The world has evermore grown up into a society of intolerance, hatred and Injustice owing to borders, finances and religious divisions. Political borders have caused many a wars in many eras as pointed out in history. Whilst the differences between the rich and poor have fluctuated variously through the ages it never caused immense animosity against each other. Religious divisions that have not been highlighted in the history books but well known and experienced by masses in various time periods are being pointed out immensely as we have stepped into the age of conversions once again.
In the current time there are innumerable conversions happening around the world some being forced upon people, some under threat, some willingly and some caused by enticement or financial help. It is interesting to note that those who convert from their original religion by birth into another either overlook or fail to see through the after effects of doing so.
The Late reverend Hindu Saint Dada J.P. Vaswani hugely emphasized to people to always remain true to their mother tongue and religion. He taught that if a person had not understood his own religion and got attracted to another then that person is not capable of following the other religion as well. I tend to agree with Dada on that after having met some people who have converted from their original religion to another and yet they felt the need to convert into a third religion.
Why does one feel the need to adopt a new religion?
This happens when someone is not satisfied with their own religion or it’s practices. Such a person who feels lost and at failure during challenging times becomes an easy prey to conversion expecting a whole huge difference to his life by adopting another religion.
Such a person in all probability has neither studied, nor understood his or her own religious beliefs and practices. One looks at the outwardly practice of rituals and decides that to be his religion is definitely a lost person. If the same person gets educated about his religion and follows the principles fervently with the basics clear in his mind, he would never think of converting to another.
It wouldn’t be wrong to compare this convert to a child who instead of going into his own classroom walks into another classroom because he is attracted to the drawing on the blackboard there. The child who is an art student finds the drawing of an aero plane parts attractive but fails to fit into the class as the technical teaching goes beyond his comprehension.
Does adopting a new religion really help a person?
The answer would be Yes and No. A person who discards his own and adopts something new might be happier than before as he gets assurance and a nice welcome by other followers. With time he begins to realize the effects of his decision that become a Game-changer for his life.
Whilst for some the initial guidance and financial aid that comes as an enticement becomes a blessing for others it becomes a forced point of no return. There are those who have felt the suffocation of following their adopted religion with the realization that had they practiced theirs originally they would have fitted in much better and stayed comfortably among their own as opposed to being an outsider elsewhere.
How Culturally Rich does a convert feel?
A convert shall always be known as a convert. Having lost his own cultural heritage he can never be a hereditary to an adopted culture. This person might practice the norms of the adopted religion and even propagate about it but the fact remains that this adopted religion cannot erase his roots from him. Hence he becomes a partial follower of one religion with an immensely huge lineage of another which he may discard socially but is unable to discard from his true self. Such a convert may feel very incomplete, unsatisfied and often faces dilemma in challenging times.
When the question arises of using one’s background knowledge one feels very comfortable referring back to incidents and teachings one has grown up to. The sudden shift that comes with adopting another religion leaves one with no such strong foothold to balance upon. One is then left at total mercy of borrowing a leaf or two of the adopted path without satisfaction and realizes his error at having moved.
A person who is a victim of forced conversion itches to no end when he is made to do things that stand against his tenets of faith. Such a convert lives a split life with fear, hatred and incompetence accompanied by guilt and helplessness. Given a chance such converts should try to take an exit route and reconvert back to their original religion to live in dignity.
Converts are usually looked down upon by most members of the society. They are neither deserving of respect from their own nor earners of loyalty from their adopted own. They lose a very vital grip on their sense of belonging and this listlessness leads them astray often. They become religious nomads and some of them having found no satisfaction in the long run, ashamed to return to their own look for other open avenues and become targets to further conversions to other religions.
Story of a Religious Nomad
I would like to share a story here in the context. I once had a Hindu friend who was an ardent believer of Bhagwan. To protect her identity let’s give her a name here – Bindu. She used to have religious gatherings and “Gayatri Mantra” chanting sessions in her house. Everything was going on smoothly when a calamity stuck the family. Her husband became sick and eventually passed away. Bindu’s husband used to drink a lot and that had nothing to do with their being Hindu.
As fate would have it soon after that Bindu’s brother in law ( husband ‘s brother) was shot at gunpoint by unknown attacker. Bindu was now left alone to fend for herself. Shenny the pastor in her neighborhood noticed Bindu’s vulnerability and entered the scene with a hidden agenda. She appeared to be sympathetic for Bindu’s loss as she paid a condolence visit. In no time, she asked Bindu’s permission to say a prayer that would help her grieving heart.
Sadness was at a peak, obviously Bindu welcomed the prayers which to her surprise went on for over ten minutes or so. She observed Jesus was mentioned several times during the prayer as Shenny urged him to take care of this young widow, her future, her house, her dog, her car. Shenny’s visits were more frequent and Bindu welcomed this new friend who came to lift her away from sorrow. It was a matter of few months and there was now no sign of any Hindu idols or relics in Bindu’s house. She was now a convert and seemed very happy with her new identity as a Christian.
It didn’t take her much time to learn the do’s and don’ts of the new game but soon Shenny had distanced herself probably looking for another pawn to pounce upon. Initially when she attended the Sunday morning service she would get a big welcome and felt elated but within weeks she realized she felt like an outsider there. She missed her Hindu prayers that would normally give her comfort but to do that would be a betrayal to her newfound faith. Christianity wasn’t wrong at all but the fault lay deep within her inbuilt deep rooted thoughts. She felt displaced : no longer a Hindu and not a complete Christian. She was restless and losing sleep and security about herself.
