Video of ritual dance at Hindu shrine in India falsely shared as adhan recital 'at temple in Malaysia'

  • This article is more than one year old.
  • Published on February 6, 2023 at 08:12
  • 4 min read
  • By AFP Malaysia
A video has been viewed millions of times after it was shared on Facebook and TikTok alongside a false claim that it shows a Hindu reciting the Islamic call to prayer -- the adhan -- at a temple in Malaysia. In fact, the clip was filmed at a Hindu shrine in Kerala, a state in southern India. The adhan recital was part of a performance of a ritual dance called Theyyam, which sometimes showcases Muslim characters.

The one-minute 30-second clip, which shows a man reciting the adhan -- the Islamic call to prayer -- next to a person wearing a mask and costume, was posted on Facebook here on January 18, 2023.

"Are they Hindu?? Why recite the adhan like a Muslim??" read the post's Malay-language caption. "Please get some information in which [Malaysian] state this temple is so that by the Religious Council can take some action because it seems to be making fun of Islam..!!!"

The video has been viewed more than 600 times.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on February 2, 2023

The multi-ethnic population of Malaysia consists of Muslims (63.5 percent), followed by Christians (18.7 percent) , Buddhists (9.1 percent) and Hindus (6.1 percent).

There are 13 states and three federal territories in Malaysia, and each state and the federal territories have their own Islamic religious council, which oversees various aspects of Islamic matters, including Islamic administrative law.

The video was also posted alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here, as well as TikTok here, racking up a total of more than 4.5 million views.

Comments on the posts suggested some users believed that the claim.

"To authorities, please check," one Facebook user commented, while another user wrote: "Authorities, pls simply dont ignore! ! !"

Screenshots of Facebook users' comments

However, the claim is false.

Ritual dance performance in India

A combination of a reverse image search and keyword searches found an identical video was posted on the YouTube channel of MediaOne TV, India's Malayalam-language TV channel, on December 23, 2022.

Translated to English, the Malayalam-language title of the video reads: "Video of Theyyam reciting the adhan has gone viral.. Footage from Kasaragod..."

According to the caption, the video shows "Bapiriyan Theyyam and Manichi Theyyam reciting the adhan" and it was taken at a Hindu shrine in Kasaragod, a district in India's southern state of Kerala.

Theyyam is a ritual dance popular in northern Kerala, performed by Hindus of lower castes. The Theyyam season usually runs from November to to May.

There are more than 400 forms of Theyyam -- each with their own distinctive music, style and choreography. Manichi Theyam and Bapiriyan (Bappooran) Theyyam belong to Muslim Theyyams, where Hindu performers play Muslim characters and perform Islamic rituals.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the video from MediaOne TV (right):

Screenshot comparison of the video in the misleading post (left) and the video from MediaOne TV (right)

According to a flyer shared by a Theyyam aficionado on Twitter, the Manichi-Bapiriyan Theyyam performance was held on December 18, 2022.

The Theyyam performance in Kasaragod was also widely reported by other Kerala-based media, such as here, here, here and here -- with many reports praising the performance as an example of religious diversity and harmony in the region.

The majority of Kerala's population are Hindus (55 percent), while Muslims (27 percent) and Christians (18 percent) are sizeable minorities in the state.

Not in Malaysia

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) posted a statement on its Facebook page on January 15, 2023, confirming the clip was not filmed in Malaysia.

"Video of a man reciting adhan in religious ritual is not in Malaysia: The MCMC urges people to avoid spreading content that touches on religious sensitivity," the post's caption said.

The MCMC also urged people not to share the video.

"The results of a review made on the video found that it originated from abroad and was made viral as if it happened in Malaysia," it said in the statement.

"The MCMC insists that such videos are seen as threatening content that can incite tension between communities of various races and religions in this country."

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