When the Muslim Educational Society (MES) sent a circular on April 17, 2019, to its faculty and students across 152 institutions regarding the ban of niqab (face veil) on its campuses, it was hailed as a step in the right direction by the progressives. Predictably, it received severe backlash from the conservatives, stating that the move was against the right to the freedom of practicing one’s religion. But Dr. P A Fazal Gafoor remained unfazed in the face of severe criticism and threats. Gafoor argued that it was the institution’s decision to adhere to the dress code, bearing in mind what was acceptable to the civil society.
The Muslim Educational Society was established in Kozhikode, North Kerala, in 1964 under the leadership of Dr. P K Abdul Gafoor with the patronage of professionals and the business community in the area, with the primary aim of educating economically and socially backward Muslims. It now runs 152 institutions across Kerala and Tamil Nadu, including medical and engineering colleges, management institutes and schools for children with special needs. It has 85,000 students and 15000 staff members. MES has played an important role in transforming the educational landscape of North Malabar, which was also reeling under economic strife during the time of its inception. It encouraged more Muslim women from economically backward families to join the academic mainstream, thus empowering them to be financially independent.
This was also the time that the Mujahideen movement was making a lot of inroads into the reformation of Muslims in Kerala, to enlighten the masses on scientific lines and modern education. The Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM) created a sort of cultural and educational renaissance in the Muslim community, distinguishing them from other Muslims across India by achieving high rates of literacy.