On March 19, Palakkad district judge Dr B Kalam Pasha halted the performance of Mohiniyattam dancer Neena Prasad. All India Lawyers Union and Palakkad District Bar Association had staged a protest at the court complex soon after. It was claimed that the judge stopped the show for “religious reasons”. Judge Kalam Pasha said he was “pained at the allegations” and stated that a message was conveyed to the Palakkad Deputy Superintendent of Police, through the judge’s personal security officer, to reduce the volume of the show.

Against this backdrop, Twitter user @nach1keta posted a clip of a speech and claimed that it was delivered by justice “Kamal” Pasha in Riyadh. It is in the Malayalam language. The user claimed that he said, “As long as the country is Muslim Majority, you can follow the Quran and consider non-believers as Kafirs, no problem with that…but when you are a minority as in the case of India, you have to be tactful and call non-believers as your brothers. [sic]” This video has gained close to 2 lakh views.

Kanchan Gupta, Senior Adviser for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, retweeted the above tweet and wrote, “More ‘constitutional morality’.”

Several Facebook users shared this clip and most identified the judge as “Kamal” Pasha. Some users wrote that he is the same judge who halted Neena Prasad’s show. However, there were a few who wrote that he is his brother, Kemal Pasha. Kemal Pasha is a retired judge of the Kerala High Court.

Misleading, provocative translation of judge Kemal Pasha’s speech

The man in the video is neither judge “Kamal” Pasha nor Palakkad district judge Kalam Pasha who was recently in controversy after he stopped a cultural show. The man in the video is Kalam Pasha’s brother, ex-Kerala HC judge Kemal Pasha.

While it was claimed on social media that he advised Muslims in India to tactfully approach Hindus – act as “brothers” despite the Quran teaching that Hindus are “kafirs” (non-believers) – the reality is the complete opposite.

Alt News spoke with Kerala-based journalist Zayan Asif who transcribed the speech for us. Kemal Pasha said in the video, “When you say “he is a kafir” about someone, imagine what the reaction would be. People of other faiths would consider this to be a very offensive term. At least, this is so in India. I don’t know how it is here [in Riyadh]. But it’s like that in India. We should never address someone [as kafir]. He is a brother. That’s it. What is mentioned in that surah (Quranic verse)? “You believe in your faith. I will believe in my faith. I am not able to believe in your faith. And you are not able to believe in my faith. You have your religion. I have mine.” Isn’t this the greatest ideology? Doesn’t it accept all religions? Doesn’t it reinforce the concept of religious solidarity? This is the idea given by the Quran. [You] have to take this message to the people. It isn’t needed here [in Riyadh] as it is a Muslim majority country. So you have to understand these things and live accordingly. But in a democratic, plural society like India, this is the interpretation that needs to be given.”

Kemal Pasha said that no one should be referred to as “kafir” but the opposite was claimed on social media. In fact, he even cited a Quranic verse and promoted religious tolerance. Asif added, “Nowhere in the address Pasha has used a phrase which means “you have to be tactful and call non-believers as your brothers”. Furthermore since the subsequent portion of the clip isn’t added, the translation is grossly misleading.”

Alt News also spoke with Kemal Pasha and he said, “This clip is likely to be from Riyadh in 2019. I’m not sure since I have given such addresses across Kerala and multiple cities in the Middle East. The gist of my speech was that no religion should preach intolerance and one of my points was that Islamic scholars should avoid using the term “kafir” because it can cause religious animosity.” He added, “The social media claim in question has misrepresented my speech.

[Update: An earlier version of this report referred to ex-Kerala High Court judge Kemal Pasha as Kalam Pasha who is a district judge in Palakkad and the brother of Kemal Pasha. The same has been rectified.]

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About the Author

Archit is a senior fact-checking journalist at Alt News. Previously, he has worked as a producer at WION and as a reporter at The Hindu. In addition to work experience in media, he has also worked as a fundraising and communication manager at S3IDF.