Pakistan and forced conversions of non-Muslims: reorientation urged

Pakistan and forced conversions of non-Muslims: reorientation urged

Special Contribution: Kashif Nawab

Modern Tokyo Times

The United Nations (UN) is increasingly alarmed by forced conversions in Pakistan of non-Muslim young girls and female adults. Experts at the UN “expressed alarm” and called for objective investigations into domestic legislation – and commitments to international human rights – by holding the perpetrators of such crimes accountable in law.

In another case, the parents of a 13-year-old Christian girl (Naina Ashraf) have lodged a complaint after she was abducted and forced to convert to Islam by 38-year-old Mohammad Iqbal. This latest incident took place in the environs of Lahore (report filed in the police station of Manga Mandi).

The young Christian girl was taken after playing outside. After seeking police help, Mohammad Iqbal “allegedly” denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. However, Mohammad Iqbal appeared with a marriage certificate and a religious conversion letter soon after his denial.

UN statement – concerning issues like the above in Pakistan – said, “We are deeply troubled to hear that girls as young as 13 are being kidnapped from their families, trafficked to locations far from their homes, made to marry men sometimes twice their age, and coerced to convert to Islam, all in violation of international human rights law.”

The parents of the young Christian girl have also been threatened if they take the case to court.

Voice of America reports, “These acts are allegedly being committed under threat of violence to girls and women or their families. The experts said the so-called marriages and conversions take place with the involvement of Pakistani religious authorities and the complicity of security forces as well as the justice system.”

Parents of Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs – notably in Sindh and Punjab – reside in fear because of blasphemy laws, forced conversion to Islam, and other areas of enormous discrimination.

Dr. Jaipal Das Chhabria, A Member of the National Commission of Minorities Rights – and Chairman of the Committee on Forced Conversions – said the government of Pakistan issues National Identity Cards, driving licenses, and the right to vote at the age of 18 (as it is considered the age of maturity by the state considering minors not mature enough to make decisions for their life). Then how can the forced conversion of non-Muslim minors to Islam be considered legal and by consent?

The sexual nature of abductions by Muslims against Non-Muslims and forced conversions is obvious. Accordingly, the ages of the majority of young non-Muslim girls are either young girls or young adults – and not women over 40 years of age.

Dr. Jaipal Das Chhabria also added that the forced marriage of minors from religious minorities is also against the Christian and Hindu marriage laws. As per these laws, the legal age of marriage is 18. He also informed that according to the law of Pakistan, if someone wants to convert her/his religion, they must appear in court and confess it in front of the law.

In cases of forced conversions, minor girls are abducted for two to three days and raped. This is followed by Nikah and forced conversion to Islam being performed – without the consent of the non-Muslim family. This is also against the law.

UN News reports, “In a statement urging Pakistan to uphold the rights of women and children, the group of nearly a dozen independent experts and Special Rapporteurs, maintained that Pakistan’s courts had enabled the perpetrators by accepting “fraudulent evidence” from them, regarding the age of the victims and their willingness to marry and convert to Islam.”

Asad Jamal, a Human Rights Lawyer Advocate, said a uniform legal code is needed where all provinces have the same age of consent. He also implied that the “superiority” of the dominant faith must be tackled and ended.

The chairperson of Voice for Justice, Joseph Jansen, reiterated that the government must come out of denial concerning human rights violations related to the abduction and forced conversion of minority girls. Also, the forced conversions of non-Muslims must be criminalized – along with child marriage – by international human rights standards. This must be implemented with due haste.

The UN statement said, “Noting Pakistan’s previous attempts to pass legislation that will prohibit forced conversions and protect religious minorities, the experts deplored the ongoing lack of access to justice for victims and their families.”

Modern Tokyo Times (2018) – reporting on the case of the Christian martyr Asma Yaqoob – said, “Asma Yaqoob, a Christian female, died after being attacked for the crime of refusing marriage and converting to Islam. Sadly, this brave Christian lady died after suffering enormous pain for roughly two weeks after being left disfigured and in agony because of severe burns all over her body.”

Sadly, several years later and non-Muslims continue to suffer institutional discrimination. – Kashif Nawab Christian Journalists Association of Pakistan CJAP

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