Forced Conversion - Islam


See also: Islamization and Safavid conversion of Iran from Sunnism to Shiism

Most scholars have argued that early Islamic scripture and law forbids forced conversion. One particular verse of the Qur'an (2:256) is frequently cited, reading "let there be no compulsion in religion". Muhammed and his followers never practice forced conversion of the Pagan Arabs during Muhammad's conquest of Arabia. None of the Quraish was forced to become Muslim, but Muhammad’s victory convinced some of his most principled opponents, such as Abu Sufyan, that the old religion had failed.

However, forced conversions have occurred during Islamic history but rarely has it been official government policy. Noted cases include the conversion of Samaritans to Islam at the hands of the rebel Ibn Firāsa, conversions in the 12th century under the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and Andalusia, as well as in Persia under the Safavid dynasty where Sunnis were converted to Shi'ism and Jews were converted to Islam. A form of forced conversion became institutionalized during the Ottoman Empire in the practice of devşirme, a human levy in which Christian boys were seized and collected from their families (usually in the Balkans), enslaved, converted to Islam, and then trained for high ranking service to the sultan.

There is dispute amongst scholars as to whether the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides converted to Islam in order to freely escape from Almohad territory, and then reconverted back to Judaism in either the Levant or in Egypt. Maimonides wrote a book on apostasy wherein he advocated accepting forced conversion rather than suffer martydom, and to then seek refuge afterward at a place where it was safe. The dispute also extended to the allegedly forced conversion of Sabbatai Zevi, an Ottoman Jew from Smyrna. In reality, at the beginning of 1666, the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople ordered Sabbatai, who had many followers and had claimed to be the long-awaited Jewish messiah, to be imprisoned. When Sabbatai was later taken to Adrianople, the Sultan's physician, a former Jew, advised him to convert to Islam. The following day he converted before the Sultan, who happily rewarded Sabbatai by conferring the title (Mahmed) Effendi, and appointing him as his doorkeeper with a high salary. A number of Sabbatai's followers also went over to Islam and about 300 families converted and were known as dönmeh (converts). The sultan's officials ordered Sabbatai to take an additional wife to demonstrate his conversion.

Mughal ruler Aurangzeb cherished the ambition of converting India into a land of Islam. For this, he encouraged forced religious conversions and destroyed thousands of Hindu temples during his reign.

During Tipu Sultan's invasion of Malabar in the late 18th century, he forcefully converted over 400,000 Hindus to Islam. During the Moplah Riots of 1921 in Kerala, Muslim Mappilas forcibly converted thousands of Hindus to Islam and killed all those who refused to apostatise. During the Noakhali genocide of Hindus in 1946, several thousand Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam by Muslim mobs.

In 1998 Prankote massacre, 26 Kashmiri Hindus were beheaded by Islamist militants after their denial of converting into Islam. The militants struck when the villagers refused demands from the gunmen to convert to Islam and prove their conversion by eating beef.

Read more about this topic:  Forced Conversion

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