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India: expulsion of Christians by sharia court criticised

01 February 2012

by Ed Thornton

A PROMINENT Islamic leader this week criticised a sharia court for decreeing that five Christian min­isters should be expelled from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in north-east India.

The court, in the state’s Kashmir Valley, last month issued a fatwa or­dering four Christian priests, in­cluding the Presbyter-in-Charge ofAll Saints’, Srinagar, the Revd Chandra Mani Khanna, to leave the state. The court accused them of “luring Muslims to Christianity”.

On Monday, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of religious and political organisations in Kashmir, said: “Asking a few people to leave the state is no solution to religious con­versions. I am not in favour of the decision taken by the sharia court, which is to banish a few people for their alleged role in conversions.”

Mr Khanna was arrested in November after a video, posted on YouTube, showed him baptising up to 15 young men (News, 2 Dec­ember). He said that the Kashmiri men had attended church for more than a year. Mr Khanna was released on bail, but the sharia court — which has no legal standing in India — proceeded with its own trial.

The sharia court also decreed the expulsion of a Dutch Roman Cath­olic missionary, Fr Jim Borst; an Evangelical pastor, Gayoor Messah; and two other Christian ministers.

It also said that the Indian govern­ment should monitor Chris­tian schools.

After the ruling, a spokesman for the National Council of Churches in India, Samuel Jayakumar, told Ecu­menical News International: “This is totally unacceptable. India is a sec­ular country, and the personal law of a community should be confined to itself.”

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