PAKISTAN, August 4, 2020 (New York Times): Dozens of Hindu families converted in June in the Badin district of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan. Video clips of the ceremony went viral across the country, delighting hard-line Muslims and weighing on Pakistan's dwindling Hindu minority. The mass ceremony was the latest in what is a growing number of such conversions to Pakistan's majority Muslim faith in recent years -- although precise data is scarce. Some of these conversions are voluntary, some not. News outlets in India, Pakistan's majority-Hindu neighbor and archrival, were quick to denounce the conversions as forced. But what is happening is more subtle. Desperation, religious and political leaders on both sides of the debate say, has often been the driving force behind their change of religion.
Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus of Pakistan are often systematically discriminated against in every walk of life -- housing, jobs, access to government welfare. While minorities have long been drawn to convert in order to join the majority and escape discrimination and sectarian violence, Hindu community leaders say that the recent uptick in conversions has also been motivated by newfound economic pressures. "The dehumanization of minorities coupled with these very scary times we are living in -- a weak economy and now the pandemic -- we may see a raft of people converting to Islam to stave off violence or hunger or just to live to see another day," said Farahnaz Ispahani, a former Pakistani lawmaker who is now a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute, a research group in Washington.
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