The angry reaction to the issue of conversion of Muslims in Kashmir is scaring the Christian community no end. "It's making me nervous," says Carin Jodha Fischer, a German working in Kashmir's rural areas since 2006.
On January 19, the government-backed sharia court, headed by Mufti Bashiruddin, issued a decree banning the entry of four Christian pastors, finding them "guilty of luring Muslims of Kashmir, especially boys and girls, to Christianity by exploiting their financial conditions".
The names of the four pastors- CM Khanna, Gayour Massi, Chandre Kanta and Jim Brost- had come up in the course of an investigation done by the court. While Khanna, who is an Indian and is now in Jammu, the whereabouts of the other three are not known. The police do not know their nationalities either.
"They were promised help like passports and visas," said deputy grand mufti (priest) Nasir-ul-Islam in Srinagar.
The sharia decree came four months after a video clip allegedly showed Srinagar-based All Saints' Church pastor Khanna apparently baptising a few young persons here.
"They are all false and cooked-up stories. The matter is before court and will wait for its orders," Khanna told Hindustan Times on the phone from Jammu.
Khanna, who has been in the state for the past 24 years, was in police custody for 11 days for "forcible" conversions in Kashmir. He said he had no connection with the three others.
Brost was asked to leave Kashmir in July 2010.
"Legally, these conversions are not forcible. People have approached the church to become Christians," said Fischer, who works in Kashmir for community-based rural tourism. "If the conversion stories spread to rural areas, I won't be able to work then."
Muslim organisations including moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's Awami Action Committee have taken the issue seriously. The Mirwaiz also launched a website "to safeguard Islamic interests" after recent conversion reports.
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