“Love and Jihad Don’t Go Hand-in-Hand”: Why We Must Listen to Nusrat Jahan’s Powerful Speech

Politics

“Love and Jihad Don’t Go Hand-in-Hand”: Why We Must Listen to Nusrat Jahan’s Powerful Speech

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Love Jihad is front and centre in India’s politics. Multiple states are mulling legislation and religious polarisation is underway in political speeches and on social media. West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress MP from Basirhat, Nusrat Jahan has slammed the discourse for using religion as a political tool ahead of the state Assembly elections.

“Love is very personal. Love & jihad don’t go hand-in-hand. Just before polls, people come up with topics like this. It is a personal choice who you want to be with. Be in love and start falling in love with each other. Don’t make religion a political tool,” she said, during a media interaction.

The actor-turned-politician is married to businessman Nikhil Jain. She has been a fierce advocate for inter-faith marriages and cultural integration. Jahan had participated in Durga Puja festivities a few months ago, for which she came under fierce criticism from radical Islmaists for committing a “sin” and “bringing disrepute” to Islam.

“I’m God’s special child. I celebrate all festivals. I respect humanity and love more than anything. I am very happy,” she said at the time, standing by her decision.

The Home Ministry had in February clarified that the term “love jihad” is not defined under existing laws and no such case has been reported so far, including by central agencies. However, multiple state governments, from Uttar Pradesh, to Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana and Assam have raked up the “love jihad” issue in recent times.

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had recently announced that his government will enact a law to curb “love jihad” and forcible religious conversion. Before this, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had said the state would soon have a law against “love jihad”. Karnataka has also formulated a strict law against the bogey.

The battle will now play out in the courts. In a blow to the UP government’s proposed law, Allahabad high Court held that an earlier judgment which held that “Religious conversion just for the purpose of marriage is unacceptable” is untenable.

While courts determine the legal validity of these proposed laws, the signalling and divisive tone is already being reflected in political statements and hashtag campaigns meant to spread hatred and polarisation in society. As Nusrat Jahan aptly stated, love and jihad don’t go together.

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