Fiqh academy reconstituted without Adhaalath Party scholars

The ministry of Islamic affairs has reconstituted the Fiqh academy and excluded senior members of the Adhaalath Party.

Former members, Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, Sheikh Iyaz Abdul Latheef, and MP Anara Naeem were not included in the reconstituted academy. Ilyas is the president of the Adhaalath Party’s religious scholars’ council while Iyaz was the vice president of the Fiqh academy.

The religious conservative withdrew its support for the government in March and joined the opposition ‘Maldivians against tyranny’ coalition.

Former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed meanwhile resigned from the cabinet earlier this month following the detention of Adhaalath Party president Sheikh Imran Abdulla.

Imran was arrested in the wake of the May Day anti-government demonstration and accused of inciting violence. He remains under police custody.

Deputy Islamic minister Ibrahim Ahmed told local media today that the ministry decided to reconstitute the academy because the previous council was not functioning properly.

Former chief justice under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Sheikh Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim, was re-elected as president of the academy, and Islamic college rector Ibrahim Rasheed Moosa was elected vice president.

Rasheed and Moosa were elected at the first meeting of the reconstituted 16-member academy on Wednesday with nine votes in favour out of the 12 members present.

The academy was instituted during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed in 2010. His successor, President Dr Mohamed Waheed, reconstituted the academy with a Sharia council and advisory council in December 2013.

The academy’s mandate includes resolving differences of opinion and disputes on religious issues.

The academy has issued fatwas on abortion, kosher meals, marriage of inmates, Muslims visiting temples, taxation, and life insurance.

The other members on the reconstituted academy are Dr Gubad Abubakuru, Sheikh Mohamed Latheef, Sheikh Ali Zahir, Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim, Mohamed Easa, Abdul Sattar Abdul Hameed, Sheikh Ali Najeeb, Sheikh Ishaq Mohamed Fulhu, Samir Zakariyya, Sheikh Ibrahim Ahmed, Sheikh Hassan Thaufeeq, Dr Aishath Muneeza, Mariyam Shabana, and Hassan Saeed.

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Maldivians shouldn’t fight foreign wars in name of Islam, says Islamic minister

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has stated that, while the ministry is not aware of Maldivians taking part in Syria’s civil war, he does not believe it is right for locals to join foreign conflicts.

“This ministry is not aware of any Maldivians fighting in the Syrian war, nor is it a matter that concerns us. However, I personally do not believe it is right for any Maldivian youth to join another country’s war in the name of Islam,” he said.

The Islamic leader’s comments follow this week’s reports that two Maldivians had died while fighting forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad in Syria.

One government-aligned MP as well as a former senior police officer have today branded the authorities’ response insufficient and “irresponsible”.

“It does not do to just say that they are unaware of the problem,” said Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Ahmed Sameer.

While Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Sheikh Iyaz Abdul Latheef told Minivan News that the academy has no official view on the matter of jihad, Iyaz himself has blogged about the matter in his personal capacity.

Writing on ‘MV Islam Q&A’, Iyaz said it was unacceptable ‘jihad’ to fight in a war without seeking prior permission from the leader of the nation and from one’s parents. He also said that another arising from such ‘jihad’ is the unforgivable error of killing another muslim.

“Nothing the government can do”

President Abdulla Yameen has meanwhile claimed that the government is unaware of Maldivians fighting in the Syrian civil war. If they were, he added, then it is not being done with the government’s consent.

“We will not stay on the borderline after sending any Maldivians to war. So it is an extremely sorrowful incident that some from a family of Maldivians travelled to Syria, got involved in a dangerous encounter, and was killed in the process,” he told press upon his return from India yesterday (May 27).

Yameen said that the government had always urged Maldivians to maintain discipline when living abroad, adding that the responsibility for any crime willfully committed by an individual must be borne by the individual himself.

“If any Maldivian – regardless of where they are, or for what reason, even if not for war – notifies us that they are unable to come back to the Maldives, the government will offer any possible financial assistance to them. However, there is no way we can bring back anyone forcefully against their will,” said the president.

