Killing of a Muslim convert in Kerala’s Kodinhi village: No communal riots as yet 

By TA Ameerudheen

Faisal, a 32-year-old Muslim convert, was hacked to death in Kodinhi, a sleepy village in Kerala’s Malappuram district last month. Faisal — Anil Kumar before switching to Islam — was allegedly murdered by RSS workers at 5 am on 19 November, while he was on his way to the neighbouring Tirurangadi railway station to receive his in-laws.

Faisal had embraced Islam six months ago in Saudi Arabia, where he was working as a driver. His wife, Jesna (formerly Priya), two sons and a daughter, followed suit a week before his murder. He had been receiving death threats ever since he came home for a vacation in August this year. And he was murdered a day before he was to return to his workplace in Saudi Arabia. Police sources said Faisal was killed by a gang with the support of his relatives, as they feared he would convert more family members to Islam.

The news of the killing spread fast, and thousands converged at Kodinhi, 25 kilometres west of the district headquarters at Malappuram.

Many people converged to pay respects at Faisal's grave

Many people converged to pay respects at Faisal’s grave

The situation was tense and everyone feared retaliatory action against Hindus, a minority in the village. Members of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the political arm of right-wing Muslim outfit Popular Front of India (PFI), visited the village. And even as Faisal’s coffin was being carried to the burial ground at the Kodinhi mosque, their Taqbir chants (Allah is the greatest) reverberated the air. The ruling CPM dispensation in the state has been at loggerheads with the SDPI, and Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had earlier described it as a “party that trains people to commit murder”.

Peace keepers

But when the situation threatened to get out of hand, Kodinhi found its saviours in the mosque committee and the Imam (the person who heads the prayers in the mosque). The mosque committee acted quickly and called for an immediate meeting of all Muslim organisations to chalk out plans. “We wanted to preserve communal harmony in Kodinhi. We also offered help for the police, as we knew it was difficult to control the 10,000-odd crowd who came to attend the funeral,” said PV Komukkutty Haji, one of the two secretaries of the committee.

The Muslim-majority Kodinhi village is part of Nannambra Grama Panchayath. It has 3,000 Muslim families and less than 200 Hindu families. “We decided to protect our Hindu brothers at any cost,” Haji said.

People visited Faisal's house to offer condolences and financial support to the bereaved

People visited Faisal’s house to offer condolences and financial support to the bereaved

Imam PA Hyderali Faisi said he feared the worst when he saw a huge crowd where the body was kept for public viewing. “It prompted me to urge people to desist from fomenting trouble,” he said. “The charged up SDPI members tried to ignite communal passion by chanting Takbir. It was against our tradition. Devotees normally chant La Ilaha Illallah (There is absolutely no deity worthy of worship except Allah) peacefully while carrying the coffin.”

“I once again made an announcement through the public address system before leading the funeral prayer. I exhorted them to keep faith in the law enforcement agencies. I also told them to not to participate in protest marches that would affect the communal harmony of the village,” he added.

These efforts paid dividends, as Kodinhi remained calm.

Fearing non-cooperation from Kodinhi villagers, the SDPI was forced to shift its protest march to the nearby town of Chemmad. “By the grace of God, our village remained peaceful. We are happy to protect it from a disaster,” Haji said. “If we didn’t interfere, fundamentalist organisations would have influenced youngsters to create havoc,” Faisi added.

The Imam who announced people to exercise restraitnt after Faisal's murder

The Imam who announced people to exercise restraitnt after Faisal’s murder

Paying respects

The Kodinhi Juma Masjid is the oldest among 25 mosques in Kodinhi village. Built by Sufi saint Mambaram Thangal, the mosque is the preferred place for both Hindus and Muslims to settle disputes. “When people fail to solve disputes, they come to the mosque on Fridays to find a solution,” Faisi said.

But now, devotees flock to the mosque on other days as well; they arrive in groups and offer prayers near Faisal’s grave. They also visit his uncle’s home, where his mother, wife and three children stay currently, to offer condolence and financial support. For them, Faisal is a martyr who gave his life for Islam, and they consider it their duty to pray for his departed soul.

A few days after Faisal’s killing, his mother, Minimol, also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela. “My son lost his life only because he embraced Islam. So, I too decided to follow his path. Moreover, I don’t want to leave my daughter-in-law and children alone,” said the grieving mother said. “I had planned to convert to Islam a few months ago. But I waited to get permission from my daughters. Faisal’s killing forced me to take this decision quickly.”

Faisal's mother Minimol, who also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela

Faisal’s mother Minimol, who also embraced Islam and took the name Jameela

Faisal’s murder had shocked villagers, cutting across religious lines. Devayani, who is busy preparing for a pilgrimage to Sabarimala, said she knew Faisal since childhood. “I was shocked to hear about his death. He didn’t do anything wrong. People have the right to believe or choose their religion. I never imagined such a thing would happen in our village. I will visit his mother after coming back from Sabarimala,” she said.

She stays close to the Kurumba Bhagavathi Temple, which was built in the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid many years ago. Alikkutty Haji, who stays close to Faisal’s house, said some fringe elements tried to create tension in the village after the killing. “We should not blame the whole community for a crime done by a few people. Hindus and Muslims have been living in perfect harmony in Kodinhi. We will preserve it at any cost,” he said.

The Koorba Bhagawathi Temple situated at the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid

The Koorba Bhagawathi Temple situated at the land donated by the Kodinhi Juma Masjid

Police action

Meanwhile, the police arrested three RSS workers — Babu, Appu and Sudheesh — on Tuesday and Wednesday in connection with Faisal’s killing. They had earlier picked up eight RSS workers, including the victim’s bother-in-law Vinod, for hatching the conspiracy. More arrests are expected in the coming days. (Courtesy: Firstpost)


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