The Bishopric of Thamarassery of the Syro-Malabar Church witnessed an unusual meeting on Friday, September 17.
Bishop Remegiose Inchananiyil and Vicar General Fr. John Oravunkara held a discussion with the leader of the Muslim Union of India League Dr. MK Muneer who represents Koduvally Assembly Constituency in the Kerala Assembly, and a group of Muslim religious leaders.
He delved into the controversies surrounding a book in Malayalam published by the Diocese of Thamarassery, which falls under the Syro-Malabar Church. Thamarassery is 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 real and urged parents to protect their daughters from Muslim youth.
“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. Minister of State for the Interior G Kishen Reddy, while answering a question in Parliament in 2020, said no Incidents of “Love Jihad” had been reported in Kerala.
The catechism book describes several ways young Muslims use to attract Christian girls. The book also urges believers to notify diocesan hotlines if they know someone has fallen prey to “love jihad”.
End a controversy
The diocese has prescribed the controversial book to students taking catechism classes in grades 10, 11 and 12.
Since the contents of the book became public, several religious and progressive organizations have raised their concerns. The issue even threatened to vitiate communal harmony, but the timely intervention of the Bishop, Muneer, and Christian and Muslim religious leaders helped end the controversy.
They sat down together and discussed the matter on Friday. Muslim leaders voiced their grievances, while their Christian counterparts listened intently. The discussion ended amicably in the evening, with the bishop announcing that all controversial parts of the text would soon be removed. He also apologized to Muslims for hurting their religious feelings.
“We have decided to delete all controversial parts of the manual. The meeting, chaired by MP Muneer, also decided to promote religious harmony and fight social ills,” the Bishop said in a press release. published in the evening.
The out-of-court settlement was undoubtedly a huge morale boost for Muneer, who took the initiative to bring leaders from both sides to the table. Thamarassery comes under his constituency of Koduvally and he shares a good relationship with Bishop Remegiose Inchananiyil.
muneer said Onmanorama that the bishop was displeased after the book raised a storm. “When I suggested this chat to sort out the issue, he offered me his full support. I’m glad the issue has been 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 in the leaders of all major Muslim formations – EK and AP Sunni factions, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen and Jamat-e-Islami – for the discussion. “I took my party’s permission before proposing the talks,” he said.
hurt religious feelings
The book was published by the Department of Catechesis 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 some parts of the book as we realized it had hurt the feelings of our Muslim brothers,” he said.
He described the circumstances under which his department published the book. “Many people had 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 retain young Christians in their faith and protect girls from sexual exploitation,” he said.
Fr 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 that discrepancies between religious dress and people should be resolved through dialogue. “We live in a difficult period where hatred dominates. But I believe that dialogues can solve all crises. We must try to unite people, not divide them,” he said.