Reaction to Kerala boy’s viral video exposes Islamophobia

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Photo: YouTube

By Abdul Hafees

A fourth-standard child from Kerala’s Kondotty, Muhammad Fayis posed for a video in which he tried to create a flower with a piece of paper, pencil and a scissor. Though Fayis failed in his attempt to give it a shape of a flower, he did not give up and went on with his craft without hesitation to leave an inspiring note for his viewers at the end. He said, “Sometimes it works, sometimes it won’t. Mine did not work as expected. No matter what the result will be, you should try and never give up!”

The video went viral and was widely shared. It won hearts of millions as his words were considered to be inspiring and give a profound lesson to not give up during times of failure. However, soon there was a backlash on social media over the white cap (thoppi in Malayalam) donned by the kid in his photographs. He received accolades from many including Milma that featured his words in their ad and handed over to the kid a royalty worth ten thousand rupees. Surprisingly, some social media users targeted the child and his parents “for projecting the child” before the media in a white Muslim cap.

Muhammad Fayis hails from a Muslim orthodox background in Kerala and wears a cap like any Madrasa child in any part of Kerala. In Kerala, boys attending a Madrasa routinely wear a cap when they are outside the house after Madrasa time. As such, these children put off the cap when they are inside the house. The video actually was taken while he was in the house. And when he came outside after his video had gone viral, he wore a cap which irked those who questioned the child’s parents’ move “to project the child with a cap.”

The whole story was spun by some social media users who blamed the child for donning the cap because they did not like their hero wearing a cap. This is yet another example of Islamophobia and many from the Muslim community later posted their photographs with Muslim caps on Facebook expressing their solidarity with the child and his family. It is no surprise that hate-mongers on social media, who hide their identity and political affiliation, throw communal slurs at such incidents. Some political leaders in Kerala too have shown their communal attitude against such instances. SNDP (Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam) General Secretary, Vellappally Nadeshan, had alleged back in 2015 that the government showed its bias in disbursing compensation to the victim’s kin when a Muslim man Noushad died while trying to rescue two drainage workers from a manhole and Kerala government announced a compensation for his family. Nadeshan had said, “So, if you die, you should die as a Muslim (to get compensation).” At that time, his words had sparked widespread outrage and an FIR was registered against him. Recently, a statement made by P. Mohanan, Kozhikode district secretary of the CPI (M), that Muslim extremist outfits were offering help to Maoists had also sparked off a political storm in the State.

According to reports, Fayis will donate the money he received as royalty from Milma to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) for COVID-19 and to support a young woman from a poor background to get married.

Bio:
Abdul Hafees is a former sub-editor at The Pioneer, New Delhi and currently working in Dubai.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.

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