Kozhikode: The play Kithab was first performed last week at the revenue district school arts festival in Kozhikode, Kerala, where the audience received it with much appreciation. The play is a production by the students of Memunda Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode and won the Kozhikode revenue district school arts festival for the best play and the best actor. The play was then selected for a competition at Thiruvananthapuram where issues regarding the religious sentiments and representation of the Muslim community arose. 

Kithab didn’t go quite well with religious groups like Sunni Yuvajana Sangham (SYS), Muslim Students Federation (MSF) and Sree Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP). They protested against the play and stated that it hurt Muslim sentiments.       

The headmaster of the school issued a press report saying that they are withdrawing the play and do not wish to hurt any religious sentiments. The press statement said, “The school authorities and those involved in the play immediately engaged in a serious discussion right away, following allegations that this play was attempting to portray a certain community in bad light. We understand that the play’s presentation has hurt the religious sentiments of a certain section of society. However, we have come to the conclusion that this was not our intention.”  

The report also said that the school would not be performing this play in the future. “This school 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.”

Through the press release, the school took a clear stand on the issue and this was acknowledged by Sunni Yuvajana Sangham, who immediately revoked all protests that were happening from their end and welcomed the school.  

Memunda Higher Secondary School is known for its unique and exciting themes for the school festivals and has received a lot of praise for it. 

Kithab is an adaptation on the story Vaang by R Unni. It’s a whimsical portrayal of a Muslim household, where a young girl wishes to call out the azaan. She is rebellious and does all that she is not supposed to, like singing, dancing, taking part in plays and stealing food that she is denied. Her father opposes this desire of hers and locks her in the house. When she demands to read the azaan, he explains to her as to why she can’t, referring to a big book called the Kithab.