One thought which has no modern historical answer is how can a religious court supplant the established secular court in your area. The answer is not a comforting one for American citizens. There have been proposals in the USA to allow Sharia (Muslim) courts standing when dealing with Muslim US citizens in the USA.
India is most definitely a multicultural nation. Second only to China in population, and projected to surpass China’s population in 2045, India is the world’s largest democracy. It has many cultural groups within its borders. As far as religions, Hinduism is, in central and southern India, the dominant religion. Islam holds dominance in Northwest and Northeast India including Kashmir State. Buddhism is common countrywide but rarely, except in small areas, the dominant religion. Sikhism has perhaps 25.000,000 worldwide, with 21,500,000 adherents and the dominant religion in the northern Punjab State. Christianity was introduced by St. Thomas in the 1st century AD. With about 24.000.000. it is the 3rd largest religion in India, found especially in the south of India.
The Constitution of India declares the nation to be a secular republic that must uphold the right of citizens to freely worship and propagate any religion or faith (with activities subject to reasonable restrictions for the sake of morality, law and order, etc.) The Constitution of India also declares the right to freedom of religion as a fundamental right.
This is not so differently worded as the US constitution on the matter of stating the place and position of religion in American society. With such similarities, the ruling of the Sharia Muslim court on the actions of a Catholic priest and a (Thomistic) Church of North India christian pastor may be a peek into the future of the USA. How the state courts of Kashmir will rule is not clear, despite their national constitution. We are back again to considering the requests in the USA for Sharia Court standing in our own state court systems.
Fr. Orthohippo January 23, 2011
January 21, 2012
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
The All India Christian Council has condemned an indictment issued by a Sharia law court in Kashmir that charges two priests with blasphemy by enticing Muslims to convert to Christianity.
On 11 January 2012 Muslim leaders in the Northern Indian state issued a statement saying that “it was proved beyond doubt that the accused” the vicar of All Saints Church in Srinigar, the Rev Chander Mani Khanna of the Church of North India, “along with other accomplices was luring Muslim people to change their religion.”
A second priest, Fr. Jim Borst, a Roman Catholic missionary who has worked in Kashmir for 46 years, was also charged with converting Muslims to Christianity.
“The Kashmir situation is going through a critical phase and if such elements are not brought to book it will have a serious and negative impact on the (Kashmiri Muslim) society,” the Muslim leaders said.
“It is shocking and surprising that the state government was allowing such activities. Kashmir society will not tolerate such activities at all and we stand united against such elements,” Mufti Muhammad Nasir-ul-Islam said. The sentence from the court would be announced shortly, he added.
On 19 Nov 2011 Mr. Khanna was arrested by the Jammu & Kashmir police on charges of fomenting civil unrest. He was released on 1 Dec 2011 and has since left the state for fear for his life.
However, Christian leaders have denounced the indictment stating that Sharia courts have no civil standing. In a statement released on 13 January 2012, the All India Christian Council (AICC) said it was “deeply disturbed” by the Sharia court’s actions. “Such statements can encourage extremist elements to indulge in violence,” the Council said.
“It was hoped that religious and secular authorities, and the state government, would show maturity and responsibility,” the AICC said, “keeping in view the delicately poised public peace situation” in Kashmir.
The “Church does not accept as genuine any conversion brought about by fraud or force,” the AICC said, noting that a fact finding team which went to Srinagar shortly after the arrest of Mr. Khanna and “interviewed Church personnel, Ulema, school, authorities and the police, found no evidence of force or fraud in baptisms that have been carried out over a period of time. Each baptism has been proved to be voluntary.”
The head of the AICC, Dr John Dayal, said it “devolves on the Jammu and Kashmir Government, religious leaders and people of goodwill in the Kashmir valley to ensure that the nights of minorities are respected, their welfare assured, and communal harmony strengthened in the region which so desperately requires and environment of peace for its development and well being.”