CAIRO – A court order to expel four Christian pastors on charges of using money to lure young Kashmiris into Christianity is sparking a heated controversy in the Muslim-majority province."Asking a few people to leave the state is no solution to religious conversions," Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani said in a statement from New Delhi, reported the Kashmir Times.“I am not in favor of the decision taken by the Shari`ah court, which is to banish a few people for their alleged role in conversions.”
The controversy began late last year when a video, uploaded on youtube, showed a pastor baptizing Muslim Kashmiri boys.
The Christian pastors were accused of bribing the young Kashmiris and children into conversions.
Consequently, a Kashmiri Shar`ah court issued on January 19, a ruling ordering the four Christian priests to leave the province for "luring Muslims to Christianity".
The court pronounced guilty CM Khanna, Gayoor Massi, Chandra Kanta and Jim Borst, and subsequently banned them from entering the valley.
It also directed the Kashmiri government to take over the management of missionary schools besides monitoring their activities.
“…The final conclusion is that they are being imposed life time ban to enter the state of Jammu and Kashmir on charges of propagating Christianity by inviting youth and exploiting their financial conditions thereafter,” the judgment said.
Geelani said it's the duty of every Muslim to protect members of the minority community.
"Muslims should protect their religion themselves; expelling somebody from Kashmir is no solution to the problem," Geelani said.
According to the Kashmir church, there are only 400 or so Christians in the Valley.
The figure is fiercely disputed by Muslims who insist that around 20,000 Kashmiris have converted to Christianity over the past two decades.Conversion Problem
The leading Kashmiri politician, however, recognizes that some Christians were proselytizing in Kashmir, calling on Islamic institutions to offer moral education to the youth.
“Conversion is an issue for the entire Muslim Ummah and we are against it. But throwing out a few people is not the solution,” Geelani told Kashmir Times.
“We need to set up educational institutions that will be based on Islam and where students could be given moral education. The schools must also offer modern education because we need doctors and engineers,” Geelani said, while talking to over phone from New Delhi.
He urged the Shari`ah court to address the “bigger problem” of “occupation”, which is “the root cause of every problem.”
“Our basic issue is occupation and we need to focus on it,” he said.
“Until this oppression ends we will face these issues. But if we start addressing the problems individually, it will affect our cause.”
But the court rejected Geelani's accusations, saying he twisted the facts for his benefits.
“Some years back when Biharis were found involved in immoral practices, Geelani was the first one to say that they shall not be allowed to enter Kashmir. Similarly, we have banned some Christians for spreading immoralities,” spokesman Ayaz Ahmad said.
“We have often condemned human rights abuses in the past and we will continue to do it in the future also.”
Kashmir is divided into two parts and ruled by India and Pakistan, which have fought two of their three wars since the 1947 independence over the region.
Pakistan and the UN back the right of the Kashmir people for self-determination, an option opposed by New Delhi.
Related Links:"Project Isa" to Christianize Asia Muslims
Christian Conversions Irk Bangladeshis
Christian Missionaries Eye Morocco
Do More to Convert UK Muslims: Bishop
Vatican Defends Proselytizing