Police confirmed today that they are currently investigating the reports of the first Maldivian – said to have died in a suicide attack -while information was being gathered regarding the second individual.

An official said that, while mainstream media has reported an additional 20 Maldivians as having travelled to Syria, police had not received official information about the matter.

Maldives National Defence Force Spokesperson Major Hussain Ali confirmed that they too are investigating the matter, while Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim was unable to comment on the matter at the time of press.

“Irresponsible government response”

A former senior police officer – speaking on condition of anonymity – described  the government’s response as “highly irresponsible”, calling for immediate preventive measures.

“It has previously been alleged that there are terror cells here, and that the Maldives is also somehow involved in financing terrorism activities,” he said.

“In fact, the government must have been aware of this way before it was discussed in mainstream media. In light of these events, it is a likely danger – and a far more serious threat – that such actions may start operating here on our own land.”

Preventive measures must be taken now, and counter policies drafted, said the former officer, who went on to suggest that an excessive focus on domestic politics would be taken advantage of by extremists.

JP MP Sameer has also lent his voice to the debate today, stating that the government must have clearer policies on how to deal with such matters, and that he has heard of the government intervening to stop such actions in the past.

“Today, we have an Islamic Ministry and a Fiqh Academy – both institutions are state authorities on religion. If this act of joining the Syrian war is against Islamic norms and local policies as defined by these institutions, then I believe the government must take action against it,” he said.

“If, however, what they are doing is not against Islam or local policies, then the government should by all means facilitate them. What I am saying is that the government’s stand on the matter is unclear,” Sameer stated.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party previously released a statement on May 16 alleging that there was a prevalence of extremist ideologies within the Maldivian security forces.

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Fiqh Academy advises against importing kosher meals

The Fiqh Academy of Maldives has issued a fatwa (legal opinion) stating that the importation and sale of kosher meals – foods that conform to Jewish dietary laws – is not advisable under Islamic Shariah.

Following its research of kosher foods, the academy however found that neither its ingredients nor production process involved elements forbidden by Shariah.

While consuming kosher meals was therefore not forbidden for Muslims, the fatwa stated that it was not advisable to introduce a Jewish product to an Islamic nation such as the Maldives.

The fatwa was signed by the academy’s President Sheikh Mohamed Rasheed Ibrahim – former chief justice and head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs under President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – and ten other members of the academy.

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Islamic Ministry reveals policies and programmes for the year

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs yesterday revealed the government’s Islamic policies and programmes for the year 2014.

Unveiling the policies, the Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali said Islam is a religion of moderation, and that the ministry’s main objective is to maintain the methodology of moderation.

He also said the ministry would strive to unite the Maldivian society and inculcate Islamic values.

Eleven targets were give as key objectives of the ministry:

  • Not allowing any religion except Islam in the Maldives
  • Strengthening and maintaining the Islamic creed and unity in the country
  • Establishing and strengthening Islamic Shi’ar (symbols of greatness and glory of Islam)
  • Establishing a strong Zakat (Islamic alms taxation) system in the Maldives.
  • Development of National Hajj Corporation to ease pilgrimage
  • Ensuring all laws and regulations fit Islamic principles
  • Advising state institutions on religious matters, and developing and strengthening the Isamic Fiqh Academy to issue Fatwas
  • Strengthening Islamic education
  • Widening the range of work to spread the Quranic knowledge
  • Building mosques and Islamic centers and broadening the role of mosques
  • Improving the internal administration of the ministry

The ministry has laid out a detailed programme to achieve these objectives, a large part of which comprise of Islamic awareness programs.

These include the publication of books, television, and radio programmes, Friday sermons, nation-wide preaching programs, weekly preaching at mosques, daily readings of ‘Riyadul Saliheen’ (written by 13th century Syrian Scholar Imam al-Nawawi) in all mosques in the country.

According to the ministry, publications and media content produced within the Maldives or brought in from abroad will be monitored to ensure it is not in conflict with the ‘the Islamic creed’.

Special focus on children and youth

The ministry’s programmes focus particularly on children and youth,with plans to pressure relevant authorities to broaden Islamic knowledge in the national curriculum. The ministry’s Fiqh Academy is mandated with advising on curriculum reform to enhance compatibility with Islamic principles.

