Ciyani Benny, now known as Aisha
Ciyani Benny, now known as Aisha Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A 19-year-old Christian student of Delhi University (DU) who flew to Abu Dhabi last fortnight and embraced Islam has rubbished reports that she has been abducted and coerced into joining a terrorist group.

“This is not true. I have found my true calling and have come to Abu Dhabi of my own free will. No one forced me. I am an adult citizen of India and can make my own decision,” Ciyani Benny, now known as Aisha, told Gulf News on Sunday.

A final year undergraduate student at DU-affiliated Jesus and Mary College, Ciyani attended classes until 11am on September 18. However, the same afternoon, she took a 2.45 pm GoAir flight to Abu Dhabi to marry an Indian man she became friends with on social media about nine months ago.

Her parents filed a missing report alongside a police complaint saying that their daughter has been kidnapped while her college mates petitioned the Chief Justice of India stating: “an Indian national has been abducted by forces that have been creating havoc around the world.”

Soon, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) joined the fray with vice chairman George Kurian writing to Indian home minister Amit Shah and demanding a probe into the matter by the counmtry’s National Investigation Agency (NIA)

In a statement, Kurian said: “The spate in organised religious conversion and using the victims for terror activities by trapping them through “love jihad” has shown that the Christian community is a soft target for Islamic radicals. It is important that the home ministry takes note of this alarming trend and order a probe by the National Investigative Agency and bring in an effective law to curb such fraudulent activities of radicalised elements.”

Ciyani’s parents, originally from Kozhikode in Kerala, said they fear their daughter “could have been misled/cheated/brainwashed/abducted and led astray with very nefarious designs like joining an outfit such as Islamic State (IS) or being used as a slave.”

Ciyani has strongly refuted these allegations.

On Saturday, she issued a statement saying that she embraced Islam in Abu Dhabi Court on September 24 of her own free will. “I have accepted this religion and would ensure that I would live with the same faith,” she said in a letter addressed to the Indian home minister, Minority Commission of India, Kerala and Delhi chief ministers and their police,

“Our constitution provides each and every citizen the freedom of religion and freedom... I have been called by the Indian Embassy and I have stated my terms that I have come here on my own and would not want to go back,” she said, urging the government to take action against those spreading the “fake news” that she has been “abducted or is part of a terrorist group”.

“They are paranoid. The other day my family stumbled upon some prayers while rummaging through my belongings back home. The prayers were in the Arabic script so they assumed that I was being indoctrinated. The fact is that I have always had a keen interest in Islam and was studying it long before I met the love of my life,” she said.

Ciyani said her parents, including his brother have air-dashed to Abu Dhabi to meet her.

“I have told them I am not going back. I want to get married to live in the UAE,” she said.

In conversation with Ciyani Benny

Question: It’s alleged that you have been kidnapped? How did you come to Abu Dhabi? Were you pressurised?

Ciyani Benny: No, I came of my own will. I have been in love with a person for the past nine months and I have came here to live with him.

Question: There are reports suggesting that you are a victim of Love Jihad. What’s your take on these allegations?

Ciyani Benny: Not that’s not true. I love Islam and have choses it as my religion. I proclaimed the shahadat (‘Ash-hadu ‘an laa’i-laa-ha ‘il-lal-laa-hu.) while I was still in Delhi but did not make it public. I did that here in Abu Dhabi Court. The Shahada is an Islamic creed, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, declaring belief in the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet

Question: When did you came here (Abu Dhabi)?

Ciyani Benny: I landed here on 18th (September)

Question: Why do you reckon this has became a political issue back home?

Ciyani Benny: I was a Christian and left my home unannounced. Perhaps that could be the reason.

Question: Mr. George Kurian (vice chairman, National Commission for Minorities) has raised your issue. What is his connection with your family?

Ciyani Benny: My father knows him, that’s all. I don’t know anything more about it.

What is Love Jihad
Love Jihad is the alleged effort by Muslim men in targeting women belonging to non-Muslim communities for conversion to Islam by feigning love.he concept rose to national attention in India in 2009 with alleged conversions first in Kerala and subsequently in Karnataka. According to an article in The Economist, “Repeated police investigations have failed to find evidence of any organised plan of conversion. Reporters have repeatedly exposed claims of “love jihad” as at best fevered fantasies and at worst, deliberate election-time inventions.” According to the same report, the common theme regarding many claims of “love jihad” have been the frenzy objection to an interfaith marriage while “Indian law erects no barriers to marriages between faiths, or against conversion by willing and informed consent. Yet the idea still sticks, even when the supposed “victims” dismiss it as nonsense.”