he used to secretly go to the mosque to offer ‘namaaz’. And then one fine day, her boy left the home.
This is not an incident from a far-flung village in India’s village hinterland. This incident occurred in hi-tech city Noida in a middle class family with access to internet and social media. I wanted to share the mother’s ordeal with our viewers because she and her husband are still waiting for their son to return home. The mother admitted that she and her husband made the mistake of trusting Darsh completely. They never checked his social media contacts and never kept an eye on whom he was chatting with. In fact, Darsh was taking online Islamic classes on his computer, and the ‘didi’ was teaching her the benefits of offering ‘namaaz’ and accepting Islam. Later, it was found that the ‘didi’ he was in touch with was a lady staying in their neighbourhood.
In another instance, Mohammed Umar Gautam who had converted a deaf and dumb teenager Rahul Bhola to Islam, later engaged him as a proselytizer. Rahul Bhola used to ask other deaf and dumb children and persuade them to convert to Islam. When our reporter spoke to Rahul Bhola’s family, they revealed that Rahul used to carry the Islamic skull cap in his bag and go secretly to offer namaaz. Some Islamic literature were also found from his bag, but his family, at that time, did not take it as a serious issue.
Had Rahul Bhola been a normal adult and opted to convert to Islam, nobody should have any issue. Had Darsh Saxena been a consenting adult and had converted to Islam on his own accord, it would not have been considered illegal. No amount of protests from Darsh’s parents would have been taken cognizance of. But at the time of conversion, Darsh was not an adult, he was 17 years of age. Similarly, to convert a hearing and orally impaired teenager, who is not an adult, to a different religion is a crime as per law. To convert a person to a different religion through inducement, intimidation or cheating is a crime under anti-conversion law.
I remember a case in 2016 when 21 youths from Kerala suddenly left their homes and went to Afghanistan. They had been inducted by ISIS in its war against the US. Among those who were converted to Islam were Hindus and Christians. There was also a case of a dentist Nimisha, who married a Christian, and later the husband induced his wife to convert to Islam. Both Nimisha and her husband landed in Afghanistan. Her family came to know about this when Nimisha posted the picture of her child on social media. Nimisha’s mother came to Delhi and appealed to the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh to get her daughter back from Afghanistan. But the government was helpless. Nimisha was an adult, she had married out of her own volition and opted to convert to Islam. There was no way the government could arrange her repatriation.
But, in the cases that have been found in UP, most of those who were converted were either minors or physically challenged youths. To convert such youths, who are dependent on their families, is a crime, not only by law, but also a crime against humanity. These youths were exploited and the proselytizers took undue advantage of their weaknesses.
There are two messages that I would like to convey: One, to all parents, keep a strict watch on the movements of your children; and Two, to all Islamic clerics (maulanas), please introspect whether such conversions through guile, treachery and inducements are not bringing a bad name to Islam.
India's Number One and the most followed Super Prime Time News Show 'Aaj Ki Baat – Rajat Sharma Ke Saath' was launched just before the 2014 General Elections. Since its inception, the show is redefining India's super-prime time and is numerically far ahead of its contemporaries.