Preaching at school assemblies, special workshops, and a monthly Islamic public forum targeting women and youth have also been planned.

In addition to this, the ministry also plans to publish Islamic books, CDs, and a monthly magazine which will be distributed to all school and public libraries. Newly introduced awareness methods include Islamic camps for children and a ‘Street Dawah’ program. Islamic higher education opportunities will also be provided for students.

Other awareness programs include Islamic marriage guidance, annual Islamic fairs, and regular sessions at prison and rehabilitation centers. The ministry will be collaborating with ‘Discover Islam’ – a Bahraini religious NGO – to organise several awareness programmes.

Quran and mosques

In terms of Quran recitation, the ministry aims to train 500 Hafiz (people who memorise the complete Arabic text of the Quran) within ten years and 90 Quran teachers within the year. Quran classes will be held for children and adults all around the country and private Quran teaching centers will receive the ministry’s assistance.

The ministry will coordinate the construction of forty mosques within the year. Fourteen of these mosques are already under construction with MVR72.6 million from national budget. MVR65.2 million has been allocated in this year’s budget for the construction of seventeen mosques.

From the Mosque ‘Waqf’ Fund established in 2013, MVR3 million has been allocated for the construction of two mosques. A ten-storey building named ‘Darul Iman’ will be constructed to sustain the fund.

Saudi Arabia has also agreed to donate seven mosques this year, MVR28.8 million has already been allocated for six of these mosques.

Moderation

The concept of moderation in Islam was stressed by minister Shaheem, though calls for ‘moderation’ have already been criticised by prominent members of the ruling coalition.

The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and it’s coalition members campaigned for the presidential elections on a religious platform, vowing to ‘protect Islam’ from ‘irreligious’ former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – Nasheed in particular – accused the PPM and its coalition members of abusing Islam as a political weapon.

During the campaign minister Shaheem said that he prayed for “Allah to curse Nasheed by setting dogs on him”.

Last year Nasheed was criticised and labeled irreligious for supporting Islamic moderation and his criticism of Wahhabism, while the violent protests that lead to the Nasheed’s resignation - in what he describes as a coup d’etat – were also fueled by similar accusations.

Just two months prior to the transfer, a huge gathering calling to ‘defend Islam’ was held by the coalition aligned parties, while opposition MDP held a rally calling for ‘moderation’.

“We don’t know there is a moderate, higher or lower Islam. We only know Islam,” coalition member Jumhoree Party’s leader Gasim Ibrahim, while Nasheed asked his supporters,“should we ban music? Should we circumcise girls? Because we won’t allow these things, we are being accused of moving away from religion.”

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Week in review: February 1 – 8

The last week’s headlines were dominated by the stabbing of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Alhan Fahmy in a Malé cafe.

After flying to Sri Lanka for prolonged surgery to repair spinal damage, the Feydhoo constituency MP’s family revealed he will face a hard struggle if he is to regain the full use of his right leg.

The attack was swiftly condemned both internationally and domestically, with fellow MP’s pointing the finger at local gangs and their political paymasters.

Despite his attack, Fahmy remained determined to contest in the Majlis primaries, despite the MDP refusing to hold a re-vote in the Feydhoo party primary. After losing the poll, Alhan had questioned the fairness of proceedings and will now contest as an independent.

Controversy also accompanied a number of other MDP primaries, with  Kendhoo constituency candidate Mauroof Zakir considering a legal response to what he considered to have been irregularities stemming from the party’s abandoned polls in late January.

Kaashidhoo incumbent Abdulla Jabir, meanwhile, retained his place on the party ticket after the MDP’s disciplinary committee found party regulations did not permit his removal, despite his repeated defiance of the whip.

The MDP’s talismanic leader, Mohamed Nasheed, this week told Minivan News he was confident in the transparency of the polls. Discussing the two years since his removal from the presidency, he noted that the current governing coalition would struggle to provide political stability.

Following the completion of its primary races, Nasheed revealed that his party’s legislative agenda for the 18th Majlis would include strengthening local government, reforming the judiciary, and eliminating barriers to development.

