There is no evidence suggesting that non-Muslims, including underage girls, have been forcibly converted to Islam in Sindh, shows a groundbreaking study by Institute of Policy Studies’ researcher Sufi Ghulam Hussain based on his ten years of episodical fieldwork, interviews with a cross-section of Sindhi society and statistical analysis of data acquired from seminaries and courts across the province.
The study which was also consulted and by the parliamentary committee formed on the controversial ‘anti-forced conversion bill’ rejected last week is based on exclusive IPS datasets.
The extensive and exhaustive fieldwork consisted of 200 in-depth interviews with a cross-section of Muslim and non-Muslim population, content analysis of over 400 audio recordings, along with review of 19 NGO reports.
The quantitative sample comprised 6,055 cases of converts documented and collected during 2008 to 2020.
Some 32 families, 24 couples (of whom females were mostly neo-converts), 16 males, 24 leaders of the Hindu community, 22 religious clerics, 21 civil society activists, eight lawyers, two police officers and two magistrates were interviewed by the lead researcher Ghulam Hussain.
The key hypothesis was to investigate whether non-Muslim girls below the age of 18 are forcibly converted to Islam.
Analysis of data shows that of the total recorded cases of conversion involving freewill marriages in this study, only a fraction was minor.
“Given the prevalence of marriages below 18 years in rural Sindh, this is not unexpected”, said Ghulam Hussain.
None of the cases verified by this research proved to be forcible conversion whereby ‘force’ means coercion, blackmail, deception or the threat to kill a person or his/her parents.
Contradictory to the commonly propagated perception, it was found that coercion is often used by parents and the community of the converting individual to revert such a person.
This is in the form of political pressure, influencing the local administration and state institutions, social media campaigning, NGO activism, invoking caste or community honor, appealing to patriarchal ego, mobilizing separatist elements, and even torture.