Critics outraged by British theater’s cancellation of play about Muslim radicalization

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) Prominent artists and human rights campaigners have criticized the National Youth Theatre in London for canceling a play because its theme is the radicalization of young British Muslims and their attraction to terrorist organizations such as the militant Islamic State group.

There is growing concern the play called “Homegrown” by British–born Omar El-Khairy was shut down before its scheduled opening on Saturday (Aug. 15) because of pressure from the British police.

A report in The Times (Aug. 15) by Jack Malvern, the paper’s arts correspondent, quoted Nadia Latif, the play’s director, saying the police had asked to see the final script of “Homegrown” before the play opened at a school in Brixton, a part of South London with a large Muslim community.

The paper’s report said that Latif at first refused to send the script but later relented when asked again a week later.

“The play was pulled the next week,” Malvern wrote.

The play set out to explore some of the factors that might cause someone to be attracted to Muslim extremists.

The cancellation has infuriated some of Britain’s leading figures in the world of arts and human rights.

One of Britain’s leading playwrights, Sir David Hare, the actor Simon Callow and the human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti wrote in a letter to the paper saying the cancellation is “a troubling moment for British theater and freedom of expression. ”

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 700 young British Muslims are reported to have left England to fight alongside Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

The letter added 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.”