A controversy has flared up after a school in the district staged a play in which a girl performs the azaan, the ritual Islamic call to prayer, prompting the institution against staging it at a state level competition.
The Memunda Higher Secondary school at Vatakara won the first place at the revenue district school arts festival, besides an 'A' grade and best actress award for the girl who performed the lead role in the play, "Kithab", an adaptation of writer Unni R's story "Vaankh".
The play had been selected for school-level competition, when the controversy erupted. "Kithab" tells the story of a girl who dreams to perform the 'azaan' like her father, a Muezzin.
The Kerala Sunni Students Federation and the Sunni Yuvajana Sangham had staged protests against the play, alleging it had hurt religious sentiments and tried to portray a section of the community in a bad light.
According to the protesters, azaan is traditionally performed by men. They alleged that the play "insults the Muslim way of life."
In a press release, school Principal P K Krishnadas said a controversy had erupted after the play got the recognition to be staged in the state level competitions. Following the row, the school authorities held discussions with those associated with the play.
"We understand that certain criticisms and situations which have cropped up following the staging of the play had pained a particular community. However, this was not intentional," the release said.
As a government educational institution, the school has always upheld "general awareness," he said. "By hurting anyone and causing mental agony, the institution has till date never tried to carry on any cultural acitvities.
It has always tried to uphold democratic and secular values and was not keen to bring the institution under a cloud of suspicion," it said announcing its decision to withdraw the play from the state level competition.
Rafeeq Mangalasseri, who directed the play, said the school has decided not to perform the play "due to pressure from fundamentalists."
He said if any progressive organisation comes forward, he was ready to stage the play. "Some of them have already approached. I am not backing down. None of the so-called cultural leaders and progressive writers, who had protested the Sangh Parivar attack on novel Meesha, have come forward against this attack on Kitab," he told PTI.
"This shows their double standards. The writers here are afraid of Islamic fundamentalism. They are not ready to write against it. People can write against all other religions like Christianity and Hinduism, but when it comes to Islam, the writers get into a self-censorship," Rafeeq said.
If the progressive society had supported the school and the play, they wouldn't have backed down, he added. Malayalam writer S Hareesh recently withdrew serialisation of his controversial novel 'Meesha' in a Malayalam weekly after he was allegedly threatened by some right-wing members on social media.
(With inputs from agencies.)