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How Abdul will become Avinash

How Abdul will become Avinash

Author: Kishore Rathod
Publication: Mid-Day
Date: September 18, 2002
URL: http://www.mid-day.com/news/city/2002/september/31687.htm

Abdul Sattar (45) and Rafiq Khan (21), both born Muslims, will convert to Hinduism at a public function tomorrow evening. After participating in the yagna at Thane's Hindu Jagruti Ganpati  Mandal tomorrow, Abdul will become Avinash Sardesai, while Rafiq's new name will be Raju Sharma.

"It will be a new birth, a new identity for me," said Rabodi resident Abdul, who owns a flourishing security business. Abdul, who left his village near Sholapur in 1975, has been associated with Hindu Maharashtrians ever since he came to Mumbai as a teenager.

"I have been using the Hindu name (Avinash) for almost five years, since most of my business associates are Hindu Brahmins. If I use my Muslim name, I may lose all my business," said Abdul.

However, the employer of over 1,000 security guards and owner of a spacious house and a fleet of cars, maintains the change of religion is not for official, but personal reasons.

"I don't like certain practices of Muslims, like being obsessed with religion, killing animals, etc," said Abdul. And when asked if he is a vegetarian, he replied, "No, I eat only chicken. And I plan to give up even that soon." Explaining his decision to become a Hindu, Abdul said, "Since I have always been among Hindus and consider myself one of them, I have decided to officially change my religion."

Abdul's Hindu leanings are evident from his faith in Hindu deities. He claims that while he never read the Koran or gave a namaaz even on Id, he has always been celebrating Hindu festivals and visiting Hindu shrines. "I have been to Pandharpur, but never to Ajmer," he said.

However, his wife Ameena (40) and two daughters, Aafreen (14) and (Rukhsar), will continue following Islam. Said Abdul, "They can give namaaz, go to the masjid and I will go to the temple. While Islamic strictures adorn the walls of my house, my office is full of idols of Hindu gods."

While converting to Hinduism is a matter of choice for Abdul, for Rafiq it is a case of lack of options. One among nine siblings, the immigrant from Jhunjhunu village of Rajasthan, found the going tough in Mumbai ever since he came here nine months ago, till he became associated with Thane Bajrang Dal activists.

Said Rafiq, "They gave me shelter, they got me a job, they have made my life. While the Muslims cannot see to the betterment of their brother, Hindus are more helping and co-operative, so I have decided to become one myself."

Rafiq works as an office assistant in a private firm in Thane, which employs only Hindus.

Rafiq's family members back home in Rajasthan are unaware of his decision to become a Hindu. Said Rafiq, "I know they will be upset when they hear about it, but then I have to live my own life."

Following the rituals, Bajrang Dal activists will facilitate the necessary documentation to change their names in the government gazette.

Said Vikram Bhoir, vice president of Thane Unit of the Bajrang Dal, "It is their choice to become Hindus, and seeing their eagerness we are admitting them as Hindus."

When told about the two Muslims' decision to convert, Ashfaq Syed, a middle-aged resident of Thane's Muslim-dominated Rabodi area, reacted, "Inn dono ka to imaan hi nahi hain. Aur jiska imaan nahi, woh Hindu kya, Mussalmaan kya, insaan hi nahi hain." (These two don't have honour. And those who don't have honour, how can they be Hindus or Muslims? They are not even human beings.)

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