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Maliyekkal Mariyumma had faced the insult from her community but her father O V Abdulla, who was a religious scholar, stood with her and encouraged her to continue English education.

Kannur: The first Muslim woman in North Kerala to get English education, Maliyekkal Mariyumma, died on Friday in Thalassery, Kannur district. She was 95.

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An icon of English education among Muslims in North Kerala, Mariyumma had been an inspiration for generations.

Condoling the death of Mariyumma, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “We have lost a person who had left her indelible footprints along with the history of Thalassery. Braving the barriers of conservatism, she learned English and thus became a guiding light for others. She fought for the educational rights of Muslim girls. Always a progressive face, she had also been an icon of religious harmony. Her death plunges a generation and a region into grief.”

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Born in 1927, Mariyumma belonged to one of the prominent Muslim families in Thalassery. After completing lower primary education, she joined Sacred Heart Convent School in Thalassery for further studies. She was the only Muslim girl among 200-odd students at the school established in 1886. She studied the English alphabet in class 5.