It was then that a handsome looking widower friend Amin came to the rescue. He tried to help her by keeping her entertained in various activities so her mind was occupied. Bindu now felt better and resumed working at the salon where she worked. An Year of being in close friendship Amin and Bindu took each other to be husband and wife.
Now the Hindu woman by birth, Christian by conversion had turned to be a Muslim by marriage. She was brave enough to go through these changes but wasn’t accepted by Amin’s family at large. The grudge against his family that had shunned them pushed the couple away from Islam too. They are a happy couple but they have no belonging to any temple, any church, any mosque as they are outcasts of all.
Did this hopping of religions help Bindu? She became a religious nomad eventually losing out a lot in life. She had lost her old friends, her relatives as well as Amin’s family and now lives with a faint hope of re-uniting with her family once again. So much for shifting her faith has now left her feeling week within but she puts on a brave front to uplift her dear husband Amin. Wonder if he too regrets the decision of helping someone in her loneliness which was in fact a noble deed.
Abandoned at death
This is Mira’s story who belonged to a well known devout Hindu Brahman family. Mira had learnt Ramayana and Geeta in story form by her parents and grandparents all through her childhood. As she was growing, she attended Bal Vihar classes to be educated about various aspects of Hindu religion. But love knows no boundaries and she found a non Hindu life partner.
Rauf was the son of a well known industrialist in the country. His father Nadeem was well respected in the society for his philanthropic ways. Mira and Rauf eventually tied the knot with the approval of both their families and she soon became a charmer of the family. Nadeem and Afsana doted over their daughter in law, without putting any pressures on her to practice any staunch religious practices.
Life seemed to be smooth sailing and the couple had two kids who obviously got Islamic names, were taught Quran as a norm in any Muslim family. Mira did not dare to bring about Hindu religious education towards her children as she herself had gradually suppressed her link to it. Then came the storm to rule over the calm : Mira was diagnosed with Leukemia. She was taken to the best of the doctors and even traveled to the western lands for treatment but succumbed to the deadly disease whilst under treatment in Dubai.
Her funeral was a big question mark as she wasn’t a Muslim but was part of a Muslim family. In her own African country too this was a taboo as in Dubai. Mira was bound by religions even in death. Her cremation wasn’t permitted because she was a Muslim by law. Her burial wasn’t permitted as she was a Hindu by birth. The family was in a dilemma and finally had to fly down to India with her body to give her a final send off. It is anyone’s guess what sort of funeral it would have been where no friends or relatives were present as it was a hushed affair of which the family chose not to speak about.
Social boycott of a star
Anju, a Hindu, worked as a TV anchor at one of the popular TV stations . Her husband Murtaza , a Bohra Muslim doted on her. The couple were absolutely love bound and to be accepted by her husband’s family Anju even consented to convert her religion.
Two years after their marriage, Anju noticed something changing in herself so went for a medical check which led to the discovery of her having cancer. Murtaza felt the biggest Need of family support at this time when Anju was gradually going low by the day. They were tight economically but his family opted to step back expressing their annoyance of her profession which demanded her freedom to mingle with men other than their community and gave her exposure to be on air, which wasn’t community based occupation.
Anju’s parents received threats about their younger daughter’s safety from Murtaza’s family if they chose to support their daughter in any way. It did not really bother them much initially for they had severed ties with her , following her decision to marry outside her community.
However, with the help of well wishing friends the couple traveled overseas for Anju’s treatment. Few years down the line, post being cancer free and back to normalcy, she was struck by cancer once again and this time it was a tougher challenge as the disease was spreading faster than before.
Finally, Anju succumbed to the disease, leaving behind a grieving Murtaza who felt very lonely and betrayed not only by Anju who had left her physical body but also being betrayed by his family who did not give him even a shoulder to cry upon in his time of grief.
The entire community decided to stay away from the funeral including his family just because Anju came from a Hindu family. He pleaded to her family, for Anju’s cremation but they too refused to step in as they felt she wasn’t a Hindu at the time of her death. Her religious conversion had led to her social boycott in death amid the irony of her being a very popular Anchor, with a bright attitude and chirpy sweet voice and abundant fans.
The conversion code
I wonder, what happens to people when they find someone converted to another religion. It must be such a suffocating feeling. To sum up in short, conversion from one’s original religion brings about a challenge of sorts, hence one should really think over, weigh out the pros and cons before taking the plunge.
Non acceptance possibly from one’s own
Non acceptance possibly from those who force to convert
Non acceptance possibly from those who witness one to convert
Feeling of rejection
Feeling of being an outsider
Feeling like a misfit at the opposite ends
Feeling lost from one’s roots
Losing one’s original identity
Losing religious inheritance
Losing the emotional and spiritual security
Boycott possibly from the Society
Boycott possibly from near and dear one’s
Losing the culture and traditions one grows up with
Losing the bonding with oneself
Finding no foothold
Losing respect in society
p.s. : The stories mentioned are inspired by true stories with few alterations. The characters have been given fictional names to prevent their identity.