Indian Couple Refuses to Give Child a Religious Identity

Aalif Surti and Aditi Shedde are making news because of the birth of their child.

The reason? According to Mohammed Wajihuddin of The Times of India, they refuse to list a religious identity for him:

It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. “A few months into my pregnancy, we had decided that we would not give our child any religious identity,” says Aditi. “We are not against religion, but who are we to choose a religion on our baby’s behalf? We will expose him to the values of different faiths and cultures, and when he grows up he will be free to follow any faith — or none if he wishes.”

Sounds perfectly sensible… but they’re getting shit for not labeling him. Indian birth certificates require you to list some form of religious identification:

The couple had almost hit a dead end. There were four choices on the form — Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Others. Aditi says she did not want any of them for her child, as even Others required them to identify the sect or community. She argued with the officer some more and finally agreed on Others, but without any identification. “Others is just to facilitate the generation of the certificate. We know our child has no religion,” she says.

They’ll have to deal with the issue later on, when the child enrolls in school or applies for a passport, but the couple says they’re prepared for the fight.

The upside to all this is that other Indian parents will be able to follow in their footsteps, perhaps with a little less hassle next time. With each set of parents who follows suit, this will become a non-issue over time.

The whole practice is ridiculous, though. This is precisely what Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association are referring to with their “Don’t Label Me” campaign.

No children know what religion they want to follow (or whether they want to abandon it altogether) and it’s a form of brainwashing for any parents to stick a set of made-up beliefs onto a child who doesn’t know any better.

  • Ray

    Clearly ‘unknown’ would be the only accurate answer.

  • http://claire-chan.livejournal.com Claire Binkley

    I like this!!

    I don’t have anything relevant to add.

    The world is slowly getting better and better over time.

  • Jasen777

    Praise be to the FSM for separation of church and state.

  • muggle

    While I think Dawkins is by and large overreacting on this one, it’s even more absurd to name a religion that the child obviously didn’t select on a birth certificate. Cudos to this couple for refusing to! I wish them luck in dealing with the schools, etc., later on.

  • http://godlizard.com godlizard

    When you consider the ramifications of being labeled a particular religion at birth (especially if that religion has extremist factions which are well-known for their terrorist activities), it’s really a very forward-thinking thing these parents are doing, beyond just giving free choice to their child. Your birth certificate is your “permanent record”, so to speak, and wouldn’t it just suck if that hereditary distinction was held against you in the airport security line? Even if I had a strong religious affiliation, I’d feel terrible about dooming my offspring to a life of travel involving being called into the special room for an “interview” with a guy with rubber gloves and cold hands.

  • Chris

    I’m of Indian origin, but I never knew that labelling your child with a religion on the birth certificate was standard practice over there. Odd.

    I suppose with the absence of a “none” option (really? They expect you to have a religion no matter what?!) I’d probably tick others and write “atheist”.

    I know that’s labelling, too, but at least it’s technically true. The kid is born an atheist.

  • http://www.paulburnett.com/creation.htm Paul Burnett

    All children are born atheists. Until they are exposed to the peculiar form of child abuse called “religion” they know nothing of angels and demons and gods and the many other foolish precepts of religion. It takes years of brainwashing by adults to produce a religious child. Good for these parents, and shame on the Indian government for not having a checkbox for “NONE” on their form.

  • a-hem

    I’ve never understood it, despite being an Indian citizen. It’s supposed to be a secular, democratic republic, and forcing one to declare a religion on major documents like your passport and birth certificate seems contrary to both ideals. Until a Welsh friend of mine pointed out otherwise, I thought all passports required you to list your religious identity.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Good for them. I can’t understand how anybody can actually believe an infant has a religious belief/preference.

  • http://arizonawriter.blogspot.com Kimberly Hosey (AZ Writer)

    Nice! It just seems natural, really. Why not brand the kid a Republican or Democrat? Or a stamp collector? Only those things make more sense, really. Religion is such a contrivance that I don’t think most kids would choose any, independently of parental and societal pressure.

    (On the other hand, as a kid my dad told me that “of course” I’m a Catholic Republican — but, very unique to both those groups, he encouraged questioning and curiosity.)

  • Rajesh Kher

    Well good decision. In all my certificates from (High School) My religion and cast is Not applicable. No problen in College (IIT), passport, election card, Ration Card, PAN card.
    In India absolutely no problem. All the Babus want that entry must be filled. Who cares with what. So fill it with N/A and be safe.

  • Rational Being

    The correct answer is “None of your business”

  • http://thinkingforfree.blogspot.com/ Eamon Knight

    To my mind, the issue here is not labelling the child, as such (I also disagree with Dawkins on this one), but that you have an official, government-registered, religious affiliation at all. It should be none of their business. So good on the parents for striking a blow in support of secularization.

  • MH

    They should have declared it to be “); drop table %;” to see what would happen.

  • Richard Wade

    Good for them!

    The basic idea of theism is that a parental/authority figure, a god, dictates what you are. The basic idea of religion is that a parental/authority figure, the clergy, dictates what you are. So it’s not surprising that most parents, who are parental/authority figures too, assume without a second thought that they’re supposed to dictate what their kids are.

    Let freedom ring!

  • Luckylibran

    I support Aditi and Aalif . This has been a bold and commendable step at their end.As for parents with different religion ,it becomes difficult to teach the kid what to follow.In my case the paternal grand parents of my kid deliberately force onto religious beliefs on my 2  and a half yr old kid who understands nothing, fearing that she might follow her mothers religion. I believe in giving her the right and freedom to select  which religion would she want to follow and not that has been burdened on her.I believe that instead of being a staunch religious person, my daughter should be a good human being.And the column of religion should be struck off from the birth certificate as it does not matter in the long run that which religion do you belong to.


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