Kerala Bishop’s comments on ‘narcotics jihad’ fan controversy

Addressing a church ceremony in Kuravilangad (Kottayam), Mar Joseph Kallaranghatt, Bishop of Pala Diocese of the Syro-Malabar church, said wherever arms cannot be used, drugs were being used to lure women belonging to the community for extremist activities.
Muslim outfits protested the priest’s statement, alleging that it was meant to create a communal divide in the state.(Shutterstock. Representative image)
Muslim outfits protested the priest’s statement, alleging that it was meant to create a communal divide in the state.(Shutterstock. Representative image)
Updated on Sep 10, 2021 07:59 AM IST
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ByRamesh Babu, Thiruvananthapuram

A Catholic bishop in Kerala on Thursday stoked controversy with his remarks that after “love jihad”, Catholic girls and youth were reportedly becoming victims of a “well-orchestrated narcotic jihad”.

“Love jihad” is a term often used by right-wing groups to describe unions between Muslim men and women belonging to other religion.

Muslim outfits protested the priest’s statement, alleging that it was meant to create a communal divide in the state.

Addressing a church ceremony in Kuravilangad (Kottayam), Mar Joseph Kallaranghatt, Bishop of Pala Diocese of the Syro-Malabar church, said wherever arms cannot be used, drugs were being used to lure women belonging to the community for extremist activities.

“Wherever arms are not used, narcotic drugs are being used and Catholic girls turn victims. Some groups are functioning in the state to help them. To understand this, one needs to analyse how women from other religions landed in the Islamic State camps,” he said.

The Bishop was referring to the visit of 21 people, including five converts to Islam, from north Kerala to Afghanistan in 2016 to reportedly join the Islamic State. Of the 21, six are believed to have been killed in Afghanistan.

“There is an increased use of drugs among the youth. People from other religions are being targeted deliberately by a particular group. There are people who are helping them also. Parents and others should be careful about this,” he said, decrying authorities for ignoring such activities.

The Catholic priest even said that those who try to establish that ‘love and narcotic jihad’ does not exist in the state, were just shutting their eyes to reality.

“Senior police officers and others admit ‘love Jihad” does exist. But political leadership and authorities are in hurry to dismiss them,” he said, exhorting believers to keep a strict vigil.

Cautioning Catholics against the presence of “jihadi elements”, who try to cultivate communalism, religious disharmony, intolerance and contempt across the world, the Bishop said they were using different means to destroy other religions.

Muslim organisations such as the Samasta Kerala Sunni Students Federation (SKSSF) and Kerala Naduvathul Mujahideen demanded the Bishop present evidence to substantiate his claims.

“He has to produce evidence to prove such serious allegations. This is a move intended to isolate Muslims and create a phobia against them. We hope he will withdraw his comment,” SKSSF secretary P Sathar said in a statement.

Sathar said they will ask the government to book the Bishop for creating a rift between different communities if the latter did not withdraw his remarks.

The CPI(M) is yet to react to the priest’s remarks.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, claimed the Left Democratic Front was turning a blind eye to such incidents (of “love jihad”) to indulge in vote bank politics.

“It (the government) is always in denial mode. When outgoing police chief Loknath Behra had said a few months back that some sleeper cells of the Islamic State were active in the state, the chief minister immediately denied it. It is part of appeasement politics,” BJP leader S Suresh said.

Several church outfits have in the past agreed to claims by right-wing groups that “love jihad” was prevalent in the state and that girls from the Christian community were being targeted.

The issue got fillip after the Hadiya case surfaced in 2017, wherein a Hindu dentist named Akhila Ashokan converted and married a Muslim man. She subsequently changed her name to Hadiya. While the Kerala high court annulled the union in the same year, the Supreme Court turned down the order in 2018 and allowed the couple to live together.

The incident had triggered a political and legal storm.

Church bodies have also written to Union home minister Amit Shah in the past, seeking an inquiry into “planned and well-executed conversion activities after trapping girls from other communities”.

Last year, pastoral letters on the alleged prevalence of “love jihad” in the state were read in several shrines of the Syro-Malabar church, prompting the National Minorities Commission to seek a report from then Kerala director general of police Loknath Behra into the matter.

The Left Front government, however, denied the charges, saying “sangh parivar outfits were behind this propaganda”.

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Monday, November 29, 2021