Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eliminating fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir

By Elizabeth Kendal

Fitna
can be defined as anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim. Islam regards fitna as persecution that must be eliminated. Indeed, the Qur'an states: "Fitna is worse than killing". In other words, according to Islam, it is better to kill Christians than to let their life, testimony and witness be a source of fitna. Futhermore, the Qur'an mandates that fighting/jihad continue "until there is no [more] fitna" in the land and all worship is acknowledged to be for Allah (Qur'an 2:190-193).

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Eliminating Fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir
By Elizabeth Kendal
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Responding to the recent baptism of seven Christian converts in Srinagar, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam have committed themselves to eliminating fitna in Kashmir.

Their strategy of choice is the peddling of disinformation: i.e. false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth (Merriam-Webster dictionary ).

By peddling disinformation, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam hope to achieve two ends:

1) Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam are hoping to incite Islamic indignation, zeal and rage amongst the Muslim majority, so that Kashmiri society becomes less tolerant of fitna; the lives of Christians are made so miserable that they are no longer a source of fitna; and churches are driven underground where they can no longer be a source of fitna. If they can eliminate fitna, then Kashmir's Islamists will have empowered themselves significantly.

2) By falsely accusing Christians of hurting religious sentiments, threatening social harmony and offering monetary inducements for conversion, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam are deliberately avoiding the language of repressive Sharia (Islamic law) while deliberately exploiting the language of the Indian penal code, in particular Article 153A which criminalises "any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups"; UN reports that assert that "Christianophobia" is caused by the "aggressive proselytism of certain evangelical groups"; and even the WCC-PCID-WEA rules for Christian witness (released June 2011) which focuses on "inappropriate methods of exercising mission". By exploiting such nationally and internationally acceptable blame-the-victim, non-Islamic language, the Islamists hope to justify and legitimise their repression while avoiding sanction. If they find they can repress, persecute and Islamise with impunity, then Kashmir's Islamists will have empowered themselves significantly.

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Seven youths baptised in Srinagar

In August 2011, Pastor Khanna baptised seven young men -- all converts from Islam -- in his church, All Saints Church, Srinagar. The service was open and many people attended; some with cameras -- nothing was done in secret. And why should it? Religious freedom is the constitutional right of all Indian citizens.

Film of the baptisms made its way to Facebook and then to Youtube.
(NOTE: as the men are baptised the congregation sings: 'I have decided to follow Jesus' - lyrics. Many Westerners like myself will doubtless have learned this song in Sunday School. It takes on a whole new dimension when it is sung by vulnerable minority Christians and Muslim converts who know full well that the Sharia penalty for apostasy is death.)

After seeing the footage, Kashmir's highest official of Islamic Law, Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, accused Rev Khanna of "luring" Muslims to Christianity with the offer of money.

According to Pastor Khanna, the Muslim youths had been coming to the church on their own initiative. When they wanted to take part in Holy Communion he told them they had to follow a procedure. The seven young men subsequently expressed their desire to be baptised. Pastor Khanna denies that any incentive was ever offered. "I can't convert anyone," he said. "It is the work of the Holy Spirit."

Bishop PK Samantaroy, head of the Amritsar Diocese, confirmed that he has seen this particular group of young men attending the All Saints Church for over a year. "These converts had approached the pastor for baptism by their own freewill", he said. "In such cases, the Church cannot deny baptism."

Despite being arrested and beaten by Indian police, the seven youths have continued to insist they were never offered any material incentive. Despite this, some local newspapers have quoted anonymous police sources saying the converts were given money.

Pastor Khanna addresses Sharia Court

The head of the Kahsmir's Sharia Court, Mufti Mohd Bashiruddin, summonsed Pastor Khanna to explain himself in front of 15 other Ulemas (scholars of Islamic law). Despite the fact that the self-appointed Sharia Court has no jurisdiction, Rev Khanna consented and appeared before it on 17 Nov 2011 in the hope that by clarifying his position, he might be able to defuse tensions.

Rev Khanna shared his experience with AsiaNews: "I was alone, surrounded by 30 people. The tension was high and everybody was shouting insults and false accusations against me. The only confession that I made, was to admit the baptism. . ." However, the pastor was forced to sign a document in Urdu, which he did not understand. "I was terrified," he explains.

Pastor Khanna arrested


On Saturday 19 November 2011, police in Srinagar arrested Pastor Khanna on charges of creating enmity between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments. The next day, a court in Srinagar remanded Pastor Khanna to judicial custody for 15 days. Released on bail on 1 Dec 2011, Rev. Khanna has since left the Kashmir Valley.

Father Jim Borst charged

Then on 10 Dec 2011 the same Sharia Court laid charges against Father Jim Borst (79), a Dutch Catholic missionary of the Society of St. Joseph of Mill Hill, who has been working in Kashmir for almost 50 years.

