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Muslim Fundamentalists Ostracize Converts, Strip Woman in India

9/27/07 India (International Christian Concern) – The situation in a village in West Bengal state is tense after Muslim fundamentalists ostracized converts from six families and stripped a Christian woman earlier this month, ICC has learned.

The incident occurred on September 4 in Natungram village in West Bengal ’s Murshidabad district, but the victims have not lodged a complaint with the police yet, fearing for their lives, a local Christian source told ICC.

“However, we are planning to ask the affected families to file a complaint so that they are not harassed any further,” added the source.

On September 4, the priest of a local mosque in the Muslim-dominated Natungram village, identified as Nur Islam, summoned the heads of six families that had converted from Islam to a village meeting, where hundreds of Muslims had also been called, explained the source.

“In the meeting, the Christians were forced to deny Christ with a warning that otherwise they would be completely ostracized and possibly killed,” said the source.

When the Christians refused to comply, the mosque priest asked all the villagers not to keep any contact with the Christians, told all the shopkeepers not to sell anything to them, and warned them against using any common facility, including water taps and tube wells.

“Later, some fundamentalists went to the house of a convert woman in the same village, and forcibly stripped her, saying they wanted to check if missionaries had put any mark on her body as a sign of conversion,” said the source.

All the victims go to a house church in the same village for weekly worship, which is led by Khoda-e-Jamat (Gospel of Peace to Muslim Brothers), an independent, indigenous Christian organization.

“Ever since this incident took place, no one has been coming to attend the worship service,” said the source, adding that the Christians believed that fundamentalists were keeping an eye on them to see if they attend church.

The Murshidabad police station initially deployed a police force to prevent further tensions, but they did not arrest anyone, as no formal complaint was lodged by the victims. However, all local newspapers reported on the incident.

West Bengal has a population of about 80 million, out of which a little more than 20 million are Muslim, and 515,150 are Christian.

Incidents of persecution by Muslim fundamentalists are rare in India , as Hindu extremists attack both Christian and Muslim minority communities to suggest to the people that they are “protecting” the Hindu religion.