Moment Muslim activists storm Birmingham cinema screening of Bollywood film ‘The Kerala Story’ that has sparked violent clashes in India over claims it ‘destroys religious harmony’ and is Islamophobic
- Opponents say the film is Hindu nationalist ‘propaganda’ and Islamophobic
This is the moment Muslim activists storm a screening of a controversial Bollywood film that has sparked violent clashes in India amid claims it destroys ‘religious harmony’.
A group of protesters led by Shakeel Afsar, a Kashmiri independence activist, disrupted the screening of the The Kerala Story on Friday at a Cineworld cinema in Birmingham.
A 10-minute film uploaded to the British Muslim news website 5Pillars showed Mr Afsar, 35, with a group of demonstrators seen entering the cinema and causing the film to be paused.
In it, Mr Afsar along with at least two others ask to speak to the cinema manager about the ‘Islamophobic’ nature of the film.
He says: ‘This film is lies. This film is made to divide us. We have lived together for many years… Narendra Modi [the prime minister of India] has endorsed this film.
Demonstrators stormed a screening of The Kerala Story in Birmingham on Friday
Audience members and activists clashed after the screening was disrupted on Friday, amid claims it is Islamophobic
Security are also seen getting involved and a theatre attendant tells the audience: ‘If you’re not going to be quiet, we are not going to stop this film again.’
In India, the film has proved highly controversial. People seen demonstrating against the film in Chennai, India, earlier this month
‘An extremist has endorsed this film. We will not allow it.’
Staff at the Cineworld were forced to pause the screening as mayhem broke out, with audience members seen confronting the activists and telling them to leave.
Why is The Kerala Story causing controversy?
Bollywood movie The Kerala Story depicts Hindu and Christian women lured to join the Islamic State (ISIS).
However the fictional drama has caused outrage in India, with some rejecting its claim that ‘more than 30,000 women have disappeared after being recruited by ISIS’ in the southern Indian state.
The film has been promoted by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including in tweets by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi – who praised the film and said it attempted to ‘expose the consequences of terrorism in a society’.
But opponents say the film is Hindu nationalist ‘propaganda’ and have accused it of perpetuating Islamophobia.
Others have debunked its claim in the trailer that 32,000 women have been recruited, saying it is baseless and inaccurate – it was later removed from the film.
In India, it has proved highly controversial – with the state of West Bengal banning it from cinemas, while two BJP-ruled states Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh cut the price of tickets to see it.
Violent clashes over the film have proved deadly after a 40-year-old man person died in Maharashtra.
The two rival sides are said to have pelted each other with stones and destroying cars, according to officials.
Security are also seen getting involved and after the activists are ejected, a theatre attendant tells the audience: ‘If you’re not going to be quiet, we are not going to stop this film again.
‘If you want to watch this film you should calm down first. I am going to resume this film.
‘We’re trying to deal with this in the best way we can. We’ve paused the film, we’ve turned the lights on, we’ve called the police.’
The activists claim that the film, which tells the story of Hindu and Christian women recruited by ISIS in the southern Indian state of Kerala, is a propaganda film from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation, The Times reported.
In India, the film has been promoted by the BJP including in tweets by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, who praised the film and said it attempted to ‘expose the consequences of terrorism in a society’.
Critics say the fictional drama – which claims in its trailer that 32,000 women in Kerala have disappeared after being recruited by ISIS – is ‘unsubstantiated and exaggerated’.
Alt News, an Indian factchecking website, claimed it found ‘no evidence’ to support these figures.
After provoking outrage, filmmakers agreed to remove the trailer but said the movie is based on true events and years of research.
In the Indian state of Kerala, politicians have called for the film to be banned, who say it demonises Muslims and is Islamophobic.
Last year Mr Afstar, an entrepreneur and property developer, led a campaign to pull The Lady of Heaven from cinemas.
He was banned from protesting outside a primary school in Birmingham in 2019 after demonstrating against the teaching of LGBT values.
The film was released on May 12. MailOnline has contacted Cineworld for comment.
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