The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has sent a circular to all government institutions banning the holding of any mixed gender dance events.
The circular, which was sent to all government offices, council offices and media, also calls for adolescent girls to be banned from activities requiring them to dance.
Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed called on the government to cease including activities such as dancing and singing to mark various occasions.
The administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had included such dancing in official celebrations to promote and preserve traditional Maldivian culture. However Shaheem said such activities contravened the disciplinary guidelines and customs of Islam. It is unclear whether the call in the circular is legally enforceable under existing regulations.
The Ministry said it was acceptable to hold performances which fall within the boundaries of Islamic customs and disciplinary norms. Events such as children’s activities, performances exhibiting military skills, parades, playing the national anthem, boy scouts and girl guides performances, and the folk dance ‘Thaara’ were acceptable forms of entertainment, according to the Ministry.
‘Thaara’, dhivehi for ‘tambourine’ is a folk dance where performers sit in parallel rows, singing and dancing. This is performed specifically by men. The traditional songs sung during ‘Thaara’ are mostly in Arabic and the activity itself is said to have entered Maldivian culture through Arab influence.
The Islamic Ministry stated that its mandate is to provide religious counsel to the government, to plan state-organised initiatives of spreading and strengthening islamic values among Maldivians, and to teach citizens the righteous ways outlined in the religion.
Shaheem told Minivan News today that the directives in the circular were intended for both state bodies and individual citizens. He made no further comment.
The call for gender segregated performances comes after the government held a belated Independence Day celebration on September 9. The event was held at the National Stadium and featured dances and other performances by school children and the security forces.