These days we hear different kinds of Jihad and the most famous of them is love jihad. But in reality, there are four types of jihads: jihad with one’s heart (bil-qalb), with one’s tongue (bil-lisan), with one’s hand (bil-yad), and with a sword (bil-sayf). Some translate Jihad as what you do to get close to your creator. Since there are a billion Muslim in the world there are a billion verses of Jihad. Some would say teaching the Quran, some would say living as a good Muslim, some saying helping the poor, some saying respecting elderly, some saying putting your life at risk for your religion and Allah, some say earning clean money for your children. In recent times some people invented Thook Jihad (saliva Jihad) Naukari Jihad (Job Jihad) and the latest one is Game Jihad. This is one computer game where you shoot at other players.
It has cartoon style graphics and large battles that make it easily accessible, and it is available on multiple platforms, including console, PC and mobile. This game is called Fortnite, and it is a survival game where hundreds of players fight against each other to be the last one standing. It is a fast-paced, action-packed game, not unlike The Hunger Games, where strategic thinking is a must in order to survive. There are an estimated 125 million players on Fortnite. Players can spend real money to upgrade the equipment of the looks of their characters, and access some additional functions. A combination of the simple gameplay, cartoon graphics and being free make it popular, especially with younger gamers.
In the recent past, The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) wrote to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) to initiate an enquiry against “Fortnite” and instant messaging social platform “Discord” for their alleged involvement in religious conversion of a minor boy in Ghaziabad. The Commission took action when they came across a news article, wherein it has been informed that two men including a Caretaker of a Mosque in Ghaziabad and a man from Mumbai were involved in religious conversion of a minor boy through this online gaming platform, “Fortnite”.
On 6th June there was a news report on Aaj Tak by Sudhir Chaudhary who instilled fear and rage about “gaming jihad” – a new and sinister menace. He said that the young Hindu boys are allegedly “converted” online. Chaudhary also mentioned that the two of the boys were from Ghaziabad and one each from Faridabad and Chandigarh were lured to believe that by memorising the ayats of the Quran, they can win online games, that by adopting Islam, miracles will happen in their lives. Like the movie “The Kerala Story” conversion figures were given 32000 and later on clarified and corrected to 3, here also Sudhir Chaudhary gave figures of some thousands, which are imaginary. Possibly that was for his TRP kick.
The news was covered by all right-wing inclined channels and one channel went to the extent of stating that the game itself is teaching how to shoot or kill, like Pakistani militant training. The prime-time debates went on discussing this new found Jihad for days and months but there was lack of authenticity.
Two years ago, a boy called Rohan, had supposedly bought some “computer parts” from a Muslim man called Baddo in Mumbra, Mumbai. He had initially met Baddo through an “online game” but there is no clarity on how. Baddo (30) is the key accused in the conversion racket. Baddo aka Shahnawaz Maqsood lives in Maharashtra and is currently on the run. They were friendly and allegedly talked a lot online. Rohan subsequently began showing an interest in Islam, even finding a mosque in his neighbourhood to attend. Upset, Rohan’s father filed a police complaint against this unnamed Mumbai person for “influencing” his son. The Ghaziabad police then filed an FIR in the case. The police alleged Baddo was the head of a sprawling conspiracy to lure Hindu boys on gaming apps and convert them to Islam.
The other teenager’s parents told one news portal that her son had never interacted with Baddo, let alone been a “victim of jihad”. Instead, her son’s phone number was mentioned in the FIR because his number was found on Rohan’s mobile phone. The parent also said it was Rohan, not a mysterious Muslim man online, who tried to coax her son into showing an interest in Islam. The parents also said that the media has lied about her son and this entire saga.
This alleged conversion racket started during the Covid-induced lockdown in 2020 when schools were shut and teenagers exposed to online classes. This is when the minors from Faridabad, Ludhiana, Ghaziabad virtually met Baddo at a gaming platform called Fortnite. The first alleged conversion that came to light was of the Jain boy from Ghaziabad. During his visits to the Ghaziabad Jama Masjid, he came in touch with Abdul Rehman, alias Nanni. Nanni and the minor would exchange WhatsApp texts discussing how to be a good Muslim. In one such conversation Nanni encouraged the minor to have a strong devotion to Allah. Rehman alias Nanni, a masjid committee member was arrested on 4 June. However, no connection between Baddo and Nanni has yet been established by the police.
Fortnite was released in 2017 and won the Kids choice favourite video game award in 2021. The game is played by four players as a group that is tasked with fighting off zombie-like creatures and building fortifications. The messaging app Discord is a popular chat service used by gamers. A huge majority of these kids get addicted to Fortnite, playing more than 6 hours at a time. The toxicity you get is high. Most of it comes from curious and adventurous pre-teens. For whatever reason people may hate Fortnite, but it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Even if Apex Legends becomes more popular, Fortnite’s unique gameplay will keep a decent player base engaged, like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Minecraft have in the past.
In this entire saga, the three boys allegedly getting infatuated towards Islam made headlines but none of these broadcasters tried reaching the depth of the story. I don’t promote even one such conversion but also don’t support baseless statistics and panic presentations. Police are investigating the matter, let us wait for the truth to be revealed.
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