Nasheed’s doubts over the unity of the current coalition appeared well-founded this week as the religious Adhaalath Party announced it would be openly competing with the Jumhooree Party (JP) in five parliamentary constituencies, while talks with the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) continue.

The PPM’s selection of candidates for the poll continued, after party members in Maavah constituency, Laamu Atoll, demonstrated against the apparent award of the ticket to the current member without a primary.

After assigning 13 of its 49 places on the ticket without contests, the PPM is holding primary polls for an additional 27 seats today (Saturday 8), with the method of allocation for the remaining 9 yet to be decided.

Progressive coalition partner the JP meanwhile concluded selections for its 28 allocated constituencies, which includes eight incumbent MPs and new member Abdulla Riyaz – former commissioner of police.

One person who is unlikely to be standing in the March 22 polls is Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom. As Minivan News’ series of interviews with MPs continued, Mausoom described the occupation as no longer “savvy”.

Legal interpretations

The Majlis continued to hold special sessions this week to help the government raise revenue to meet its 2014 budget commitments, including the reintroduction of tourist bed tax and the raising of T-GST in November. Changes to current import duties were also passed.

Following the Criminal Court’s continued recalcitrance after the Majlis’s failure to approve a new prosecutor general, the Chief Justice this week suggested that parliament take some time during the current emergency sessions to resolve the issue.

PPM MP Ahmed Mahloof also suggested that he would submit a motion to the house, calling for a public referendum on the death penalty to be held alongside the parliamentary elections.

Asked about the practice of female circumcision this week, Figh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef endorsed the practice, citing several hadiths which he felt made clear the obligatory nature of this procedure.

Elsewhere, local heritage group REVIVE announced it would be considering legal action after a centuries old mosque in Malé was demolished to make way for a modern replacement.

Finally, as crime figures in the country revealed a huge spike in cases of theft and robbery, a local drug lord appeared to have evaded punishment, leaving for Sri Lanka part-way through an 18 year sentence.

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President Yameen vetoes sexual offences bill

President Abdulla Yameen has returned the sexual offences bill passed by parliament last month for reconsideration.

According to the President’s Office, in a letter to the speaker of parliament, President Yameen provided details of issues noted by the Attorney General after reviewing the legislation (Dhivehi).

“The bill containing some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated.

Under article 91 of the constitution, within 15 days of receipt the president could either assent to a bill or “return the bill for reconsideration of the bill or of any amendment proposed by the president.”

The sexual offences bill was passed on December 30 with 67 votes in favour out of the 69 MPs in attendance.

Following the passage of the bill, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef condemned the conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime and called on MPs who voted in favour to repent.

“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,” Dr Iyaz had said on a local Islamic question and answers website.

While the bill did not categorically criminalise marital rape, it allowed for four exceptions: while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court, while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court, sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease, and during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce).

Dr Iyaz however contended that a woman must still show “complete obedience to her husband” even if she had filed for divorce.

Moreover, in cases of a revocable divorce, a man can renew the marriage during the waiting period (i’ddah) by having sexual intercourse. The woman’s consent would not be necessary in such cases, he argued.

He added however that the woman would have the right to go to court if the man’s intention of resuming the marriage was abuse.

Dr Iyaz is currently campaigning for the Hulhuhenveiru parliament seat on behalf of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed. Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.

The proposed law covers sexual offences ranging from adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality and necrophilia.

2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family revealed that 58.2 percent of female respondents agreed that they were obliged to have sex with their husbands, whilst 29.3 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing sex.

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Fiqh Academy VP condemns Sexual Offenses Bill for conditional criminalisation of marital rape

Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef, Vice President of the Maldives Fiqh Academy has condemned the recently passed Sexual Offenses Bill for conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime, and advised members of People’s Majlis who voted for the bill to repent.

Answering a question requesting for comments on the bill Dr Iyaz said on “mvislamqa.com” – a local Islamic Questions and Answers website – that it is a great religious obligation upon the wife to give the husband his “marital rights” when he is in need of it.

“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need.” Quoting a Hadith (sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad) he said a woman should respond to her husband “even if she was at the kitchen stove”.

