Open Letter to Saif Ali Khan: Why must Pataudi brides convert to Islam to marry?
(Note: This piece was sent by an IndiaFacts reader, supporter and well-wisher who wishes to remain anonymous. You can follow the author on Twitter at
Dear Mr Saif Ali Khan,
This is in response to your article in the Indian Express, available online at this link: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/intermarriage-is-not-jihad-it-is-india/99/
You begin by stating, “I am the son of a sportsman”. At the risk of sounding crass, may I ask if you are the son of a single parent? After all, you haven’t mentioned anything about your mother. I find it strange that at the beginning of your piece, you omit any reference to your female parent but somewhere in the middle of your article, you say, “It is like saying women don’t have a part to play in India.” If you forget to mention your mother’s role yourself, how can you object to others who ignore the role of women in society?
Next you claim, “I am more Indian than any Hindu or Muslim I know because I am both.” May I ask how you are Hindu and Muslim ‘both’ when both your parents are Muslims? In 1998, you had said that “My grandmother was the centre for all our religious education. (http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/august98/saif.htm).” The context indicated that you were talking of your paternal grandmother, and the language implied that she was the only centre for all your religious education. As your paternal grandmother was Muslim and she was the only ‘centre for all (y)our religious education’, how could you be Muslim and Hindu ‘both’?
As a child in England, you told your headmaster that you are “a Muslim (sic)” in order to get the privilege of waking up late. As an adult in India, are you telling your readers that you are Hindu and Muslim ‘both’ in order to enjoy the privileges being secular brings?
[pullquote]May I ask how you are Hindu and Muslim ‘both’ when both your parents are Muslims?[/pullquote]
Next, on your parents’ marriage, you say, “The royals had their issues; the Brahmins theirs.” By the word ‘royals’ if you mean your father’s family, then don’t you think that the word ‘feudal’ would be more appropriate for them? On the other hand, by the word ‘Brahmins’ if you mean your mother’s family, then may I know why you refer to their caste? While writing about ‘issues’ created by the two sides, you conceal the ethnic identity of your father’s side but reveal the religious identity of your mother’s side. Why?
You then allege that “extremists on both religious sides issued death threats.” May we know at least a few details of those who issued these death threats—a few things like when, where and how? And it would also help if you told us what action your parents took against these intimidators? Till the time you publish some evidence of this allegation, people will have a few doubts about it. You see, such assertions will lead to these logical questions:
[pullquote]While writing about ‘issues’ created by the two sides, you conceal the ethnic identity of your father’s side but reveal the ethnic identity of your mother’s side. [/pullquote]
First, why would the ‘extremists’ on your father’s side issue any threat when he (a) did not discard his religion, and (b) got your mother to embrace his? Wasn’t it a win-win situation for his side? Second, how is it that your mother could discard her parental religion despite ‘extremists’ on that side supposedly issuing death threats (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharmila_Tagore#Personal_life)? In the forty-four years since that marriage, how many attempts have been made on her life by those ‘extremists’? Or, in the forty-one years that your father lived after the marriage, how many attempts were made on his life?
Instead of substantiating your allegation, you declare, “But the marriage still happened — the fact that my grandmother also had to fight to marry the not-as-wealthy and therefore not-so-suitable nawab of Pataudi might have helped things along.” Even here, it is clear that by the word ‘grandmother’ you mean your father’s mother. Though, in all probability, it was she who insisted on your mother converting to Islam—http://www.magnamags.com/stardust/blast-from-the-past/SHARMILA-TAGORE-%E2%80%93-WHAT-I-REMEMBER%E2%80%A6-AND-WHAT-I-WANT-TO-FORGET/3235.
Mr. Saif, if you consider acceptance of Islam to be the most important aspect for a marriage, then you may well credit your paternal grandmother for having ‘helped things along.’ In that sense, the fact that your Oxford-educated father did not object to her insistence of getting your mother converted must also have ‘helped things along.’ On the other hand, if you ever accept your mother’s mother as your grandmother too, you may realize that it was she who actually ‘helped things along.’ Had she and her husband (your maternal grandfather) asked your father to convert to Hinduism, chances are the marriage would never have happened. Even if they had insisted that their daughter retain her religion, the marriage might not have happened. It is because they did not think of religion at all that the marriage happened. Isn’t this a more logical explanation? The credit, if any, for your parents’ marriage should go to your maternal grandparents (who were Hindus) and not your paternal grandmother (who was Muslim).
Then you write, “We grew up on real-life romantic stories about our elders marrying for love and not worrying too much about tradition.” May I ask which tradition was it that your elders did not worry ‘too much about’? Here’s a pointer to the answer: were you ever told any story of inter-religious love culminating in marriage without the non-Muslim partner becoming Muslim?
