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Opinion|Love in the Time of RSS: Kerala’s Hindu-Muslim Marriages are Envy of India

Earlier, the Kerala High court had annulled the marriage of this woman on the complaint of her parents who petitioned that she was forcibly converted to Islam.

Binoo K John |

Updated:January 9, 2018, 5:45 PM IST
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Opinion|Love in the Time of RSS: Kerala’s Hindu-Muslim Marriages are Envy of India
(Representative image/ Huma Khan/News18)
If every adult woman or man in India has to get legal sanction to get married, then it complicates matters a bit. Most parents complain if their children were to marry outside the caste or religion. The issue acquires a completely different hue in the backdrop of RSS's campaign against what they call ‘Love Jihad’, a completely imagined Islamic strategy in India of sending out young men to woo Hindu women so that they marry them and convert.

This, according to the RSS, is a long-term strategy to reduce the 85% Hindu majority population in India. This imagined ploy of using Cupid as an ally for demographic change would have been laughed off in better times. But now it has required the intervention of the Supreme Court, which has the enviable task of deciding between an educated adult girl's romantic and religious conviction. Is the girl’s romantic conviction more credible than her conviction of adherence to Islam? Here no one looks at cases where Muslims have converted to Hinduism to get married.

Inter-religious marriages in Kerala have to be looked at from the perspective of states's unique social structure. In Kerala, there are no ‘minorities’ as Christians and Muslims, when combined, form more than half of the population.

So none of the fear psychosis, which Muslims elsewhere in India are forced to live with, haunts them in Kerala. The Muslim League has shared power in Kerala for over 30 years, mostly handling the education and industries portfolio and this has resulted in nearly 100% literacy among Muslims. Compare this with some states in north India where not even half of the Muslim population is literate.

Kerala Muslims are affluent, too. According to a survey, Kerala has 10 billionaires (11 by latest count) of which two are Muslims and two Christians. The second richest in the list, MA Yousuf Ali, is worth Rs 16,300 crore and has been part of the Prime Minister’s delegation to every Islamic country.

According to estimates, about a million people walk into his Lulu mall in Kochi every day. They also control many top educational institutions and hospitals, putting them in an enviable situation quite unlike the pathetic social status of their counterparts in a state which also houses the dismal district of Gorakhpur, where children dying by the dozens is considered ‘routine’.

Now, considering their superior social status, the Muslims of Kerala have no need to go on any jihad, love or hate. Hindus, Muslims and Christians work in close proximity and camaraderie in Kerala. It is one of the few states where there are many businesses where Hindus and Muslims are partners. The Muslim self-confidence and pride in Kerala is unmatched anywhere else in India.

So much so, in the tricky art of romance, too, Muslim boys often hold some sort of a sway because of their wealth and education. Also, the chance of a Kerala Muslim boy getting employment is very high because of the immense opportunities that open up for him in the Gulf as soon as he gets a technical degree, which is quite common in Kerala. Remember, this is a state which is far removed from UP and Gorakhpur in offering dignity of life to its citizens.

So why this outrage if a Hindu woman prefers to marry a Muslim man? Romance is a private matter, but doesn’t it make perfect economic sense? Why should the National Investigation Agency (NIA) see various imagined strategies here when an adult woman converted to Islam to marry? What is uncommon in this woman’s decision?

It is, however, true that Wahhabism is sending down roots in Kerala, thanks to the influence of Saudi Arabia and some mullahs who owe allegiance to such strains of Islam. Kerala has various Christian and Islamic evangelists whose sway and wealth is frightening. When Kerala, with its fascination for airports, announced recently a plan for an airport who do you think the disputed land of 3000 acres has to be acquired from? A Christian evangelist. A freelance Sunni preacher Kantapuram Aboobaker four years ago laid siege to the Capital Trivandrum with half a million followers.

This rise of freelance fundamental Christian and Muslim evangelists pose a danger to Kerala’s tightly woven social fabric. That fabric has ripped a bit like a model’s jeans, and terror links have also been detected. Students Islamic Movement of India’s (SIMI) crucial terror camp which laid the basis for many bomb blasts across the country was also held in the mountainous Vagamon in central Kerala about a decade back.

But none of this can justify the national outcry over an interfaith marriage between two adults. It only shows the yawning distance between Kerala and India. It also shows how regressive forces are holding back India’s entry into modernity.

— Author is a senior journalist. Views expressed here are personal
| Edited by: Mirza Arif Beg
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