Indian school charged with Islamic prayers

Police are investigating a private school in India under a controversial conversion law for conducting multi-faith prayers that include an Islamic proclamation of faith. said Tuesday.

Video on social media showed students at Florets International School in Kanpur reciting prayers that included texts from the four major religions – Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism.

Several right-wing Hindu organizations and Hindu parents held street protests in the city over the weekend.

Religious conversion has long been a flashpoint in India, which is majority Hindu but also has the second largest Muslim population in the world.

Community tensions have sometimes reached high levels, and in recent years Hindu extremist groups as well as local governments led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have stepped up their attacks against proselytism.

The school is located in the BJP-run state of Uttar Pradesh, which passed a law last year criminalizing any conversion to another religion without prior state approval, a law that critics say targeted Muslims.

Police on Tuesday said the school principal was being investigated under the law for insulting religious beliefs following claims by Hindu parents that the school was “preparing” students to convert to Islam.

“We have responded to a complaint received from Hindu parents objecting to Islamic prayers,” Kanpur Police Assistant Commissioner Nishank Sharma told AFP.

Sharma said an investigation has been launched but no one has been arrested so far.

According to the officer, the practice of reading religious texts at the school was discontinued after a complaint was filed.

The school denied the allegation of conversion and insisted that the multi-denominational prayers had been recited at the institution for more than a decade and were aimed at instilling in students a sense of religious harmony.

“We have been following the tradition since 2003, but no one objected. We stopped praying after some parents complained on Friday,” school director Ankita Yadav told reporters.

Many BJP-ruled states have passed anti-conversion laws amid claims by Hindu right-wing organizations that Islamic groups have conspired to convert Hindus in order to increase India’s Muslim population.