Why I’m a Love Jihadi and proud of it
Lovers across India need to own this phrase, embrace it publicly, redefine it, broaden its scope and use it to change the world
I am convinced Love Jihad is the way of the future, the most effective way to combat hate. Lovers across India need to own this phrase, embrace it publicly, redefine it, broaden its scope and use it to change the world. Women will have to take the lead because the whole debate of Love Jihad, the favoured political tactic against interfaith marriage, centres around our wombs and our personal freedoms.
It’s time to free the idea of Love Jihad from those who believe it is “an Islamic campaign to deceive Hindu girls into love, compel them to accept Islamic religion and later use them as the instruments for bearing Muslim offspring". I got this definition from Love Jihad, a 22-page booklet of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) that was established in 2002, filed in my memory as the year that changed India.
The booklet helpfully outlines the various precautions concerned Hindu parents should take to protect daughters from Love Jihad. To summarize, keep your teenager under 24-hour surveillance, including, of course, checking call records on the mobile you gifted her so you could track her every move. “Beti Bachao"—until she is safely wedded to a Hindu man. Also, teach her karate to fight Muslim “sex maniacs". Where were they when I was dating?
Why let anyone else set the agenda for love? It’s time to make the power of Love Jihad work for us, instead of against us. Love Jihad should be the name of the ongoing Great War to win the right to love and have sex with whomsoever you want—gender, religion, frequency and marital status no bar.
Love Jihadis must band together to fight Section 377, that hopelessly outdated law which criminalizes adult same-sex consensual intercourse. How dare anyone define the gender of our partners and the nature of our sexual encounter. We set our own rules for love.
Some people may call it “social terrorism" but Love Jihadis believe in the right to premarital sex. Quoting from Love For Dummies, the Supreme Court in 2010 dismissed the 22 cases filed against film star Khushboo for her remarks about premarital sex with the simple, “When two adults want to live together, what is the offence?… Living together is a right to life." Well done sirs, but Love Jihadis are ambivalent about judicial voyeurism. We also demand the right to keep closed-circuit television and unique 12-digit numbers out of our intimate spaces.
Love Jihadis want you to stop defining love as control. Love can be anything from a whisper in the wind to a lifelong partnership. If you’re lucky, it won’t play out like your typical Hindi film where it all goes to hell in the second half. It’s okay, Love Jihadis believe in the power of second love…and third love…
Love Jihadis are easily angered by the state of marriage in this country. As if pledging a lifetime of monogamy to a partner who couldn’t care less if we came isn’t hard enough, we must endure marital rape, dowry demands, disrespect, assault and slavery in our committed relationships.
Love Jihadis believe it’s their right to exit bad relationships. We believe in the right to move on from a relationship, without fear of rape, revenge porn or an acid attack. If we experience these, we believe in the right to fair redressal.
Love Jihadis are comfortable in their skin. We know love doesn’t depend on the shape of our bodies or the colour of our skin. Our heart is not a restricted-access mosque or temple.
We believe the decision to have children or not rests entirely with us. We think it’s okay to not feel maternal or paternal. We don’t like it when you tell us you know better. Once we give birth to them, we don’t believe in killing our children because they fell in love with someone we didn’t like. We know there is no “honour" in attacking lovers. Love Jihadis don’t need bigots to save their honour.
We may or may not believe in romantic templates such as “there’s someone for everyone", and “love lasts forever". We may or may not want a Sunday Kind of Love. We may be okay with it not lasting past Saturday night. But we believe in the right to love and to be loved, even if it is just for one night. Are you listening Mr Landlord? Stop spying on our visitors.
I propose that Love Jihadis draw up a detailed manifesto that outlines our beliefs. Let’s spread the infection, get as many people as we can to understand our language of love. We can draw inspiration from that other famous document authored by Marx and Engels: “A spectre is haunting India—the spectre of Love Jihad…It is high time that Love Jihadis should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Love Jihad with a Manifesto…"
Of course Love Jihadis adore Muslims. And Hindus, Christians and Buddhists. Our criteria for loving is not based on religion, skin colour, body shape, age or gender. We are not biased towards virgins or vegetarians. We don’t care what meat you have stocked in your fridge. We show no preference for same caste, right-handed people, owners of big cars or engineers/doctors.
Our love is based instead on shared passions from poetry and pulp fiction to puppies and Pokémon. We oppose the politics of hate and go Mhmm…when you say sex maniac. We are turned on by laughter, our individual fetishes and a partner’s ability to love and respect all humans equally.
How’s that for an updated definition before we start writing our manifesto? So repeat after me: I am a Love Jihadi and proud of it.
Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.