'Love Jihad and Other Fictions' review: Combating fiction with facts

The book by three journalists, is rigorously researched

Have you heard the theory about actor Shah Rukh Khan propagating ‘population jihad’—the Muslim plot to overthrow Hindus by producing more children? There is, of course, no evidence for this except the fact that Khan has three children. Once upon a time, such theories would have seemed laughable. But now, they no longer are. Mostly because of two factors that are explained in the book, Love Jihad and Other Fictions: Simple Facts to Counter Viral Falsehoods, written by three journalists—Sreenivasan Jain, Mariyam Alavi and Supriya Sharma. First, these theories are increasingly getting political backing, with powerful ministers and MPs endorsing them. Second, they are having serious consequences—death, destruction and widespread prejudice and bigotry.

In this post-truth age, when blatant falsehoods are endorsed widely, Love Jihad and Other Fictions is an important book.

One example the writers give in the book is that of cow slaughter, or what PM Narendra Modi repeatedly called the ‘pink revolution’ while campaigning in 2014. Within months of his party’s victory that year, the attacks by the ‘gau rakshaks’ had amplified significantly. To find out the extent of the problem, the writers analysed media archives on the internet to count the number of cow-related attacks across two time periods—from 2009 to 2014, during the tenure of the UPA government, and from 2014 to May 2023, during the BJP-led NDA rule. While there was only one instance of cow-related violence in the former period, in the latter, there were 136 instances. At least 66 people were killed, of whom at least 70 per cent were Muslims. Even if simply relying on media reports is not an airtight way of finding out the truth, the overall trend from their research is clear, they say: cow-related violence has witnessed a dramatic spike since 2014.

In this post-truth age, when blatant falsehoods are endorsed widely, Love Jihad and Other Fictions is an important book. In it, the writers tackle four myths that have become truths: Love jihad, population jihad, forced conversions and Muslim appeasement. In each case, they take specific claims and systematically disprove them. For example, the claim of Muslim appeasement (the idea that Muslims are given preferential treatment to get their votes) being real in India. Contrary to what this implies, the writers prove the reality of Muslim backwardness on most social and economic indicators, including living standards, literacy and education, salaried jobs and business.

Or the claim that population jihad is real, because Muslim growth rate is off the charts. The writers cite experts and draw from census data to disprove this. Even though the Muslim growth rate is higher than that of Hindus, it is steadily coming down, because the Muslim fertility rate is dropping, they conclude.

The book is rigorously researched. The writers use conventional journalistic tools—ground reporting, government records, official surveys and polls, RTI applications and expert views—to uncover the truth. There are charts, graphs, illustrations, and elaborate endnotes to back their conclusions. The methods they use are so diametrically opposite to the ones used by the conspiracy theorists that one feels like one is sitting in the same cinema hall and watching two different movies. At a time when hindutva is becoming so powerful, it takes courage to take on the system. And in a land that has turned upside-down, it is nice to be shown what it means to stand upright.

Love Jihad and Other Fictions: Simple Facts to Counter Viral Falsehoods

By Sreenivasan Jain, Mariyam Alavi and Supriya Sharma

Published by Aleph

Price Rs799; pages 184