A Keighley-based theatre company has premiered its new play – intended to dispel myths about Islam – in Bradford before embarking on a tour of Yorkshire.

Arakan Creative obtained funding from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last year to use art to tackle Islamophobia in West Yorkshire. One strand of its work is an ambitious stage show that deals with anti-Islamic sentiment throughout history.

After performing Spread By The Word in the New Bradford Playhouse on Saturday night, the group will take the production to Halifax, Leeds, Huddersfield and Wakefield next month.

Set in seventh-century Mecca and Medina, the play deals with the period after the Prophet Muhammad’s death and the early days of Islam.

The group, which specialise in portraying issues within the South Asian community, has called the play its most ambitious yet, and hopes to present the truth behind often misunderstood sides to Islam and the Qur’an, including ideas like Sharia law.

Arakan is one of several groups throughout Yorkshire funded by the foundation to help deal with racial injustice and Islamophobia.

Artistic director, Connor Ibrahiem, said: “Real change cannot happen unless the heart is willing, but a lot of people are not willing.

“The play deals with issues like how Muslims treat non-Muslims and Sharia law, issues a lot of people have misconceptions about. It is a mix of factual characters and stories from history. We are highlighting how these issues have been misunderstood. It will hopefully dispel some myths about Islam.

“Many of the issues dealt with then, we still deal with today. Crucially, we address the notion Islam was ‘spread by the sword’, which, of course, is not true.”

The foundation chose to fund the group with £87,000 over three years as part of its West Yorkshire Racial Justice programme because of its efforts to break down the racial divides in many areas of Keighley and Bradford.

West Yorkshire Association of Muslim Police chairman, Inspector Zahid Khan, said: “They are making a real effort to improve the understanding and awareness of Islam by tackling cultural issues, such as forced marriages.

Future projects for the group, based in Central Hall, include short films tackling similar subjects.

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