While the missing of a dozen Muslim youths with their family members have triggered a debate on the influence of Islamic State in Kerala, some sections of the Muslim community in the state are on the fast course to Arabification.
Until recently, sporting long beard and wearing skullcap had marked the demonstration of Islamic identify for men and burka for women. But, the recent adoption of various Arabian cultural, culinary, financial and other practices have taken Muslims in North Kerala closer to the Islamic life in the Middle East.
Certain Muslim business houses even have names written in Arabic, while some others have got to the extent of adding destination board in the language to their buses. Arabic style fonts are also in currency for writing English alphabets. Another trend has been the proliferation of such messages on WhatsApp.
In the last two years, Arabian food items ‘mandi rice’ and ‘kabsa’ have conquered the state’s taste buds with outlets selling these dotting most of Malabar. Even in small towns these restaurants are popular, and not just among Muslims. The Yemeni mandi, is now finding its way into even marriages in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, replacing the traditional Malabar Biriyani.
Though rare till a few years ago, some middle class Muslim men find it fashionable to wear the white jubba thoab, instead of the traditional mundu and shirt. Even burkha is relatively new in the state, but is now very popular.
In recent years, Muslim organisations have also begun promoting a state-specific Islamic calendar, once circulated in Arab countries only.
Prof Hameed Chendamangalloor, an observer of Muslim matters, says “the Muslim community in Kerala is undergoing the process of Arabification”. He adds: “The main reason is the strong influence the Middle East countries exert on the community. It is happening like the westernisation. Those Indians who had lived in England once used to emulate the English way of life back home. Similarly, Muslims in Kerala are trying to bring home the Arabian culture and way of life.”
He said in the past Muslim life style was the similar to one followed by Hindus and Christians and adopting the Arabian way would lead to the segregation of Kerala Muslims. “Since girls have to wear the burkha from their childhood, the community is getting trained for this compartmentalisation,” he said.
Congress leader and maker of award winning films Aryadan Shoukath said every micro-change in the Arabian world is getting reflected and replicated in Kerala. “Such adoption of Arabian life may be peculiar to Kerala. The Gulf money, a major stay of Kerala economy, plays a key factor in bringing the Arabian culture to the state. Expatriates try to copy in their home state what they had experienced in the Middle East,’’ he added.
The concept of Islamic banking too has caught the fancy of some with the Jamaat Islami propagating the concept of Sharia-based, interest-free banking. A few years back, the Jamaat had floated Alternative Investment and Credit Limited, a venture capital fund as per Islamic law. Taking a cue from the venture, the state government too ventured into Islamic finance in 2010. The state-run Cheraman Financial Services Limited is now planning to infuse fund into public sector ventures in distress.