Indian school faces criminal investigation over Islamic prayer



An officer said Tuesday that police are investigating a private school in India under a controversial religious change law for holding multi-faith prayers that included proclaiming the Islamic faith.

A video posted on social media showed students at the Florets International School in Kanpur reciting prayers that included texts from four major religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism.

Several right-wing Hindu groups and Hindu patriarchs staged street protests in the city at the weekend.

Conversion to religion has always been a flashpoint in India, which is predominantly Hindu but also has the second largest Muslim population in the world.

Sectarian tensions have at times escalated, and in recent years Hindu extremist groups as well as local governments run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have intensified their offensive against proselytizing.

The school is located in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh, which last year passed a law criminalizing all religious conversions without prior state approval – legislation its critics have said targets Muslims.

Police said Tuesday that the school’s principal is under investigation under the law for insulting religious beliefs after allegations from Hindu parents that the school was “preparing” students to convert to Islam.

“We acted on a complaint received from my Hindu parents objecting to Islamic prayer,” assistant commissioner of police in Kanpur, Nishank Sharma, told AFP.

Sharma said an investigation had been launched but no arrests had been made so far.

The officer added that the practice of reciting religious texts stopped at the school after the complaint.

The school rejected the claim of conversion and insisted that interfaith prayer had been recited for more than a decade at the institution, intended to instill a sense of religious harmony among students.

We have been following this tradition since 2003 but no one objected. “We stopped praying after some parents complained on Friday,” school principal Ankita Yadav told reporters.

Several BJP-ruled states have passed laws against religious conversion amid allegations from Hindu right-wing groups that Muslim groups were plotting to convert Hindus to increase the Muslim population in India.

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