‘I have made my choices out of my free will’: Islam convert Buddhist woman blasts LBA

LADAKH: Shifah aka Stanzin Saldon, a Buddhist woman who converted to Islam and married a Kashmiri Muslim from Ladakh said that politics being played on her personal decision.

Shifah in an article to The Indian Express on Tuesday said that her personal decision to marry a Muslim man out of her “own free will and consent” is being used to fuel communal tension across Ladakh.

“The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) wrongly claimed that the love of my life and my husband, Syed Murtaza Agah, has “lured” me to accept Islam”.”

Shifah, 30, embraced Islam in 2015 and married to 32-year-old Agha, an engineer on July 7, 2016.

“I decided to become a Muslim five years ago and it wasn’t because I disliked the religion I was born into. It was an outcome of my spiritual quest and interest in different religious philosophies that I decided to become a Muslim. This happened long before I met Murtaza and fell in love with him. On April 22, 2016, I filed an affidavit before a court in Karnataka, where I was staying, to formally become a Muslim,” she said.

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The marriage has stoked tensions in Kashmir’s Ladakh, with the LBA, a self-styled “welfare group” threatening the entire Muslim community and also gave them an ultimatum either to “bring back” the woman or “leave” the region.

LBA also wrote to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asking for an annulment of the marriage.

“It is shameful to demand that I should be returned, because nobody has taken me or stolen me. I am here and I have made my choices out of my free will,” Shifah said.

She furthered said that her lawfully wedded husband and the entire Muslim community mischievously targeted.

“The Constitution gives me a right as an adult individual to choose my life partner. I have married Syed Murtaza Agha because I love him. There is absolutely no other reason. The accusation that I have been “lured” or “coerced” by anybody is an insult to my ability to think for myself. The Ladakh Buddhist Association and random strangers are trying to objectify me by demanding my return as if I am their property and not a human being. I object to this in the strongest possible terms. No one owns me and I give no one the right to decide on my behalf,” she said.

She said that it pained when her personal matters are being used to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred.

“It hurts me immensely to see my personal matters like marriage and spiritual choice being misused to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred.”

“I am Saldon and also Shifah. I choose to be both and will always be a daughter of my family and Ladakh,” she concluded.