Religion is a very personal sentiment and every individual experiences it in his own unique way. The philosophy of religion, ideally, is neither bound by any language or frontier nor by any book but only by one’s faith.
Some find religion through an idol, some in a picture and some in the abyss of deep space. The subjectivity in attaining spiritual bliss concretes the fact that religion is an extremely personal matter and like every other belief system, an individual has the right to either leave it or propagate it.
This brings us to the concerned topic of religious conversion, should it be socially accepted? I say why not? Do you take society’s permission to, lets say, name your newborn? Unless, of course you are saif ali khan.
The reason you don’t take anybody’s permission is not because you are a sociopath, but because it’s a very personal matter in which, ideally, society should have no part to play whatsoever.
But we do not live in an Utopian world and people do take offence. Just to be clear I am totally against forced conversions because it kills free will. Without which freedom is nothing but a word.
So if religious conversion is such a personal matter, why so much of hate? The reasons are simple yet complicated. Simple because they are very evident, complicated because they are hard to contain.
People equate freedom of religion, article 25, which implies freedom of conscience to blasphemy or as Dr zakir naik has said “ people who change their religion should face the death penalty”. This kind of an attitude is not only unacceptable but also very threatening to a secular and democratic society like India.
The main suspect behind so much of hate is the fact that media often creates parallels between the plunders of medieval Muslim invaders and today’s globalized society which favors free will. Stephen fry very aptly summarises this nexus between society and mainstream media, he says “how can one be fond of something that daily mail dispises?” And I again reiterate that forced conversions i.e. conversions done under duress or any kind of allurement is totally unconstitutional and is even illegal in 5 indian states.
So coming back to the point, why we need to socially accept religious convertees; is because this is the most natural and evolutionary way of propagating, reforming and lberalising religion itself.
A very prominent example as quoted in an ediotrial published on the last day of feb, in the hindu, the reason why indian muslims are more accomodating and less prone towards fundamentalism lies in the fact that indian islam is syncretic in nature i.e. it has accomodated various traditions and local customs which many convertess brought to it, indirectly adding to the dynamism of the religion.
In India there are many muslims that worship hindu gods, like in the deccan the Muslims worhip Khandoba (Avatar of Shiva), some worship Lord Ganesh, Some in Holi worship Krishna-Radha. Thus one sees a huge diversity in the muslim community in India.
Vice versa we can also give the example of the Hindu Hussaeini Brahmins who despite being ardent Hindus, still hold the Prophet, his Cousin Ali and his family in extremely high esteem and some regard the Quran as the fifth Veda. All this enlightment has come through conversion and interaction, We should aim at promoting this syncretic culture which is exclusive to india, instead of demonising it
In the end I would like to conclude by saying that this whole issue is sort of a paradox, a thing so personal, yet governed by the society.. As sandy fussel puts it “ people are always afraid of anything different. They are afraid of change, it is same everywhere.”