Muslims accused of blackmail to make student girls convert
From The Times
March 03, 2007
March 03, 2007
Radical Muslims are being accused of blackmailing young Hindu and Sikh women into changing religion in “groomed conversions” on campuses.
The men aggressively target vulnerable university students by using the fear of being dishonoured to force them to convert, community leaders have told The Times. Many befriend their victims, then threaten to tell their families that they are in a sexual relationship with a Muslim. Some teenagers are said to have been drugged and photographed in compromising positions.
Many comply because they are so afraid of shaming their parents or being rejected by their communities.
Police are aware of the problem. Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, recently attended a Hindu conference where the issue was raised. But police are powerless to act unless incidents are reported. This rarely happens because the stigma of a child converting to Islam often silences Sikh and Hindu parents.
Community elders say that the practice is widespread but their estimates vary from 100 annual incidents nationwide to 120 in the past few months in the South East alone.
Ranjeet Singh, of the British Organisation of Sikh Students, said: “There are cases of aggressive techniques, of drugging and of rape, of the man taking photos and blackmailing the girls into converting.
“They know that by dishonouring the girls, they will make their families disown them. In the past few months there have been about 120 cases in Luton and the South East. It’s a problem that has been going on for a while, but a lot of people are reluctant to come forward and there’s not much being done.
“It’s not the whole Muslim community, it’s extremist individuals. Some girls are very innocent and vulnerable when they go to university. Then they are befriended by these men. We know of some whose lives have been ruined.”
Some of the young women have suffered physical violence. Others have said that the men claimed to have been paid to convert their victims.
Ramesh Kallidai, secretary-general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, said: “The main problem is these girls feel very vulnerable and intimidated by these men. They talk about it to their friends, who tell us what is happening, but don’t want to speak to the police. Some families are completely broken apart by it. It becomes difficult to admit in public.
“One girl was beaten up when she refused to convert. She is petrified. She only spoke to one other girl about it, who contacted us.”
One Sikh organisation sets up telephone helplines and arranges visits to temples to raise awareness of the problem. Its leader, who wishes his identity and the group’s to remain anonymous, said: “This is very much taboo. These issues have been going on for many years and come to the boil at university.
“I deal with many very serious cases. There are horrific examples of abuse and blackmail, with men saying they’re going to tell the girl’s parents. Then they’re pretty much trapped. We call it groomed conversions. Some of the girls go through with it because they feel they have no choice.
“The men start a relationship with them, with the agenda of conversion down the line. Sometimes they take a picture of her in a compromising position. It’s so easy with camera phones. An 18-year-old girl ends up in a situation that she can’t control.”
He said that the extremists were exploiting the Sikh community’s tendency to treat conversion as a grave dishonour, adding: “That’s a cultural mindset we need to tackle. It’s the worst thing you could face — worse than bankruptcy or losing your job.”A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman confirmed that officers had attended a Hindu security conference last month. She said: “We are aware of it as an issue that concerns the Hindu community but are not aware, without further research, of any specific incidents reported to police. We would encourage anyone who has been targeted in this way to seek help.”