The Thamarassery Episcopal House of the Syro-Malabar Church witnessed an unusual meeting on Friday, September 17.
Bishop Remegiose Inchananiyil and Vicar General Father John Oravunkara had a discussion with Indian Union Muslim League leader Dr MK Muneer, who represents the Koduvally Assembly constituency at the Kerala Assembly, and a group of Muslim religious leaders.
He looked into the controversies surrounding a book in Malayalam published by the Diocese of Thamarassery, which falls under the Syro-Malabar Church. Thamarassery is located in the Kozhikode district of Kerala.
The book in question – ‘Satyavum Vasthuhathakalum 33 Chodyotharangaliloode’ (Truth and Facts in 33 Questions and Answers) – contained several derogatory and defamatory statements against the Muslim community. For example, he declared that “the jihad of love” was a reality and urged parents to protect their daughters from young Muslims.
“Love Jihad” is an unsubstantiated claim first raised by right-wing Hindu groups that Muslim men attract Hindu women, marry them and convert them to Islam. Home Secretary G Kishen Reddy, responding to a question in Parliament in 2020, said no “Jihad of love” incidents had been reported in Kerala.
The catechism book describes several means used by young Muslims to attract Christian girls. The book also urges believers to notify diocese helplines if they know someone has fallen prey to the “Jihad of Love”.
End a controversy
The diocese prescribed the controversial book to students in catechism classes in grades 10, 11 and 12.
Since the contents of the book became public, several religious and progressive organizations have expressed their concerns. The issue even threatened to vitiate community harmony, but the timely intervention of the bishop, Muneer, and Christian and Muslim religious leaders brought the controversy to an end.
They sat down together and discussed the matter on Friday. Muslim leaders have voiced their grievances, while their Christian counterparts have listened intently. The discussion ended amicably in the evening when the bishop announced that all controversial parts of the text would be deleted soon. He also apologized to Muslims for hurting their religious feelings.
“We have decided to remove all controversial parts of the manual. The meeting, chaired by MK Muneer, also decided to promote religious harmony and fight against social ills,” the bishop said in a press release. In the evening.
The out-of-court settlement was undoubtedly a huge morale booster for Muneer, who took the initiative in bringing leaders on both sides to the table. Thamarassery comes under his constituency of Koduvally and shares a good relationship with Bishop Remegiose Inchananiyil.
Muneer said Onmanorama that the bishop was unhappy after the book had stirred up a storm. “When I suggested this discussion to fix the issue, he offered me full support. I’m glad the issue was resolved once and for all,” he said. The success of the talks appears to have given Muneer a political edge in his party as he brought the leaders of all major Muslim formations – the Sunni EK and AP factions, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen and Jamat-e-Islami – for the discussion. “I took permission from my party before proposing the talks,” he said.
Hurt religious feelings
The book was published by the Catechesis Department of the Dioceses of Thamarassery.
Its director, Father John Pallikavayalil, said Onmanorama that the Church had no intention of hurting anyone’s religious beliefs. “We decided to omit parts of the book because we realized that it hurt the feelings of our Muslim brothers,” he said.
He described the circumstances under which his ministry published the book. “Many people have urged us to educate students and parents about hate campaigns against Christianity and the sexual exploitation of Christian girls. The book was therefore published to keep young Christians in their faith and protect girls from sexual exploitation, ”he said.
Father Pallikavayalil said the diocese does not encourage hatred against any particular religion or faith. “We adhere to the teachings of Pope Francis on global religious harmony,” he said
Muneer believes the divides between religious dress and people should be resolved through dialogue. “We are living in a difficult time where hatred reigns supreme. But I think dialogue can solve all crises. We must try to unite people, not divide them,” he said.