Rights groups and civil society members in Kashmir have slammed a self-styled sharia court which ordered externment of four pastors from the state over allegations of forcible conversions.
The chief justice post of the sharia court too has been termed arbitrary.
Saleem Beg, head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage — which conserves historic sites in Kashmir — said, “We only have the seat of mufti azam (grand priest) who issues riwayat (religious backdrop of issues) and not fatwas. To issue fatwas, a sharia court needs the state’s legal backing, which this sharia court does not have. The chief justice designation is self-conferred.”
On January 19, the self-styled sharia court, headed by Mufti Bashiruddin, had issued a fatwa banning the entry of four pastors into Jammu and Kashmir after finding them “guilty of luring Muslims of Kashmir to Christianity by exploiting their financial conditions”.
Lawyer Pervez Imroz said, “Sharia is a board, not a court. It has no legality to extern any individual.” Rights activists see a ploy in the conversion row. “The clergy remained silent on all rights abuse issues in Kashmir before suddenly becoming active on the conversion issue,” said Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society coordinator Khurram Pervez.
Pervez pointed out it was the police which had externed pastor Jim Brost in 2010. “The clergy is being used as cover to chase other pastors.”
Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani too condemned the sharia court’s move and distanced the separatists’ conglomerate from it. “Banishing someone is no solution. As Muslims it is our responsibility to create awareness about Islam,” said Geelani, assuring security to the Christian minority in the valley.
“No Kashmiri can ignore the contribution of missionary schools like Burn Hall, Biscoe and Convent in the education system of the Valley,” the leader added.