Nepalese convert to Islam for work

via published on February 1, 2009

More and more Nepalese emigrants who have gone to Muslim majority
countries to work – for example, on the Arabian Peninsula – are
abandoning their Hindu religion and embracing Islam in order to improve
their economic and social situation.

According to figures from the Nepalese workers’ union, in Qatar
alone there have been about 2,000 cases of conversion, plus 4,000 in
Saudi Arabia, the Arab emirates, and Malaysia.

Rita Tamang, who emigrated to Saudi Arabia two years ago from the
Nepalese district of Dhulikhel, explains that “Muslims get privileges
with better work and good pay. The workers from other religions are
hardly trusted by private employers. So, I myself also adopted Islam,
giving up Hinduism.”
It’s the same story for Manoj Karki, who left
Kathmandu to go to work on an oil rig in Qatar. “I was hardly managing
to save money from my salary, but since I have changed my religion to
Islam, I am now more safe, comfortable, and with easy access to jobs.”

His wife, who works as a maid in Doha, followed her husband’s example:
“My husband converted to Islam and he advised me to do the same, so I

On the basis of numbers provided by the Nepalese workers’ union, and
under pressure from the complaints of immigrants and their relatives in
Nepal, the foreign minister in Kathmandu has decided to take measures
to stop the wave of conversions. Upendra Mahato says he has “instructed
our diplomatic missions to probe the cases and stop such conversions if
they come through pressure or by force.”

According to estimates by the Nonresidential Nepalese Association,
of the almost 7 million citizens of the Asian country who are working
abroad, more than 400,000 are in the Gulf region. Of the 55 countries
in which Nepalese immigrants are living, the most common destinations
for those seeking work are Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, both Muslim
majority countries.

By sending part of their earnings back home, emigrants represent one of the main sources of income for Nepal.

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