You then allege, “When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats”. Are you sure that such a serious allegation is not merely your attempt to play victim? The same questions that I asked you on the matter in the connection of your parents’ marriage apply equally to you: how, where, when, and what action did you take? And if you have not taken any action against them, we have a right to know why.
In the two years since your marriage, how many attempts have been made on your lives by those who issued the death threats? If death threats were received during your parents’ marriage and also during your second marriage, how is it that there were no such threats after your first marriage – when you married Amrita Singh?
Instead of substantiating your allegations, you say, “When we purified our new home, we had a havan and a Quran reading”. Well, the fact is that the former does not preclude the latter – it is the latter which denigrates the former. The ‘havan’ says nothing against Islamic readings whereas the ‘Quran’ is virulently against non-Islamic practices.
[pullquote]were you ever told any story of inter-religious love culminating in marriage without the non-Muslim partner becoming Muslim?[/pullquote]
Next you lament that “Our religions are based on fear.” Isn’t this an attempt to play the balancing game? Just because Abrahamic religions like Islam ‘are based on fear’, do you have to paint Dharmic faiths like Sanatan Dharma with the same brush? With playful gods like Krishna and colourful festivals like Holi, how can Sanatan Dharma / Hinduism ever be ‘based on fear’? Hindus can make fun of their Gods with complete freedom, without the fear of having their throats cut. I suppose you know what will happen if as much as an unkind letter is said about Allah. If Dharmic faiths were ‘based on fear’, would your mother and your first wife have lived peacefully after discarding these faiths (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amrita_Singh)?
And then you write, “The Old Testament spoke of a Promised Land”. How is it that you have written of the Old Testament in this article but not of the Rig Veda or Bhagavad Gita? As you have claimed to be Hindu and Muslim ‘both’, why is there no evidence of your knowledge of Hindu scriptures? Or, as I asked earlier, was that claim only to get the privilege of being ‘secular’?
Next you say, “I know good people are scared of marrying their daughters to Muslims.” Do you mean to say that Muslims are happy to get their own daughters married to non-Muslims? If they are, why do so many Muslims keep their daughters covered from head to toe or get them married (to Muslims, of course) during puberty itself?
And further, “I have always thought of Islam as the moon, the desert, calligraphy and flying carpets, the thousand and one nights.” Isn’t it strange that you have written of what you ‘always thought of Islam’ but not what you ever thought of Hinduism? How is it that you thought of ‘the moon’ but not of Surya the sun god, ‘the desert’ but not of the Himalaya mountains, ‘calligraphy’ but not of Ajanta paintings, of ‘the thousand and one nights’ but not the Mahabharata? May I, once again, point to your claim of being Hindu and Muslim ‘both’?
On Islam, you also write, “I have always thought about it as a religion of peace and submission.” Is that the reason for your mother and your first wife ‘submitting’ to Islam as a prerequisite to getting married into the Pataudi family?
[pullquote]If Dharmic faiths were ‘based on fear’, would your mother and your first wife have lived peacefully after discarding these faiths[/pullquote]
Then you claim, “The good news is that no one needs to convert from their religion to get married. The Special Marriage Act, when applicable, is the paramount law of the land.” Well, the Special Marriage Act was in effect from 1954 (http://indiankanoon.org/doc/4234/) and your parents got married fifteen years later in 1969 – did you ever ask them why your mother needed to convert from her religion instead of getting married under that Act?
And then, “A major concern in today’s India is that we keep deleting our past.” Well, Mr. Saif, it is not ‘in today’s India’ that the deleting of our past has started. It started in medieval India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somnath#Timeline) itself, and was brutal, barbaric and prolonged.
And then you try your hand at victim mongering with, “To say Muslims don’t have a role in India is denying their importance and contribution.” Isn’t this another attempt to play victim? Otherwise, when you want to discuss the ‘importance and contribution’ of Muslims in India, would you also discuss their role in killing millions of Hindus and destroying thousands of temples since the medieval ages? Also, Mr. Saif, can we openly discuss the role of Muslims in the forced conversions of Hindus and in the Partition of India?
Continuing this streak of Islamic victimhood, you ask, “Why do we need to deny Islam?” Isn’t this an example of the old Latin saying suppressio veri, suggestio falsi (suppress the truth & suggest the false)? You not only suppress the truth that it is Islam which denies the validity of Dharmic faiths but you also speak the untruth that Islam is being denied its validity by Dharmic faiths!
And although your mother and your first and second wife (Kareena Kapoor Khan) converted to Islam for marriage and your siblings and your children are all Muslims, you claim, “I don’t know what ‘love jihad’ is.” This being the reality of the record of your family’s marriages, and you still claim that you don’t know what ‘love jihad’ is, it can only mean that you know well what hypocrisy is.
