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India: pastor who baptized Muslims appears before sharia court

Catholic World News - December 13, 2011

The All India Christian Council--an ecumenical organization that defends Christians’ religious freedom--is expressing concern about the implications of the arrest of Rev. C. M. Khanna, a Protestant pastor who baptized Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, a largely Muslim state.

Conversion, writes John Dayal of the All India Christian Council, is not illegal in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet Khanna was arrested, at the behest of the local grand mufti, on charges of “promoting enmity between different groups” and “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

In addition, Khanna was summoned before a sharia court, where he denied and then admitted to converting 15 boys, according to Dayal, and pledged to give the names of the converts to the grand mufti.

Dayal notes that Javed Anand, general secretary of Muslims for Secular Democracy, has come to Khanna’s defense:

What’s Islamic law and a shariah court doing in a secular democratic polity? … Why should conversion of a few Muslims to Christianity be deemed a malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings? … It is far from clear whether the priest is in fact guilty of a cash-for-conversion deal. Only a thorough and impartial investigation could establish if there’s any truth in the charge. But in the brand of Islam the grand mufti and most mainstream Muslim organizations espouse, the issue of inducement is irrelevant. The theology is simple: for conversion into Islam, there’s divine reward aplenty for both the converter and the converted; but conversion out of Islam is … treason of the highest order, deserving of the harshest punishment.

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