Under duress: A paper signed, a lifetime altered

A victim of forced conversion and marriage recalls her horrific tale.


Rabia Ali October 12, 2013
A victim of forced conversion and marriage recalls her horrific tale. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI:


“I am a Christian and I will always remain one,” silently vowed M* as the man holding a gun forced her to sign on a paper that declared her a Muslim.


Months later, the 24-year-old escaped from the armed man, who had forcibly abducted her, converted her to his faith and married her. And yet, she was wrong to believe that her troubles were finally over.

For victims of forced conversions and marriages, the problems hardly ever go away, even if they are lucky enough to return to their previous lives.

Song of sorrow

Clad in a black burqa, M glances around nervously as she recalls the tale of her abduction, forced conversion and wedding last year. A stranger, Yasin*, saw her at a bus stop in Clifton when she was going home from the dental clinic she worked at. For days, he stalked and harassed her and finally proposed to her. She refused and insulted him.

Then, in October, an armed Yasin, along with his two friends, allegedly kidnapped her near Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine. Within hours, she became a Muslim and Yasin’s wife.

“He married me but he never respected me,” says M, breaking down into tears. “He would insult my religion all the time. He would even let his friends abuse me.”

A missing person complaint was lodged at the Clifton police station by M’s family on October 26, 2012, but the police hardly pursued the case.

Meanwhile, M passed her days locked up in a single room, regularly beaten up and forced to do household chores for her in-laws, who also lived with her.  “They would keep on saying that I should be grateful to them because they had converted me,” she says quietly.

A past life up in flames

Two months ago, M managed to escape after finding the key hidden by her husband, who was asleep at that time.

However, upon return, M has found that the life she left behind is no longer waiting for her. Her father wants her to go back to her Muslim husband and silently bear the torture.

“I cannot risk the lives of my other four daughters,” he says sadly. “I know she was forced to change her religion but people can hurt us and say that since she has become a Muslim, she can’t follow Christianity.”

M’s existence is stifled, to say the least. She cannot openly declare that she did not accept Islam by heart, nor can she go to a church and kneel down. She is currently in hiding, as she fears her husband may still be looking for her.

Noel Alfonse of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, to whom a priest referred the case, says that it is the third incident of Christian conversion that they have received since the beginning of the year. “Families such as M’s are not willing to pursue cases when their daughters are forcefully converted and married,” explains Noel. “They fear backlash from the perpetrators.”

Noel has been investigating the case, and the whereabouts of the perpetrator. The Express Tribune has, so far, been unable to trace Yasin.

No compulsion in religion

Mufti Naeem, a Muslim scholar of Jamia Binoria, says that Islam does not allow forced conversions, and M was very much a Christian even today.

“There is no compulsion in Islam. No one can be forced to become a Muslim. This is against religion’s laws,” states the mufti categorically. “Also, marriages cannot be forced.”

Reverend Shahid Sabir of the Holy Trinity Church concurs with Mufti Naeem.

“Religion and faith is a personal decision. And that decision cannot be forced,” says the reverend, adding that M will have to publicly take her Christian vows again.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2013.

COMMENTS (8)

Feroz | 8 years ago | Reply

All of Pakistan must congratulate itself with what they have done to oppressed minorities of their country. Multiple cases of rape, forced conversions and marriages have been reported but nota single conscience in the land of pure has stirred. My hearty congratulations to Rabia Ali and a few other journalists of her ilk, for bringing this dehumanizing story to light. Just rewards from Allah is on the way.

Raj - USA | 8 years ago | Reply

@fahad: "Forced marriages are not allowed either which is why the girl is asked thrice if she is willing and even after that they (women) have the right to khulla if she finds that she cannot have a life with that man."

You say the girl is asked three times. This is what I have said also in my comment, just below your's . The girl is kidnaped and asked to say that she agrees when others are holding a gun to her head. The Chief Justice did not allow the Rinkle to meet with her parents also and confined her to an islamic institution where she was coerced and threatened that her entire hindu family will be victimized.

You also say that the muslim girl has right to khulla. I watched one tv debate. Oria Maqbool Jan said to Dr. Farzana Bari that in Islam a woman has a right to divorce if (1) it is part of the Nikha or Marriage agreement and (2) This is a 'DELEGATED RIGHT" given to the woman and the husband can take it away at any time if he so wishes even if it is part of on nikha or marriage agreement. Yes, "Delegated Right' that can be taken away from her at any time by her husband is what Oria Maqbool Jan who all TV anchors call an "Intellectual" said.

When did we last hear of Rinkle, Asha and Latha. Nothing was heard of them since their conversion and marriage. Where are they and how are they now. Can Bilawal Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan say anything on this or demand a probe in their cases, at the minimum? THE HINDU GIRLS WERE FACING THESE ATROCITIES FOR A LONG TIME. NOW IT LOOKS LIKE THE CHRISTIAN GIRLS WERE ALSO FACING THESE ATROCITIES FOR A LONG TIME. ONLY THAT IT IS COMING TO LIGHT NOW. IN THE CURRENT ERA OF INTERNET, CELL PHONE CAMERAS, SOCIAL NETWORKING, BLOGS, ETC. NOTHING CAN REMAIN HIDDEN. IT WAS POSSIBLE EARLIER WHEN WE HAD PRINT MEDIDUM ONLY AND THE AUTHORS CAN CHOSE TO HIDE ANYTHING THEY WANT TO HIDE.

VIEW MORE COMMENTS
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ

E-Publications

Most Read