With the same hypocrisy, you claim, “I know intermarriages because I am a child of one and my children are born out of it.” Isn’t this a double whammy of the Latin saying suppressio veri, suggestio falsi?
[pullquote]Mr. Saif, can we openly discuss the role of Muslims in the forced conversions of Hindus and in the Partition of India?[/pullquote]
First, you suppress the truth that your mother converted to your father’s religion for marriage and then suggest the untruth that theirs was an ‘intermarriage’! Second, you suppress the truth that your first wife too converted to your religion for marriage and then suggest the untruth that yours was an ‘intermarriage’! May I know how they could have been ‘intermarriages’, in any meaningful manner, when both the spouses (in both the marriages) follow the same religion whether by birth or by conversion? For it to be a true ‘intermarriage’, the basic requirement must be that the spouses follow different religions – correct? The moment one of them converts to the other’s religion, both of them have the same religion – right? How can the marriage between spouses who have the same religion be an ‘intermarriage’?
Without understanding what a true ‘intermarriage’ is, you assert, “India is a mix.” In that case, why did your family homogenise that ‘mix’ by getting the brides converted to the grooms’ religion? Even if the brides converted ‘voluntarily’, it would only mean that they were liberal – not their grooms. In fact, more than the brides, their maiden families (your maternal grandparents and your previous in-laws, respectively) were the true liberals since they did not object to the conversions of their daughters. What does that say about your family which insisted on (or, at least, were happy with) the conversions of their daughters-in-law?
In order to prove your family’s secularism, you claim, “I am the product of such a mixed marriage and my life has been full of Eid and Holi”. Aren’t you practising the Islamic concept of taqiyya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taqiyya) here? Are you sure that you celebrated Holi all your life? As a child, weren’t you threatened by your Muslim servants that playing Holi would result in being “flayed in heaven with cat–o–nine–tails” (http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/august98/saif.htm)? When the atmosphere at your home was so Hinduphobic, how can you claim that your ‘life has been full of Eid and Holi’?
[pullquote]How can the marriage between spouses who have the same religion be an ‘intermarriage’?[/pullquote]
You top up that taqiyya with another one when you claim, “We were taught to do adaab and namaste with equal reverence.” If you ‘were taught to do adaab and namaste with equal reverence’, how is it that you spoke of ‘adaab’ alone as coming “naturally” to you in 1998 (http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/august98/saif.htm)? Had your family really been so open-minded, why is it that “the servants were all devout Muslims?” (http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/august98/saif.htm)
And one more taqiyya follows, “My children were born Muslim but they live like Hindus (with a pooja ghar at home), and if they wanted to be Buddhist, they would have my blessing. That’s how we were brought up.”
Had your upbringing really been so secular, how is it that your mother and your first wife converted to Islam? Had you really been brought up that way, why did you say that “With my maternal grandparents I never discussed religion?” (http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/august98/saif.htm)
Pretending to be secular, you write, “It is our differences that make us who we are.” May I know why your family wiped out the differences by getting the daughters-in-law converted to Islam?
Then you lament, “We are most certainly not a secular country.” Isn’t it quite pathetic to assert that you are a secular family but we ‘are not a secular country’?
- Had we not been ‘a secular country’, would your mother have been so popular even after discarding the majority religion?
- Had we not been ‘a secular country’, would your father have been so popular even after getting his wife to convert to a minority religion?
- Had we not been ‘a secular country’, would you have been so popular even after getting both your wives converted to a religion which caused the Partition of this country?
- Had we not been ‘a secular country’, would so many Presidents, Vice-Presidents, one Prime Minister, Chief Justices, Governors, Chief Ministers, Army Chiefs, Navy Chiefs, Air Chiefs, Police Chiefs, sports stars, film stars etc. be from ‘minority’ communities? In fact, is there ANY other country where considerable numbers of people from minority communities have risen to such positions?
- Had we not been ‘a secular country’, would the population percentage of the largest ‘minority’ been increasing every census?
As you have relatives in the neighbouring country of Pakistan, would you kindly tell us whether that country also should become secular or grow more and more Islamic?
And finally, towards the end, you write, “Teach our children about god and his thousand names”.
Well, dharmic faiths like Sanatana Dharma believe not only in ‘thousand names’ of god but in millions of gods. In fact, pagans like Hindus believe not only in male gods (for whom you have used the pronoun ‘his’) but also female deities. Perhaps, you and the male members of your family could learn some true secularism from them. So there is no need for you to teach Hindus what they already know.
And if you still haven’t understood, here it is: the Pataudi family’s precondition that non-Muslim brides must convert to Islam in order to marry its male members is but one of the ways in which Love Jihad is practiced.
Sincerely Yours ,
A communal, bigoted, Hindu fascist