World · August 3, 2022

The Indian school faces a criminal investigation into Islamic prayers

A private school in India is being investigated by police under a controversial religious conversion law for holding multireligious prayers that included the declaration of Islamic faith, an official said Tuesday.

The social media video showed students from Kanpur’s Florets International School reciting prayers that included texts from four main faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism.

Several right-wing Hindu outfits and Hindu parents held street protests in the city over the weekend.

Religious conversion has long been a sticking point in India, which is mostly Hindu but also has the second largest Muslim population in the world.

At times, tensions in communities have increased, and in recent years Hindu extremist groups and local governments led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have sharpened their attack on proselytism.

The school is located in the BJP-governed state of Uttar Pradesh, which last year passed a law criminalizing all religious conversions without prior state approval, a law critics said was targeted against Muslims. .

Police said Tuesday that the school director was being investigated under the law for offending religious beliefs following allegations by Hindu parents that the school was “preparing” students to convert to Islam.

“We acted on a complaint received from Hindu parents who opposed Islamic prayers,” Nishank Sharma, assistant to the Kanpur police commissioner, told AFP.

Sharma said an investigation has been opened but no arrests have yet been made.

The practice of reciting religious texts was halted in the school following the complaint, the officer added.

The school rejected the conversion charge and insisted that multi-religious prayers had been recited in the institute for over a decade and were aimed at inculcating a sense of religious harmony among the students.

“We have been following the tradition since 2003 but no one opposed it. We interrupted the prayers after some parents complained on Friday, ”school principal Ankita Yadav told reporters.

Many BJP-ruled states passed laws against religious conversion amid claims by right-wing Hindu groups that Islamic groups were conspiring to convert Hindus to increase India’s Muslim population.