For the last few days I have been seeing multiple people share a news article about how the Delhi Imam’s son is going to marry a Hindu girl. The people who shared this were very happy about how this has come like a whiff of fresh air in a nation which is struggling with a lot of communal troubles at the moment. It looked like a bold and rather revolutionary move in the right direction from a rather unexpected source. However, the truth is that most of the people who shared this news calling it “a ray of hope” have been blinded by the misleading headlines given by almost all the news sites which published this news and never bothered to read the entire piece. If they had done that they would have seen it was clearly mentioned that the Imam agreed to the wedding only when the girl agreed to convert to Islam and even started learning Quran verses.

How is this in any way a ray of hope in a nation where religion plays a major role in deciding who you marry? Now before you brand me an instigator to religious hatred, I am not writing about Islam alone or the so-called “love jihad” which I have never understood. I am writing about all those people from all the religions who believe firmly that someone can be married into their family only if that person belongs to their religion already or is ready to convert to their religion. In most cases, it is the girl who is asked to convert. But there have also been cases where boys have done it too.

What on earth does “convert” even mean? How can you make a person let go of all her beliefs, her faith just so that she can marry the person she loves? And even if you succeed in doing that, does it mean it wipes out every existing belief from her mind? The age-old strategy of talking about how the kids will “suffer” if there is no common religion in the family is so dumb in this age when even the government has started giving an option to not select any religion in forms to be filled. And there is no rule that you have to make sure the kid belongs to one religion or can’t accept the good of two religions at the same time. The truth is that we just need a blindfold for the society, a proof to the society that the new bride (or sometimes groom) has become a part of “our group” officially. It is ridiculous to say the least. It is theoretically in no way different from the forcible conversion done by fanatic groups, by putting a gun to a person’s head. Only, in this case the gun is the risk of losing the one you love.

And I don’t understand “love” when the boy doesn’t say a word against the family when they ask the girl to convert, and sometimes asks the girl to do it on his own accord. Is that what is meant by “unconditional love”? Does that mean “I l fell in love with you knowing you are from another religion, went ahead with the relation knowing you are from another religion, but if we have to get married you have to forsake your religion and embrace mine”? If he can’t even marry her for the person she is and just the way she has been when he fell in love with her, does he even deserve her?

Sadly, a lot of people don’t give an answer to themselves when they are blindly in love. In their desperation to not lose their beloved they are ready to make a sacrifice and forsake everything they ever believed in. True, there might be some who are happy to do it and I am no one to say they shouldn’t. But they miss the point that it is not just about converting from one religion to another. It is about whether the other person accepts them for who they are irrespective of the difference in their beliefs. If they don’t, then maybe they need to think twice whether they are really worth it.

Maybe I feel so strongly about it because I have myself been told by the mother of a guy I was seeing that she could agree to our relation only if I agreed to convert to Christianity. It saddened and irritated me so much to think about the hypocrisy in indirectly saying, “Prove to us that you will let go of everything that matters to you for this, and we will accept you into the family”. Thankfully I wasn’t really keen on impressing her and anyway we had other reasons to end the relation. That is one reason I really admire a person very close to me (not writing his name as he wouldn’t like me invading his privacy in a public blog post). When he decided to get married to his girlfriend who was a Christian, he was very firm in letting his family know he would never have her convert to Hinduism, the religion he was brought up in. Seven years down the lane, they are one of the happiest couple I know and belonging to different religions has never come between them or their families. I guess that says it all. But unfortunately, even today a lot of relationships crumble and end because the lovers belong to different religions or even different castes within the same religion.

The whole point is, someone wanting to follow one religion or the other or be an atheist or agnostic is all his/her personal choice. There are people who learn about a new religion and embrace it because they find it good for them. There are a lot of examples for this like poet Madhavikutty embracing Islam, actress Julia Roberts embracing Hinduism etc. But it had nothing to do with marriage, it had nothing to do with another person, it had only to do with them. And when we realize that, we will have “a ray of hope”.