CONVERTING to another faith is one of the most consequential decisions an individual can make in their lifetime. It must therefore be undertaken with a certain level of maturity and an appreciation of the long-term impacts on one’s relationships with the immediate family, standing in the community, inheritance rights, etc. Youth is synonymous with impulsivity and immaturity. However, the Lahore High Court, while dismissing a petition for the recovery of a minor girl who had converted to Islam from Christianity, has ruled that the mental capacity of a child is of crucial importance when considering the question of his/her conversion. The case had been brought by the 17-year-old’s father, a rickshaw driver who alleged that his daughter had been kidnapped and married to her abductor after being forcibly converted. As to whether the conversion was forced, the court has held that it cannot undertake the evidence-based inquiry required to determine that question. At the same time, it correctly pointed out that while Article 20 grants the right to citizens to propagate their faith, that right does not include converting anyone to another religion through coercion or inducement.

In recent years, the allegedly forced conversions of many minors, particularly females, have created a sense of insecurity among non-Muslim communities in Pakistan. The LHC’s verdict will do nothing to dissipate that fear, and indeed may embolden those who support such unethical acts. In its verdict, the court cited an example from Islamic history in support of its contention about child converts and said that neither the Quran nor any hadith stipulates a minimum age for conversion. The fact is, however, one would be hard-pressed to find another exceptional minor who could display the level of circumspection required to make such a life-changing decision. Moreover, neither source of Islamic law also sets a minimum age for marriage. But a minimum age for marriage is nevertheless on the statute books as a consequence of modern legislation that does not in any way contravene religious precepts.

Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2021

Opinion

Crisis looming
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Crisis looming

It will be a terrible mistake for the PM, his acolytes to underestimate the strength of the wave that is about to hit them.
An eye-opener
21 Oct 2021

An eye-opener

A daring report by Indian savants could have been written here.
Past, present, forever
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Past, present, forever

Despite their close relationship, this is hardly the first time the PTI and the military have not been BFFs.

Editorial

Not just cricket
Updated 21 Oct 2021

Not just cricket

Hype surrounding the match — sold out as soon as tickets sales opened — has overshadowed the other games, as well as other teams.
Local governance
21 Oct 2021

Local governance

The court ruling restoring local institutions in Punjab should go a long way in ensuring the continuation of grassroots democracy.
21 Oct 2021

Breast cancer awareness

LIKE so many other issues relating to women’s health in Pakistan, breast cancer is not a subject of serious...
Opposition’s chance?
Updated 19 Oct 2021

Opposition’s chance?

What the opposition can do is take advantage of the cleavage between PTI and the establishment, perhaps widen it and leverage it.
Evading tax laws
Updated 20 Oct 2021

Evading tax laws

Challenge of tax compliance can't be dealt with without directly taxing incomes irrespective of source and punishing tax evaders.
19 Oct 2021

KCR delays

AS political and bureaucratic stakeholders drag their feet over reviving the Karachi Circular Railway, residents of...