These days it is common to see many talking about the activities of Christian Missionaries. Anything forced on anyone is wrong and it applies to conversions too. By force it also means making one think the way they want them to think (I’ve been repeatedly talking about this).
I am of a very strong opinion that one cannot embrace a faith without actually knowing what it is, however, there are many conversions that happen on a mass scale for one main reason: to come out of the third class citizen status conferred upon them by the caste system. Many missionaries bring schools and hospitals along with them, and the poor, uneducated convert out of gratitude. The converting process or the ‘brainwashing’ activity, as it is popularly called is especially easier with the poor, uneducated and underpriveleged people. I remember seeing a family living in the pavements of Gaudia Mutt Road in Chennai keeping the photo of MGR decorated on his birthday last year.
I was so far of the opinion that this kind of experiment is common only with the poor people and I was quite surprised when I learnt that this is done massively in schools, especially after reading a post on this topic. I thought of sharing some of my experiences relating to this.
I studied in Crescent, Chennai which is run by Muslims and offers Islamic studies as a part of the curriculum. More than 90% of the students belong to the same religion, so we used to have Islamic Studies classes at least thrice a week. Arabic was offered as one of the second languages apart from Tamil, Hindi and French. The day starts by reciting the first chapter of the Quran (Surah Al Fatihah) and its translation. Our uniform was a full-sleeved salwar with a scarf that would leave only the face and hands uncovered. Even the teachers wear Hijaab and we used to have speeches and seminars organized on Islam regularly. The call for prayer or Adhaan will be recited every day at noon and the prayer is conducted at congregation. There used to be Islamic charts and models displayed in the corridor along with the other subjects.
Well, if you are wondering what happens to the remaining 10% and the non Muslim teaching staffs, you will find the answers in the following lines. Attending the assembly is compulsory but the non Muslim students need not repeat the prayers with us. They have a Moral Science class (by God, there was no direct or indirect preaching there) whose texts will have Panchatantra stories and the like. Students in the higher classes will usually have a free hour that time. Headscarf is not a part of their uniform but they have to wear a dupatta with the Salwar. While offering the afternoon prayers is compulsory in the last 15 minutes of the lunch hour, they have their free time then.
In our regular Islamic classes, not once we heard anything ill about other religions. Though it didn’t seem to be of something to be proud about that time, I now feel how well my school is been dealing with this delicate issue. Many schools have a lot to learn from us!! 🙂