Protect me from my parents, says girl who ‘freely’ converted to marry Muslim man

Published: July 22, 2012

Hawa said during a press conference at the Karachi Press Club that she was a Dalit before she converted to Islam on July 9. PHOTO: NNI

KARACHI: 

A seemingly underage girl, Hawa Bibi, who claimed that she converted to Islam to marry her current husband, has asked the government to protect her and her in-laws from her parents, who had registered a case against them.

Wearing a pretty Baloch dress, Hawa said during a press conference at the Karachi Press Club that she was a Dalit before she converted to Islam on July 9. She said that her previous name was Heerki, and she said that she was the youngest among her nine siblings. The girl’s highly polished computerised national identity card, however, mentioned her date of birth as January 1, 1985. She presented her father’s name as Babu Bheel.

The newlywed couple hail from Essar Pura, Shaheed Benazirabad district. Hawa’s family reportedly lived near Baloch’s family, and used to visit them quite often. “She was highly enthusiastic about Islamic customs, and insisted that I help her convert to Islam,” said Hameeda Baloch, Amir’s mother. “I advised her to ask parents first. We have not forced her to change her religion. There was also no love affair involved.”

“Bibi wanted to convert to Islam, and Hameeda gave her shelter. Hawa is not underage,” said Rao Faheem, a social worker who accompanied Hawa and her in-laws at the press conference.

“My mother asked me to marry her, and I could not deny her orders. Hawa is nearly eight years older than me, but I accepted her as my wife because she changed her religion,” said Amir, who is a rickshaw driver.

Faheem claimed that a fake case was registered against the Baloch family, and that the police were “creating problems” for the couple.

Bibi just replied that Islam is a good religion. “It is my own wish and no one had forced me to change my religion. I am happy with my new life,” she added.

Zeenat Naz, Amir’s aunt and the Pakistan Peoples Party’s ladies wing president for Keamari, said that all possible protection should be provided to the couple. “I will ask party leaders to help them.”

Forced conversions

The issue has prompted much debate in Pakistan. Similar incidents involving Rinkle Kumari and Dr Lata Kumari caused outrage in some segments of society a couple of months back.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Amarnath Motumal had claimed that “[Nearly] 20 to 22 girls are converted every month [in Sindh],” but their families do not go public as they fear the incident will ruin their reputation. Rinkle’s family, who hailed from Mirpur Mathelo, managed to organise a sizeable public response to the situation, and her case went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The National Assembly’s standing committee on national harmony decided on July 16 to forward its recommendations to forced conversion laws already on the books to the law ministry. Some of the key recommendations included prescribing life sentences, as well as financial penalties, for those found involved in the practice. The victims should also have access to a place where they could think about the issue without any pressure from outside groups. Commissions should be established in provinces where such complaints could be brought up.

A resolution against forced conversion was also moved by minority MPAs in the Sindh Assembly and it is still in the doldrums. Saleem Khursheed Khokhar and Pitamber Sewani argued in the resolution that a ban should be imposed on forceful conversions and proposed strict punishment against those people found involved in the practice.

However, in a legal setback, a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain dismissed a petition filed by the Pakistan Hindu Council in May 2012. The council had asked the court to direct relevant authorities to promulgate a law making forceful conversions a cognisable offence. The bench, in its ruling, cited Article 20 of the constitution, which protects religious freedoms of citizens.

With additional input by news desk

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.

Reader Comments (13)

  • Adolft Hitler
    Jul 22, 2012 - 1:11AM

    sad, long live nazi sosialism!

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  • Jul 22, 2012 - 1:40AM

    A seemingly underage girl

    What kind of journalism is that?

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  • Pungi
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:00AM

    There are numerous such cases which hardly get highlighted…There were many voices for Rinkle lets see how many for Hawa..?

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  • Akshay
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:11AM

    I didn’t get one thing? Why she converted if she wanted to marry the Muslim guy? If a Muslim girl falls in love with Hindu man, can she convert too?

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  • tomp
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:13AM

    So the girl comes out and Openly admits to converting on her own ans yet you use circumstantial language and tone to reduce her credibility. Here is a shocker .people do convert to Islam of their own freewill accept and move on

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  • Raj - USA
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:57AM

    Overall, no problem here.
    The girl does not look a minor. So it is OK as far as the age is concerned. However, marriage is involved which casts some doubt on the incidence. Why a marriage is always involved in conversions to Islam. Thought the one who converts and the other who converted both do it for love of Islam. Looks like more of a lust than love.

    “The girl’s highly polished computerised national identity card, however, mentioned her date of birth as January 1, 1985.”
    Highly polished Computerized national identity card ????? What does it mean ?? Some doubts? Birth date of January 1, though possible also raises questions. Jan. 1 ???
    What was her name in the National Identity Card? Her old name or new name? May be her new name and the card was made up after the conversion. So, highly polished card and birth date Jan. 1. Also she got her card in record time after her conversion.