AsiaNews reports: "For some, envy and jealousy of Muslim scholars are behind the charges of proselytising against Fr Borst. For years, the Mill Hill missionary, who has been the principal of the prestigious St Joseph's School, has been the target of Muslim scholars. [. . .] The schools the Dutch missionary set up, including St Joseph's in Baramulla and Burn Hall in Srinagar, are known for the quality of the education they dispense. What is more, their staff is 99 per cent Muslim. Many Muslim leaders have attended these schools . . ."

News report on Youtube: J&K: Row over forced conversions in Valley

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Protecting the faith (rather than human rights)

In November 2011, a group of Kashmir's leading Islamic clerics and scholars got together and established the Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan (Council for Protection of Faith). The council will address issues such as Islamic religious education, Islamic banking, the problem of Christian missionaries, the use of media and Baitul Maal (fundraising) so that aid might be provided to the poor. Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan's media committee has been tasked with raising awareness through pamphlets, facebook and a separate web portal.

On 26 December 2011, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the Kashmir Valley's top Islamic clerics and separatist leaders, launched the Tahaffuz-e-Imaan website. Dedicated to the "protection of faith", it is specifically aimed at preventing apostasy, in particular conversions to Christianity.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the site was launched because there was a need to use technology and modern equipment for countering conversion attempts. "The site, he said, was aimed to protect and [imbue] Islamic values, besides checking the conversion of young boys and girls."

The Tahaffuz-e-Imaan website includes a section on "Knowledge" where visitors can freely download e-books with titles like:
The Choice Islam and Christianity
Combat Kit Against Bible Thumpers
What Bible Says About Muhummed (p.b.u.h)
Al-Quran - The Miracles of Miracles
Who Moved The Stone?
Muhummed Peace be upon him the Natural Successor to Christ (p.b.u.h)
Resurrection or Resuscitation?
Is the Bible God's Word?
Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?

The Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan (Council for Protection of Faith) hopes the site will help "to thwart nefarious designs of pervasive forces and the deep rooted conspiracy of making youth apostate and defectors by giving them concessions and benefits secretly."

See: Kashmir's Top Clergyman Launches Islamist Website against Apostasy and Conversion of Muslims to Christianity . . . MEMRI 30 Dec 2011

Verdict: "GUILTY"

On Wednesday 11 January 2012, at a hearing in Srinagar's Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat led by Grand Mufti of Kashmir Bashid-ud-din Ahmad, it was allegedly "proved beyond doubt" that Pastor Khanna and Fr. Borst had been involved in religious conversions using "baits and inducements".

Penalty: "EXPULSION"

On 19 January 2012, Srinagar's self-appointed Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat -- a court with absolutely no legal jurisdiction -- issued a decree mandating the expulsion of Punjabi Protestant pastor Reverend M C Khanna of All Saints Church Srinagar, along with his wife, Kanta, and his associate Gayoor Masih; as well as Dutch Catholic missionary Father Jaap (Jim) Borst. The four were directed to leave the Kashmir Valley forthwith for their involvement in "unethical" conversions. A case against a fifth Christian, Parvez Sameul Koul, principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, is under investigation.

According to Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, the decree is not against Christians per se, but only against the "crimes" of the "convicts". "The three priests had been attracting local youth to conversions through monetary allurement," he claimed. "The decree has been issued to preserve harmony between followers of different faiths in the Valley."

See: Shariat Court seeks expulsion of Pastor Khanna, accomplices
IMRAN MUZAFFAR, Greater Kashmir, 19 Jan 2012

Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam cautioned the heads of the missionary schools to refrain from any anti-Islamic activities in their schools. He told media on Thursday (19 Jan 2012), "We will not tolerate any anti-Islamic activity in Kashmir by conversing (sic) Muslims to Christianity. Government should issue an order to ensure that only Islamic Morning Prayer should be allowed because majority students in Valley's schools are Muslims."

According to DailyBhaskar: "The court also directed Jammu and Kashmir government to take over the management of the Christian missionary schools" and monitor all their activities in the future.

Meanwhile Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam urged Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to provide monetary support to the down-trodden so that they would not feel any need to turn to Christianity for aid or assistance. "There are some non-governmental organizations working in the Valley," he said, "which are luring people to apostasy in the garb of assistance. Such NGOs must be banned in the Valley."

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While Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam might have succeeded in eliminating, or at least hamstringing, some Christian ministry, NGOs, education, testimony and Gospel witness as sources of fitna, they might yet find that Islamic repression, deceit, manipulation, intolerance and legalistic totalitarianism are just effective in terms of being sources of fitna. This is something to be praying for.

For additional material including prayer points see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 142, 18 Jan 2012
India: tensions soaring as Christians charged in Kashmir