Muslim fundamentalists in India have been accused of waging a "love jihad", using charming young men to lure girls into converting to Islam with promises of marriage.
By Dean Nelson in New Delhi
13 October 2009
Christian and Hindu groups, which have themselves clashed over the sensitive issue of religious conversions, have joined forces to combat the alleged campaign.
A Hindu helpline in southern India claims it has received more than 1,500 calls from parents who fear their daughters are being lured by the group into converting to Islam.
The high court in Kerala directed India's interior ministry and police to investigate the phenomenon.
So far, little is known about the group behind the "love jihad", but it is alleged to be linked to a fundamentalist Muslim group called the Popular Front of India and its student wing Campus Front - which they deny.
It emerged after two young Muslim men were arrested for luring two post-graduate students into marriage by "feigning love" to convert them to Islam.
They were arrested after the women told a court they had been "trapped" by the men and forced to convert. One of the girls said she had eloped with the older student at a college in Pathanamthitta who had taken her and her friend to a "conversion centre" in Malappuram where they were given extremist literature.
Now senior Christian leaders are launching their own campaign to counter the threat.
"It's shocking but it is happening. Many Christian families are getting affected. We are careful as this is a sensitive issue and could even lead to a religious conflict. But now that the Kerala High Court too has interfered in the matter, we have decided to take a stand," said Father Johny Kochuparambil, secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council's Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance.
The Popular Front of India denied it was waging a "love jihad".
"Religious conversion is not a crime; conversion takes place to Hinduism and Christianity also ... One cannot paint all love affairs as cases of forced conversions meant for extremist activity," said Naseerudheen Elamaram, the group's spokesman.