June 6, 2023


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The Kerala Story is a Blatant Lie by Arshad Alam

6 min read

There is no evidence to suggest that such large numbers of Muslim women joined the ISIS as claimed in the movie, The Kerala Story, releasing soon.

Main Points:

1.    The soon to be released movie, ‘The Kerala Story’ claims that 32000 women from Kerala joined the terror outfit ISIS

2.    It bases it claims on interviews of former state chief ministers which are quoted out of context and twisted beyond recognition

3.    India should be proud that its Muslims have shunned terror ideology time and again

4.    Unfortunately, we have nurtured a Hindu constituency in this country, who can’t even breathe without demonizing Muslims

Even before its release, ‘The Kerala Story’ has succeeded in generating controversy. Partly, this is what the makers of the movie would have wanted, for all films thrive on publicity, negative or otherwise. The teaser of the film makes it clear that the story is about non-Muslim girls in Kerala ‘lured’ by Muslim boys to be eventually sent to join ISIS fighters. It builds on the narrative about ‘love jihad’, which is construed to mean that Muslim boys deliberately trick and mislead Hindu and Christian girls into marriage.

The express intention, it is claimed, is to convert them; the ultimate aim being to effect a change in the demography of the country in favour of Muslims. Such narratives are built on very old fears amongst the Hindus whose roots lie during the colonial period when numbers became important in the imagination of communities. But what is truly outlandish about the film is not that it builds upon these stereotypes but that it claims that a staggering number of such converted girls were sent to join the ISIS. The film makes the claim that 32000 Hindu and Christian women were thus recruited and sent to terror camps in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan after being converted into Islam.

But how does the movie arrive at this figure of 32000? The director of the film reiterated this claim to a mainstream online portal. He argues that in 2010, the then chief minister of Kerala, Oomen Chandy had said that 3200 girls converted to Islam. Director Sudipto Sen seems to have simply added up this figure over ten years to arrive at 32000! In other words, he simply has no basis to make the claim that such huge numbers of women had eventually gone to ISIS controlled areas.

Just look at the flight of fancy here. Even if Oomen Chandy’s figure is correct, that figure is just for one particular year and there is no reason to believe that the same numbers would have converted in subsequent years as well. Secondly, religious conversion is not illegal in Kerala, and these could have happened due to multiple reasons. But for the director of the movie, if one converts to Islam, then one can only do so for reasons of terrorism. Hence, he not only assumes that such large numbers converted but also that all of them went on to promote terror.

Moreover, Sen is blatantly lying. What chief minister Chandy had said was that during 2006-2010, a total of 2600 girls and women had converted to Islam in Kerala. This gives us an average of 650 conversions per years, much less than what is being proclaimed by director Sen. Also, Chandy never said that they were converted by force or fraud. He also never claimed that these girls migrated to ISIS areas to wage a holy war.

Sen also claims that another former chief minister of Kerala, VS Achutanandan said that the state will turn into an Islamic majority eventually. It should be noted though that the former CM had said so in the context of Popular Front of India, underlying how the organization was luring young people to its divisive ideology. And the former CM never cited any such figure of 32000 which the movie now parades as the cardinal truth. It is true that both Chandy and Achutanandan did talk about religious conversions and at times they linked it to a conscious Muslim strategy to increase their numbers. But nowhere have they spoken about such huge numbers of these converted men or women travelling to join ISIS in Iraq or Syria or Yemen.

This is not to say that no Indian ever joined the ISIS. However, it is nowhere near the numbers claimed in the soon to be released movie. Different newspapers had reported in June 2021 that a total of four Indian women had migrated along with their husbands to Khorasan with the express intention of joining the ISIS. According to the US Department of State, the total number of Indians who went to join ISIS was not more than 66. Moreover, according to a report published by Observer Research Foundation in 2019, the number of pro-ISIS cases in Kerala between 2014 and 2018 was around 200. However, these are not all confirmed terrorists who had migrated to ISIS territory. According to the ORF, all these individuals have either shared online information and propaganda about ISIS or they were trying to find a way to get into ISIS controlled territories. Finally, according to the Indian home ministry, not more than 150 individuals were ISIS supporters; only few of them were successful in joining the organization. In the face of such overwhelming data, the figure of 32000 women joining ISIS is just a blatant lie and nothing else.

Had the movie makers done some homework, they would have realized the folly of their narrative. However, if the intention is not to care about facts but just engage in mindless propaganda against Indian Muslims, then that is another story. The movie has already been debated in multiple news channels and very few of them have actually called out its blatantly exaggerated claims. But then the less said about today’s journalism, the better it will be.

India should be proud of the fact that its Muslims citizens have shunned the message of terror organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS. The former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had lauded the community for its rejection of this pernicious ideology. But today’s brand of nationalist Hindus will leave no stone unturned to castigate the Muslim as the other. Even if there is enough documentation to support the claim that Indian Muslims stayed away from terror organizations, it makes no difference to this new breed of nationalist Hindus.

It is a crying shame that we have created a Hindu constituency in this country whose very raison d’etre is the demonization of Muslims.

Reproduced with permission from The New Age Islam and writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia, Arshad Alam.