In 1999, at the age of 65, the popular writer and socialite Kamala Das converted to Islam—she took the name Kamala Surayya. The reason that she gave for moving out of the fold of Hinduism, the traditional religion of her ancestors, was: “There is too much freedom in Hinduism… I am lonely and need the solace of a protective religion like Islam and a merciful God like Allah.” While talking about her religious conversion, she ranted against Hinduism and managed to hurt the sentiments of many pious Hindus by her remarks on Lord Krishna.
Most of the mainstream media cheerfully reported on her conversion and her remarks on Lord Krishna. Journalists flooded her with interview requests. She gave more interviews within two months of her conversion than she had in all her earlier life. She became a media celebrity. She was eulogized by the intellectuals who branded her as a “brave lady.” In an interview Kamala was asked what attracted her to Islam. Her answer:
"Two plain reasons. One is the purdah. Second is the security that Islam provides to women. In fact, both these reasons are complementary. Purdah is the most wonderful dress for women in the world. And I have always loved to wear the purdah. It gives women a sense of security. Only Islam gives protection to women. I have been lonely all through my life. At nights, I used to sleep by embracing a pillow. But I am no longer a loner. Islam is my company. Islam is the only religion in the world that gives love and protection to women. Therefore, I have converted.”
People who were close to her revealed other reasons for her conversion. They claimed that her conversion was a publicity stunt. Another reason they gave was that she was in love with a Muslim and they were planning to get married. They also claimed that she wanted to please filmmaker Ismail Merchant who was planning a movie on her novel My Story. Kamala’s close associate Merrily Weisbord has alleged in her book The Love Queen of Malabar that there was a political conspiracy behind Kamala’s conversion to Islam.
Kamala was right when she said, “There is too much freedom in Hinduism.” One of Hinduism’s virtues is that it offers freedom of expression and religious practice. For thousands of years, Hindu kings have adhered to the cardinal principle of protecting people of all faiths. But this virtue has led to one of the greatest weaknesses of Hinduism: the lack of strategy for Dharam Yudha (Holy Campaign). The philosophy of Dharam Yudha is strong in Hinduism but this philosophy has not evolved into a cultural and geopolitical strategy for protecting one's religion and culture.