KARACHI – Providing guidance for new reverts, a Pakistani Islamic school has established a multi-purpose camp to teach new Muslims the basic principles of Islam and provide them with legal counseling and financial support.
“This shelter home will be reserved only for newly-reverted Muslims,” Mufti Mohammad Naeem, the principal of International Binoria University Karachi, one of the biggest and well-equipped religious seminaries in Pakistan, told OnIslam.net.
“The prime idea behind setting up of this shelter home is to teach them the basic knowledge of Islam so that they could mold their future lives in accordance with that.”
|New Converts and Their Parents|
The seminary has established a shelter camp in Karachi for new reverts to teach them the Islamic teachings.
“We feel that there is a dire need of such shelter homes across the country,” Naeem, who himself reverted to Islam several years ago, said.
“Even those (non-Muslims) who revert to Islam after understanding the teachings of Islam do need a proper guidance, but it is much more essential in case of those non-Muslims, who either revert to Islam for marriage or after getting impressed by individual characters.”
Reversion rate has been on the rise in the last two decades in Pakistan, particularly in southern Sindh province, and northeastern Punjab province.
Minorities make up 5.5 percent of the country’s 180 million population, with Christians accounting for 3 percent and Hindus constituting 2 percent.
A majority of Christians reside in Punjab, while Hindus reside in Sindh province.
Reversion rate is higher among poor and low-caste non-Muslim families in the two provinces.
In many cases, new Muslims are either disowned by their families or harassed through different means, including lodging of cases with the police.
Reversion of women is often taken very seriously by their respective families.
For instance, the reversion of a Hindu or Christian girl for marrying a Muslim often plunges the couple into legal and other coercive steps.
“This is the worst time the newly reverted women and their husbands have to face,” Mufti Naeem said.
“The women are not only mentally and physically harassed but are emotionally blackmailed by their parents and other family members as well.”
Recently, the reversion of two upper-caste Hindu girls to Islam in Pakistan has brought the two religious Muslim and Hindu communities at loggerheads in Sindh province.
Faryal, formerly Rinkal Kumari, and Dr Hafsa, formerly Lata Kumari, reverted to Islam last month at the hand of local Muslim leader and MP Mian Abdul Haq in Mirpur Mathelo, 500km northeast of Karachi.
Soon after embracing Islam, Dr Hafsa married Nadir Baig, while Faryal tied knot with Naveed Shah.
But their parents claim that the two girls were kidnapped and forced to embrace Islam.
The Supreme Court has sent the newly-reverted girls to a women shelter home, giving them a time of three-weeks to re-think whether they want to go with their husbands or parents.
“They (reverts) have to bear with multiple shocks after reverting to Islam,” Mufti said.
“On the one hand, they are either subjected to physical and emotional torture or disowned by their families, while on the other hand, they do not have the required support-financial and moral- from the Muslims.”
This, he apprehends, may lead some of them to return to their old religion.
“I have come to know that some of the reverts have returned to their previous religion not only because of the coercive actions but because of a discouraging attitude on the part of area Muslims towards them.”
“We must understand that the newly-reverted Muslims do not know much about Islam and Shari`ah. They need some time to understand that. They must not be treated harshly in this regard.”
In case of divorce, the newly-reverted girl becomes shelterless as her parents had disowned her at the time she embraced Islam and got married to a Muslim man, Mufti said.
“If this is the case, the reverted woman must have a place where she could stay till she decides about her future,” he said.
“That’s all we want to achieve through this shelter home.”
Some Pakistani leaders opine that the discoursing attitude by local Muslims toward new reverts push them to return to their old religion.
“A large number of Hindus and Christians who are reverting to Islam belong to low-casts and poor class, who before reversion were involved in sanitary work or dancing and singing profession (in weddings or other receptions),” Dr. Khalid Mushtaq, a leader of Al-Khidmat Foundation, the country’s largest Islamic charity, told OnIslam.net.
“But even after their reversion to Islam, the local Muslim community doesn’t give them the respect and honor, which they deserve for reverting to Islam.”
Hindus have divided themselves into two major castes; the upper caste, which comprises the white-skinned and rich Hindus and lower-caste, which consists of poor and black-skinned Hindus.
Low-caste Hindus make up 92 percent of the total 5 million Hindus in Pakistan, of which a majority dwells in Sindh province.
“On the one hand, they are expected by religious-minded people to learn about Islam within a day, while on the other hand, the secular-minded Muslims do not allow them to sit next to them because they belong to lower cast and profession,” Mushtaq said.
“The combination of high expectations and humiliation has forced many to become Murtids,” he said.
Secondly, he observes, the reversion of non-Muslim women just for the sake of marriage works out till the couple is together.
But as soon as they break up, the girl is left in a state of confusion.
“Those Muslim youths who marry the newly-reverted girls must arrange Islamic education for them,” he said.“They (husbands) should make them understand that Islam is much more precious treasure than their husbands,” he said, citing the example of Jamaima Khan, the former wife of Pakistan’s cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, who returned to her old religion after divorce.
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