Defining the boundaries of ‘Love-jihad’

Defining the boundaries of ‘Love-Jihad’

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Defining the boundaries of ‘Love-jihad’There was uproar in India over newspaper ad of jewelry using the term ‘Love-Jihad’ and showing a Hindu daughter-in-law and Muslim mother-in-law. The jewelry manufacturer had to withdraw the ad after massive protest.   

Nazarul Islam

A jewelry manufacturer has taken nearly 1.5 billion souls in South Asia, for a bouncy ride. An ad featured recently, in the vast Indian media projected a Hindu daughter-in-law and a Muslim mother-in-law, happy together with life and their personal ornaments. The ad was trolled on the grounds that it extolled what is rather unpleasantly termed as “love jihad”. This had turned out to be a domain where fundamentalist bigots may well have expanded the reach of the product far beyond the audience it was targeted at.

The news of the merciless trolling that forced the manufacturer to withdraw the advertisement, has now reached shores far and wide, trashing India’s much touted reputation for inclusivity and tolerance. While this was the unintended consequence of the poison injected into the outpourings against the human creativity (advertisement), there were others that were clearly intended.

The first was to underscore that toxicity is an essential ingredient of contemporary social discourse and is here to stay. The second was to define the limits of inter-personal relations that some sections of society will accept, which was made clear by trolls asking why the advertisement did not instead feature a Muslim daughter-in-law and a Hindu mother-in-law.

Along with jirgas, village panchayat and honor killings, such reactions only confirm that antediluvian notions of marriage being viewed as a form of conquest are alive and well. The third is that not even the most eminent of Indian corporate ‘for the jewelry brand is owned by one of the country’s oldest and largest conglomerates’ is immune to the pressures of bigotry.

Withdrawing the ad at the first sign of trouble, the company clearly thought discretion to be the better part of valor. Do we need to reflect an opinion, whether it was wrong to take this position?

Had this persisted, it may well have been accused of promoting enmity and not the amity it sought to project between communities and faced charges under several sections of the country’s Penal Code that has been twisted beyond recognition in contemporary settings.

Obviously, the saddest aspect of this unsavoury saga is that prima facie, the ad copy contained just the sort of syrupy platitudes on amity—that one usually associates with state-sponsored advertising.

“Beautiful things happen when people come together,” a description on the company’s website says, along with the slogan: “The beauty of oneness – one as humanity; one as a nation.”

The Indian manufacturer has justified its decision to withdraw the ad, implying that while the intention was to “celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life”, the severe reactions to it were “contrary to its very objective.”

Not so long ago the Supreme Court in India has upheld the right of citizens to choose their spouse, and to convert to another religion if they so wished.

Which is the way forward for India? Until further notice, let’s celebrate everything!

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Nazarul IslamThe Bengal-born writer is a senior educationist settled in USA. He writes for Sindh Courier and the newspapers of Bangladesh, India and America.

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