Bollywood leading man Saif Ali Khan, in a newspaper column, has criticized the concept of “love jihad,” an issue that has sparked several controversies in India. “Love jihad” is a term coined to describe an alleged plot where Muslim men lure girls of other religions to marry them and force them to convert to Islam.
In a column published in The Indian Express, Khan, who is married to a Hindu actress, said an inter-religion marriage between two people who love each other can never be termed “jihad.” In the column, he added that "intermarriage is India. India is a mix." His comments come amid the latest “love jihad” row in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh where a Hindu woman filed a complaint on Aug. 3 claiming she was abducted, gang-raped and forced to convert to Islam.
The case, which saw various political parties in India from across the ideological spectrum debating the issue, took a different turn after the 22-year-old woman filed a complaint against her parents on Oct. 12, alleging that she had run away from her house of her own free will with a Muslim man and had received death threats from her parents. She also reportedly said that her parents forced her to give a false statement.
In his column, Khan, who is born to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother, reportedly said that it was unfortunate that people valued religion more over “humanity and love.” However, the 44-year-old Indian actor reportedly said that the article was "not to comment on the masses or the problems of communalism in India and its villages."
In the column, Khan wrote about his parents -- father Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, a former captain of the Indian national cricket team and mother Sharmila Tagore, an Indian film actress and a Hindu by birth -- receiving death threats at the time of their marriage. He also added that he faced a similar predicament when he married Indian actress Kareena Kapoor in 2012.
"It wasn’t peacefully accepted by anyone, initially, when my parents wanted to marry,” Khan wrote in the Express, adding: "We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in. We talk about them and respect each other’s views. I hope our children will do the same.”
While talking about Islam, Khan said that he did not believe in the concept of “love jihad” and the definitions of religion and faith. "I know good people are scared of marrying their daughters to Muslims. They fear conversion, quick divorces, multiple marriages,” Khan wrote.
“A lot of Islam needs to modernise and renew itself in order to be relevant. We also need a loud moderate voice to separate the good from the evil. Islam today is more unpopular than it has ever been. This is a great shame to me.”