Accepted paper:

'How to dodge rich, sexy Muslim men': Love Jihad and anti-Islamic conspiracy theories in India

Author:

Atreyee Sen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This essay will explore the emerging politics of 'Love-Jihad', an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory embedded in the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. I show how these campaigns move from the realm of 'theory' to gain the status of 'absolute truth' through strategic dissemination among the urban poor.

Paper long abstract:

This essay will explore the emerging politics of 'Love-Jihad', an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory embedded in the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. According to the Hindu right-wing rhetoric disseminated through a range of state and non-state platforms (including public lectures, pamphlets, intelligence reports, legal dictates and media debates), 'Love-Jihad' entails the seduction, marriage, forced conversion and trafficking of vulnerable Hindu women by affluent Muslim men. This conspiracy is definitively linked to Islamic terror groups that ostensibly fund this covert war against Indian Hinduism. While right-wing groups constantly develop strategies to counter this menace, 'Love-Jihad' is positioned as a great threat to the integrity of the imagined Hindu nation. My research is based on ethnographic fieldwork in the slums of Mumbai, a site for many inter-religious love affairs, sexual unions and marriages. I show how the slumdwellers' persistent use of anecdotal 'evidence' about deceit in these interpersonal liaisons, can displace allegedly conspiratorial practices from the realm of 'theory' (a flexible hypothesis with the potential to be challenged), and place them in the domain of 'unfalsifiable fact' (where it occupies the state of absolute truth). I contend that well-publicised conspiracy theories tend to gain political currency in poor neighbourhoods. These forms of anti-Muslim campaigns are stable, creative and more convincing than the fleeting and outrageous content of rumours and local gossip, and can generate widespread public paranoia by speedily fastening quotidian love choices and marriage practices, to an illusory national crisis.

panel P121
Conspiracy theories and conspiracy practices: moving between rationalities