KERALA, India (ChurchMilitant.com) - A senior Syro-Malabar bishop has broken ranks with Pope Francis and the Indian Catholic hierarchy to confront the "narcotics and love jihad" being waged by Islamic extremists against Catholics in the southern state of Kerala.
Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt triggered a nationwide controversy after his Wednesday sermon warning against Muslim jihadis who use drugs and sex to groom and lure Catholic girls into Islam.
The Syro-Malabar bishop was addressing a congregation at the famous archiepiscopal Marth Mariam Pilgrim Church in Kuravilangad, Kottayam district — a Marian pilgrim center that claims to date back to A.D. 105 and is steeped in the ancient Syriac tradition.
"From a tender age, girls are being targeted by jihadi groups getting them addicted to drugs," Kallarangatt preached. "Drug jihad has become a reality, and youngsters from non-Muslim communities are being trapped and becoming slaves of such banned substances."
"The growing drug abuse cases in the state point in this direction. Such people operate out of restaurants, ice cream parlors and juice bars run by hardcore jihadis. This is validated by rave parties in Kerala and those who are caught for organizing them," the bishop said.
"In the eyes of a jihadi, non-Muslims are meant to be destroyed," Kallarangatt preached. "When the intention is to spread Islam and annihilate non-Muslims, two widely discussed methods are 'love jihad' and 'narcotics jihad.'"
"There is a section of people who want to establish that no such thing exists in our society today. They are trying to conceal the truth and reality," the bishop added.
In comments to Church Militant, renowned Islamic scholar Robert Spencer explained that "the use of drugs to conduct and finance jihad is long-established and has been going on for decades."
"Before its first regime was toppled, the Taliban spoke of using opium to raise money and excused the practice since they weren't selling drugs to Muslims, but only to non-Muslims," Spencer, author of The History of Jihad: From Muhammad to ISIS noted.
"Kallarangatt speaks the truth, the truth that Pope Francis and so many others refuse to face. If Bp. Joseph were pope, the Church would have a more coherent and realistic approach to an ongoing and growing threat," the academic added.
Addressing the issue of "love jihad," Spencer elaborated:
It is likewise courageous of Bp. Joseph to speak out about the phenomenon of "love jihad," which has victimized untold numbers of Christian women and girls, and Hindu and Sikh women and girls as well. In these cases, a Muslim woos and marries a non-Muslim, usually has children whom he raises Muslim and discards or even brutalizes the non-Muslim wife. It's a means to increase the Islamic community at the expense of the non-Muslim communities.
Bishop Kallarangatt also accused jihadis of trapping and brainwashing girls from other religions, converting them and sending them to terrorist camps in Afghanistan. "Nowadays, Christian girls are largely becoming victims of such traps," he pointed out.
"We need to recognize that jihadis, with their extreme mindset, have laid traps in schools, colleges, hostels, commercial establishments and other such public places and institutions, aiming to lure girls at a tender age," he continued.
The Islamic Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation accused the prelate of "creating communal tension with his accusations against the Muslim community" and called upon the state government to "take legal action against the bishop for his hate speech."
In January 2020, a Syro-Malabar Church Media Commission (SMCMC) reported on Christian girls being targeted and killed in the name of "love jihad" in Kerala — a state known for its 2,000-year-old Christianity brought to its shores by St. Thomas the Apostle.
The Syro-Malabar synod claimed that half of the women who joined the Islamic State hailed from the Christian community. "It is a matter of concern that 'love jihad' is increasing in Kerala, causing danger to the secular harmony and societal peace in Kerala," the report noted.
Father Antony Thalalachelloor, SMCMC secretary, stated in a September 2019 press release: "It is a cause of great worry that Christian girls are the most targeted lot. It is saddening and worrying that, despite the existence of a mechanism to counter efforts by religious terrorist groups to entrap gullible girls, these are not being tackled efficiently."
Thalalachelloor noted that India's Central Bureau of Investigation, National Intelligence Agency and Intelligence Bureau "have all reported that such cases are occurring in the state and the country."
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance documented over 4,000 cases of "love jihad" between 2005 and 2012.
Pope Francis has repeatedly rejected any association of Islam and violence, notably remarking: "I don't like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers, I see violence here in Italy — someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law."
"These are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence," Francis said.
In July, Bp. Kallarangatt, who earned his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, encouraged Catholic families to have more children by announcing benefits for couple who were married after 2000 and had five or more children.
Kallarangatt has published more than 35 scholarly books on theology and oriental liturgy.