Kerala’s Eid Celebrations Marred by Contentions Over Controversial Film ‘The Kerala Story’

The Eid-ul-Fitr festivities in Kerala recently came with a bittersweet taste as Muslim leaders used the occasion to voice their disapproval of the film ‘The Kerala Story’. The film, condemned for its divisive theme, was a topic of intense discussion during the Eid sermons on Wednesday.

As Kerala’s Muslim community rejoiced in the conclusion of Ramadan, the mosques and Eidgahs were abuzz with activity and prayers. The day was marked not only by spiritual adherence but also by a strong sense of community. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and political figures like Shashi Tharoor and Pannian Raveendran participated in the gatherings, highlighting the inclusive nature of the festival. The air was filled with the joy of embraces, the exchange of warm greetings, and the delectable scents of Eid feasts, as festive dishes were prepared across Muslim households.

However, amidst the celebrations, religious leaders offered sermons that carried a critical message about the role of art and cinema in society. Specifically, the feature film ‘The Kerala Story’, directed by Sudipto Sen, faced significant opposition. The movie, purportedly based on true events, tells a controversial tale of young women from Kerala being coerced into converting to Islam and joining the ranks of the terrorist organization ISIS.

Imam V P Suhaib Maulavi, speaking from the renowned Palayam Juma Masjid, warned the congregation against those trying to sow discord among the community. He emphasized that the narrative put forth by ‘The Kerala Story’ was entirely unfounded and those involved in its dissemination were effectively spreading falsehoods. Maulavi urged, “Such movies are propagating things that are completely baseless. I have only one thing to tell to those people who screen such movies … we should not become tools in the hands of those who spread lies.”

Additionally, Hussain Madavoor, a prominent Islamic scholar, denounced the film’s underlying suggestion of ‘love jihad’, a term used in India to allege a conspiracy by Muslim men to convert non-Muslim women to Islam through marriage. Madavoor categorically stated that no such phenomenon exists in the country.

The release of ‘The Kerala Story’ last year was met with diverse reactions, and its recent broadcast by Doordarshan, the public broadcaster, only fuelled the ongoing debate. The film came under further scrutiny after the Idukki Diocese showcased it as part of a youth training program, sparking widespread controversy across Kerala. This unsavory limelight is not just confined to religious circles but has also cut across the political landscape of the state.

The repercussions of this film serve as a reminder of the powerful impact cinema can have on social cohesion. These leaders, in their Eid addresses, stressed the importance of art as a medium that should foster togetherness rather than division.

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