Class by queerphobic Muslim group for Kerala medical students raises concerns

A photograph of Thrissur Medical College students, attending a class with girls and boys separated by a sheet in between, had invited criticism on social media. The instructors of the class are also known for propagating queerphobic ideas.
Religious class in Thrissur
Religious class in Thrissur
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A photograph featuring students from the Thrissur Medical College Hospital, attending a class by a Muslim group with girls and boys separated by a sheet in between, has been doing the rounds on social media, inviting widespread criticism. The photos were first shared by Abdulla Basil Cp, a dental doctor from Kannur district, who claimed in his post that he was taking a class for medical students along with Suhail Rasheed, who is associated with a YouTube channel titled 'Unmasking Atheism', notorious for its homophobic, transphobic and often dangerously conservative content. Unsurprisingly, the separation of male and female students using a sheet for the class drew the ire of a large number of social media users, with many immediately pointing out that such a setup was especially regressive coming from medical students.

Meanwhile, though many Sangh Parivar groups and online media portals had soon taken to the internet to report the event as an official class conducted in the college, the authorities have clarified that it happened outside the campus and was organised by a religious group, with which the college has no connection. The college’s student organisations also made it clear that the programme was not organised by the college’s administration or representatives but by a group of Muslim students, and was held in a hall attached to a mosque near their college.

“Religious practices are personal matters. Some students of a certain religious group believe in and follow the ideas that were talked about during the programme. It was held at a religious  worship centre,” college union chairperson Geethu told TNM, adding that they strongly condemned the attempts to establish that the event was held at their college. “None of the other students, the college administration or college unions were a part of that programme. We support liberal thoughts and the college too has always stood with liberal ideology,” she said.

According to the students, the class at the mosque hall was concerned with the topic of gender politics and the LGBTQAI+ community. This, however, is a matter of concern, especially considering the association of the programme’s instructors with ‘Unmasking Atheism’. Even a cursory glance at the YouTube channel makes apparent the ideology it seeks to spread, with its speakers consistently making misinformed and homophobic comments on the LGBTQAI+ community, while simultaneously projecting themselves as victims of Islamophobia. Besides Abdulla Basil Cp, Hilal Saleem and Raihan Abdul Shaheed are some of the other speakers featured in the channel.

“Homosexual thoughts are fine, but they should not be acted upon”, “trans persons should strive to follow their body and not their mind”, etc are some of the primary ‘teachings’ propagated by the channel. “LGBTQIA+ consists of different topics. The first three categories are based on sexual orientation, that is to which gender they are sexually attracted to. ‘Transgender’ is related to an identity, while 'intersex' is a physical difference. But there is a clear agenda behind the attempt to bring all of these together in the name of LGBTQIA+ activism. If all of these are different problems, their solutions will also be different. Islam considers these as different topics. Homosexual acts are haraam, they should not be done. If somebody has that orientation, they are not wrong because of their thoughts. It is when they act on these thoughts that it becomes wrong. If a person decide to keep away from homosexual activities even if they have those thoughts, he will be blessed,” Abdulla Basil says in one of his videos.

Further claiming that being a trans person is a conflict between mind and body, Abdulla Basil says there are two solutions to this. “You can either convert your mind as per your body, or convert your body as per your mind. Activism advocates the conversion of your body according to your mind. They are in support of sexual reassignment surgeries, but that only creates more problems. This pushes transgender people into depression and regrets,” he claims, adding that after a few years, they would feel like going back to their own gender. “But the Islamic ideology is that our mind’s ideas will keep on changing, and that the body should not undergo a surgery based on that. They should adhere to what their body says,” he says.

In another video, Hilal Saleem refers to LGBTQIA+ activists as ‘fascists’. “They are the people who deny any scope for discussions on the topic. They think that only what they suggest is the solution,” he claims.

Many Thrissur Medical College students have confirmed that the talk held for students at the mosque was also on the same topic. Other students also pointed out the danger of imposing such homophobic ideas on a group of medical students. “We had a grand celebration for Pride Month on campus this time. I personally feel that such conservative, toxic ideas should not be injected into students, especially medical students,” one of the students said. However, the social media profiles of these speakers prove that they have taken similar classes for not just the students of Thrissur Medical College, but for those from colleges across Kerala.

Dr Shimna Azeez, a medical practitioner and social critic based in Malappuram, pointed out to TNM that it was mainly junior students who attended such classes. “This happens in the evenings, after their regular classes. In the MBBS syllabus, there are not many readings on the subject of the LGBTQIA+ community. So when we don’t study about it, those who blindly believe the wrong information they receive from outside come out as doctors with a misinformed understanding of these matters. This is a big issue,” she said.


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