    Other paragraphs reveal lot more:
    “Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Amarnath Motumal had claimed that “[Nearly] 20 to 22 girls are converted every month [in Sindh],”

    “A resolution against forced conversion was also moved by minority MPAs in the Sindh Assembly and it is still in the doldrums.”

    “However, in a legal setback, a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain dismissed a petition filed by the Pakistan Hindu Council in May 2012. The council had asked the court to direct relevant authorities to promulgate a law making forceful conversions a cognisable offence. The bench, in its ruling, cited Article 20 of the constitution, which protects religious freedoms of citizens.”

    Great. Supreme Court judges, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan rule that Article 20 of the Constitution protects Forced Conversions.

    Are the Mullas and Saudi influence to be blamed for these atrocities? May be to some extent. But real ones that are responsible are the elite class, law makers, educated and somewhat educated middle class society of Pakistan, who encourage and provide support and probably incite the Mullas to these atrocious acts. Over the many years Pakistan has turned itself to be a country that cannot accept others or live with others. This is the reason that terrorists caught anywhere in the world were found to have a Pakistan connection. Now Pakistanis cannot live with themselves also and we see the rise in sectarian killings in Pakistan. The elite class is more to be blamed than the Mullas. After all it was the elite Establishment and not the Mullas who sheltered OBL.

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  • Jul 22, 2012 - 6:15AM

    I am sure everyone remembers the stories run by ET that Hindu women in Pakistan are being forced to accept Islam …. well, here we have quite a surprise, dont we!

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  • Sky
    Jul 22, 2012 - 7:12AM

    Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Many people are seeing light and hope in this faith. I personally think no body can force religion on you, it has to come from heart.

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  • SK
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:24PM

    Nobody could dare to comment on this girl as “seemingly underage”, apart from a poor excuse of editorial hindsight (to give the story a slant, of course). Bad journalism!

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  • BlackJack
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:56PM

    Pointless.

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  • Sunny
    Jul 22, 2012 - 6:04PM

    Seems Hindu Parents are very dangrous in Pakistan , as if they are supporting Talibans that always girls fear and go to press club to report that they are being threatened by her Parents , Can anybody please remind me when last time a Hindu in Pakistan was found involved in murder, torture or any sort of violence ?

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  • Raj - USA
    Jul 22, 2012 - 8:31PM

    @Sky:
    “Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. Many people are seeing light and hope in this faith. I personally think no body can force religion on you, it has to come from heart.”

    May or may not be true. There is no authentic statistics other than claims by Muslims themselves that Islam is the fastest growing religion. Even if it is true there are many reasons other than seeing the light and hope in Islam. However, what is true is that, it is Muslims who kill more Muslims compared to Muslims killed by others. In Pakistan, it has always been Pakistan Muslims killing more Pakistan Muslims. This was true during Bangladesh war and even today within the remaining part of Pakistan. In Pakistan’s context, almost all conversions with some rare exception, are by force, inducement or threat. Also those who involved in converting others have a fear that the newly converted may revert back to their original religion. This is the reason why the girls are immediately married off to Muslims. This is also the reason why the girls are prevented from meeting her family members. In essence, the entire past of the girl is forcefully erased. When these converted girls become mothers and their children do not know anything about their mother’s past or her side of relatives, most likely they shall not grow up to be normal human beings. This would cause a serious social problem not only for themselves but for the entire society. We are seeing many manifestations of these today in the form of extremism and terrorism. Most, if not all Muslims in Pakistan say that a Muslim cannot change to any other religion. Does this show the strength of Islam to hold a person to the faith by conviction or is it a weakness that Muslims, even those who have been converted lack conviction and have to be held by force?

    It is correct, as you say, “I personally think no body can force religion on you, it has to come from heart:. This would be true if a girl converts to Islam after being in love with a Muslim boy for a period of time and not if she converts and gets married off immediately even with a boy who in many cases is not even compatible to the girl in age or other aspects.

    Whenever you hear forceful conversion, everyone including Muslims, will associate “forceful conversions” to Islam only. This is a fact. Other religions have also indulged in conversion but you don’t hear of force and they do it by convincing and educating others to follow their faith, which is perfectly acceptable. Importantly, those converted girls are not married off immediately after conversion. They also do not prevent converted to reconvert as they feel that their religion has its inner strengths. Nor do they prevent conversion from their own.

    In Pakistan’s context, many of the social evils such as intolerance, and to a good extent terrorism, are a result of so many years in unethical conversion activities, which problem now has grown up to targeting of one sect of Muslims by other sect of Muslims.

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  • Abdul Qayyum Bhatti
    Jul 22, 2012 - 11:49PM

    Very good and well balanced news story.
    All sort of sources have been mentioned. History is also there. Journalist’s own voice is also there.

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