Rumors in India of a “Love Jihad” where Muslim men would “coerce” non-Muslim women into marrying them caused such uproar among Indian Christians and Hindus that U.S. government personnel decided to investigate it, according to a cable released by Wikileaks.
The concerns over a love jihad were enough to entice U.S. Consul General, Andrew Simkin, to meet with Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the “Global Council of Indian Christians,” to address the concerns. However, the leaked cable says that the alleged plot was more a combination of fear and xenophobia within India’s Hindu and Christian communities than one based on facts.
Stories of intentional plots by Muslim men converting non-Muslim women have been a major concern among Hindus and Christians in India for several years now. In 2009, the Asia Times reported that several Hindu and Christian groups were investigating and warning their members of the "love jihad” dangers.
“Around 4,000 girls have been subjected to religious conversion since 2005 after they fell in love," Father Johny Kochuparambil, secretary of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council's Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance, wrote in an article in the church council's newsletter, according to the Asia Times.
Kochuparambil did not specify where those statistics came from, but said they came from “reliable sources.”
The “love jihad” rumors have also made their way into Indian courts. A father of a girl who converted to Islam to marry a Muslim man, filed a habeus corpus petition, arguing that his daughter was a victim of love jihad.
Although the daughter said she converted voluntarily, the local court said it had “serious suspicions” regarding her statement and that her conversion could have “ramifications of national security,” due to risks of illegal human trafficking of women and girls.
Dr. George, who the U.S. Consult General was the only religious figure approached by the United States about love jihad, "was convinced that there was a concerted effort in South India by Muslim men to get Christian women to fall in love with them in order to convert them," according to the cable.
However, the fears seem to have been caused by doctored statistics propagated my media and extremist groups, Consul General Simkin said.
"The media and some religious groups have been fueling the hysteria by making vague statements about large numbers of missing young women in Karnataka over the last six years, suggesting that these disappearances are related to the ‘Love Jihad’,” Simkin wrote.
"Multiple Hindu extremist groups held a rally at Mangalore's district headquarters on October 15, alleging that over 3,000 Hindu girls from the region and more than 30,000 from the rest of the state had gone missing since the alleged launch of the ‘Love Jihad’ in 2008, figures that were reportedly repeated on the websites of various Hindutva organizations..[However,] Official statistics reportedly show that 404 women were reported missing in 2009, and that police tracked down 332 of them," he added.
After concluding that the “Love Jihad” rumors were unfounded, Simkin warned that they were a sign of extreme cultural tension in the region.
"While it may be easy for outsiders to ridicule the ‘Love Jihad’ allegations,” Simkin said. “The fact that they have gained so much traction in the popular imagination illuminates the very real paranoia and social tensions that sometimes exist in relationships among Muslims, Hindus, and Christians in the region.”
"The ‘Love Jihad’ brouhaha also illustrates the perceived threat that many Hindus in the region feel from ‘forced conversions,’ and the general encroachment of ‘alien’ religious forces into what they see as a Hindu religious space. These perceptions – and the related tensions – will likely continue,” Simkin said.
India has had a long history of religious tension between Hindus and Muslims. With a population of 1.2 billion people, India is 80 percent Hindu but also has the third largest Muslim population in the world with approximately 150 million people (13 percent) professing to be Islam. The country also has a small Christian minority with 2.3 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.