There are two kinds of love jihad, one of which goes wholly overlooked. The brand reported is the one in which male youth of a minority community reportedly wage war against the majority community and its religion, using the A-bomb of love. The community that is thus believed to be in grave danger is one which has a unique and unmatched history of holding its own against the might and menace of waves after waves of aggression and domination over centuries. This notwithstanding, a tremor of fear is created that a few love-mad urchins, armed with no more than honey-dripping professions of passion, are conspiring to overpower this ancient of faiths and re-conquer the enlightened community it nourishes.
What concerns us for the time being is not the jihad waged by lovers, but by the more potent jihad that the persecutors of love are waging against the lovers for imperiling their faith and social stability with the incendiary arsenals of love. Surprisingly, this jihad against love, and the hunting of lovers it mandates, fail to evoke the surprise and concern it should. The underlying dogma is that by hating and persecuting love, a member of a community expresses his religious fervor more authentically than a youth of another community does by loving according to the order of the day. That this tacit assumption insults the community concerned does not seem to bother anyone!
There is a reason why this situation speaks powerfully to me. I am a product of love jihad. I have seen it from the other side — the side of beleaguered love. Hence the words that follow.
I cannot help laughing when the impression is sought to be created that what is mistakenly called "love jihad" sprang in the last season like a mushroom. I deem it also a symptom of cultural illiteracy when people behave as though love started crossing man-made walls only the other day. Every saga of love we know from history, legend and folklore, has surmounted such barriers. Actually, it is in the nature of love to overleap boundaries. That being the case, it stands to reason that love comes fully into its own when it transcends barriers and breaks fetters. Love is a jihad; in every context, every instance. It is a jihad — the only holy war — against the demons of narrow-mindedness maintained by pettiness and perversity.
There is a reason why this situation speaks powerfully to me. Photo: India Today
So, a bit of my story. My mother, a Syrian Christian, married a Hindu Brahmin some 70 years ago. Neither she, nor the unsuspecting Hindu victim she "waylaid" and "captured" was a pioneer in this field. They belonged to an ancient and valued tradition of love-sagas that refused to stay confined to man-made ghettos.
In the Hindu community, only a fanatic fringe wages war against interfaith marriage. In my case, the whole community does. The hypocrisy in this needs to be reckoned. More than any other scripture, it is the Bible that insists that God is love. Yet the Christian community is more ferocious in its attack on expressions of love that are not sanctioned by the religious establishment.
The Bible doesn’t say “God is Christian love” and not “Hindu love,” or “Muslim love”. On the contrary, the Bible says that “God loves the world”. Surely, the world includes others, besides Christians!
The pattern I find is this, it is the value that a scripture deems supreme that its faith community violates most. In the Hindu tradition, "God is truth". Only consider the plight of truth in our culture; no further argument is needed to establish the pattern I posit here.
As members of a society that wishes to be sane, we need to confront the reality of the jihad against love waged by self-styled soldiers and saviours of all religions. They pretend to be animated by love for God. So, they too are lovers? In this theatre of love jihad therefore, we have an unequal battle formation. On the one side there are stray, beleaguered individuals, who are touched by the madness of love. On the other side is a whole organised army, frenzied by religious zeal, determined to protect their gods from human love by any means. This "organized army" is universal; custodians of every religion zealously endorse its agenda of hate and cruelty.
Well, it is not just romantic love alone that is deemed dangerous. Love of any kind which does flow along the prescribed track is anathema.
Here is what happened to me just the other day.
Swami Agnivesh came to visit me for a few days. I have been associated with him for more than two decades and found him to be a person of spiritual stature. I decided, therefore, to provide an opportunity to fellow worshippers in my congregation to interact with him informally.
Accordingly, invitations were sent out. This terrified the zealous priest in-charge. Think of the members of a church being exposed to those who do not "receive communion"? He exhorted the congregation to keep away from this exposure and to save their faith. They did, to the last man! So, I cannot help laughing when fellow Christians complain of rising intolerance among Hindu fringe groups. As a zealous Christian priest, it is my deepest conviction that the spiritual shallowness and pettiness of the Christian community is a far greater danger to the biblical faith than any external threat or peril.
Here, then, is the perverse paradox. God is love. God’s love is universal. As Jesus says, God loves the good and the evil. He causes his rain to come upon saints and sinners. Love rejects labels and spurns fetters. What stays chained by man-made notions and norms is anything but love. Love is an invitation to cross man-made walls; first, the boundaries of one’s own shallowness and small-mindedness.
Love is the medium through which freedom, justice and peace become real for humankind. And if it makes a few or many insecure, so be it.