An article in the New York Times reported about he forced conversion of Hindu families in the Badin district of Sindh province in southern Pakistan especially during the pandemic times. Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus of Pakistan are systemically victimised and experts fear that minorities could totally be wiped out from the Islamic Republic.
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The Hindus conducted the Islamic prayer clumsily in soliciting to their new, single god, as they were about to leave their numerous deities behind them. Their lips wavered over Arabic phrases that, once recited, would seal their conversion to Islam. The last words pronounced, the men and boys were then circumcised.
Treated as second-class citizens in their own country, the Hindus of Pakistan are discriminated in almost every phase of their lives. The minorities have always been forced to convert in order to join the majority. With this, they try to escape discrimination and sectarian violence says NYT.
Hindu community leaders say that the recent uptick in conversions has also been triggered by the economic crisis in the country due to Covid-19 pandemic. Pakistan’s economy is on the brink of collapse and the pressure on the country’s minorities remains extremely high.
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The economy will contract by 1.3 percent in the 2020 fiscal year because of the pandemic, the World Bank predicts. It is estimated that up to 18 million of Pakistan’s 74 million jobs will be lost. The minorities will be hit the hardest.
What we are seeking is social status, nothing else,” said Aslam Sheikh, whose name was Sawan Bheel until June 2020 before he turned to Islam. “These conversions are becoming very common in poor Hindu communities. There is nothing wrong with that, everyone helps the people of their faith, ” says Sheikh.
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Proselytizing Islamic clerics and welfare organizations add to the faith’s appeal, offering attractive incentives like jobs or land to poverty-stricken minority members if they convert to Islam.
Sheikh’s family hopes to find support from, if not the wealthy Muslims, then at-least from Islamic foundations that have opened up in recent years, with the aim to luring more people towards Islam.
One of the clerics who has been spearheading the mission to erase the white colour from Pakistan’s flag (white colour in the Pakistan flag represents minorities) told NYT that he had more than 450 conversions to his credit and most of the converts were low-caste Hindus from Sindh Province.
Demand was so great, he added, that his seminary had set up a separate department to guide the new converts and provide counsel in legal or financial matters.
NYT writes that wealthy landlords deceive poor Hindus into subjugation by granting loans that can never be repaid. Unable to pay loans, they along with their families are put into forced labour. The women are often sexually exploited.
The Islamic ‘welfare organizations’ rescues these people, releases them from bonded labour by paying off their debts, only if they convert to Islam.
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Lower-caste Pakistani Hindus are often the victims of bonded labour. It was banished in 1992, but the practice is still widespread. The Global Slavery Index estimates that over three million Pakistanis live in debt bondage.
The brutality against minorities in addition to the dreadful times we are living in — a vulnerable economy and the global pandemic — we may see a raft of people turning to Islam to stave off injustice or hunger or just to live to see another day, said Farahnaz Ispahani, a former Pakistani lawmaker.
Via: New York Times. Edited By EurAsian Times Desk