Kozhikode School Withdraws Play Calling out Gender Disparity After Muslim Groups Protest

The protestors alleged that the play, titled ‘Kithab’, denigrates Islam and misrepresents the religion’s views on gender.

New Delhi: A play by students of a Kozhikode school – about a young girl who dreams of calling out the azaan (vaang), the Islamic call to worship recited normally by a male muezzin or mukri – has drawn the ire of Muslims groups, forcing the institute to withdraw the prize-winning work. A muezzin is someone appointed at a mosque to lead and recite the call to prayer.

According to The News Minute, the play, titled ‘Kithab,’ performed on November 24 at the Revenue District School Arts Festival in Kozhikode – was well received by the audience. However, groups such as SNDP, Sunni Yuvajana Sangham and the Muslim Students Federation (MSF), protested the staging of the play, saying the theme hurt Muslim sentiments.

The protests forced the Memunda Higher Secondary School into issuing a statement saying they do not “wish to hold cultural performances that hurt public sentiments.”

The play is an independent adaptation of writer R. Unni’s short story titled Vaang. According to a Firstpost report, it is a humorous portrayal of the daughter of a mukri who raises questions about discrimination and the subjugation of women in her community.

In order to rebel against the norms set by the society, the girl dances with her friends, steals food that is denied to her and even demands the right to call the azaan, like her father. But she is denied that right because there are no women muezzins in Islam. Kithab ends with the girl calling out the azaan and the rest of the congregation praying at the mosque.

According to Deccan Chronicle, after last week’s performance, leaders of MSF – the student-wing of the Indian Union Muslim League, a constituent of the Opposition United Democratic Front – met the district education officer to file a written complaint that the play defames Islam. “The drama misrepresents Islam in gender issue giving a narrow perspective. That is highly condemnable,” the daily quoted MSF leader Anseer Panoli as saying. The SDPI, on the other hand, took its agitation to the streets.

As per the statement issued by the school headmaster: “The play, Kithab, performed by the students of the Memunda Higher Secondary school at the Kozhikode revenue district school arts festival, secured first prize, A grade and the best actor award. It was after the play was selected for the competition at Thiruvananthapuram that certain issues were raised against it and came into focus.”

The school’s statement made clear that it “has not attempted to stage cultural activities by hurting or inflicting wounds on the sentiments of the public.”

“We would not be interested in bringing the atmosphere of this public school, which upholds democratic and secular values, under the shadow of any doubt and suspicion Due to this reason, we have decided not to perform this play – Kithaab – in the future, as it has hurt the sentiments of a community.”

Sajid MS, the coordinator of the play, has alleged that those behind the play were using the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict to gain publicity by protesting against gender discrimination. The Muslims community, he said, according to Firstpost, had other more pressing issues to discuss. “The play is trash paraded as a creative work. We will expose this,” Sajid said.

For over three decades, the Kozhikode has featured unique themes in their school festivals. A teacher from the school told The News Minute that while the drama was about women’s progress, they did not intend to hurt religious sentiments.