Artists and activists in the United Kingdom have criticized the National Youth Theatre in London for calling off a play that revolved around the radicalization of young British Muslims and their fascination towards terror groups like the Islamic State.
Reportedly, the play, which was titled “Homegrown” and written by playwright Omar El Khairy, had to be cancelled only hours before its scheduled staging on August 15 because British police officials pressured the theatre company into doing so. Media reports quoted director Nadia Latif, who explained that police officials had asked to review the final script of “Homegrown” before it was staged at a school in Brixton, which is home to a considerably large Muslim population. Even though Latif initially refused to send the controversial script to the concerned authorities, he had to give in to the pressure after police officials reached out to him for the second time. As expected, the play was called off the following week. In a gist, Latif said the “Homegrown” script set out to explore some of the reasons that might cause young British Muslims to be drawn towards terror groups across the world.
The cancellation of the play led to some controversy, with artists and activists across Britain condemning the police’s intervention and the theatre’s subsequent decision. Actor Simon Callow, playwright Sir David Hare and human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti wrote an open letter, wherein they referred to the cancellation of the play as a troubling situation for liberal arts and freedom of expression in Great Britain.
The three wrote, “Its cancellation serves only to shut down conversation on these important issues. We fear that government policy in response to extremism may be creating a culture of caution in the arts.”
Over the past year, more than 700 young British Muslims are believed to have left England to join the terror group Islamic State and fight on their behalf in Iraq and Syria.
The letter also said that the theater should “give full account to what led to the decision and hope that a way can be found to stage it so it can be heard and the production can be judged on its merits.”
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