Warning of the dangers of denying it, Iyaz quoted another Hadith which states that if a husband spends the night angry with his wife, “angels will curse the woman till daylight”.

However he instructed men to be gentle with women if a health issue is causing her pain, and said in such cases women will not be cursed by angels.

The bill does not generally recognise marital rape, but it makes four exceptions where marital rape is recognised;

1. while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court
2. while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court
3. sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease
4. during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce)

Among these, the conditions and penalties for the first situation are lenient in contrast to the other three exceptions. Marital rape under normal circumstances will not be recognised as a crime even if the bill is ratified.

Referring to the conditions outlined, Dr Iyaz said that even if a woman has filed for divorce, she must still show “complete obedience to her husband”, including in having sexual intercourse with him.

The same will apply, he said, even after divorce during i’ddah (waiting period) following a revocable divorce. In case of such a divorce the man can resume the marriage by simply having sexual intercourse with her, and the woman’s consent is not necessary in resuming the marriage, he said.

However, Iyaz noted that the woman has a right to raise the issue with a judge if the man’s intention of resuming the marriage seem to be abuse.

Dr Iyaz – who is currently campaigning for People’s Majlis Hulhuhenveiru seat – said that penalties clearly stated in Islamic Shariah, such as flogging and stoning to death, cannot be replaced. “No legislative assembly has the authority to change that”.

Concluding his answer he advised everyone who voted for the bill to repent.

The bill, passed by the People’s Majlis on 30 December 2013, states that it is not a replacement for Shariah and if there is a Shariah penalty for an offense covered by the bill, it shall be applied along with the Shariah penalty.

It was drafted and proposed by Kulhudhufushi Dhekunu MP Mohamed Nasheed in October 2012, and is now awaiting ratification by the president after which it will come into force. It  covers sexual offences ranging from adultery, sexual acts between two people of the same sex, with family member, animals and even corpses.

A 2007 study by Ministry of Gender and Family revealed that in Maldives 58.2% women agree that they are obliged to have sex with their husbands even if they don’t want to and 29.3% women that took part in the study believed it is acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing sex.

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Fiqh Academy reveals opinion on abortion

The Fiqh Academy of Maldives has today issued its opinion on abortion, stating that the situations in which they believe abortion is allowed under Islam.

According to the academy, if a woman gets raped – regardless of whether marriage to the man is allowed under Islam – abortion is allowed if it is carried out within the first 120 days.

The academy further stated that if a woman whose medical conditions is not good enough to hold a baby in her womb gets raped by a man then abortion is allowed if it is carried out in the first 120 days.

The academy was first established in 2009 under President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, and was dissolved and then re-established by President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

The current nine-member academy is composed of two councils – the Shariah Council and an Advisory Council. Members are appointed by the president and the academy’s main function is to act as an advisory body on issues of Islamic jurisprudence and Shariah law.

The fourth situation stated in which they viewed abortion as being allowed was if the doctors are sure that the baby might have serious health conditions such as thalassemia, sickle cell, or any other serious medical condition that cannot be cured by medicine.

The only situation where abortion is allowed after the first 120 days was if the mother’s health condition was critical and doctors were forced to save either the baby or the mother.

The Fiqh Academy also said that abortion is allowed in the first four situations, if carried out within 120 days of pregnancy because the fetus would not have soul inside but after 120 days the soul will enter the fetus and thereafter it should be considered as living.

The Academy has issued eight rulings since it’s establishment and also suggested amendments to the draft Penal Code while it was open for public comments.  People’s Majlis’  Penal Code drafting committee rejected all but one of the proposed amendments.

Since 2011 there have been an increase in the amount of abandoned babies reported by the media.

On May 5, 2011, a dead infant was found in a plastic bag in the swimming track area of Male’. A medical examination later concluded that the baby had sustained cuts, bruises and other wounds.

On May 21, 2011, the corpse of a premature baby boy was discovered inside a Coast Milk tin on the island of Villingli.

Police Sub-Inspector Shiyam at the time told told Minivan News that the dead child, believed by forensic examiners to have been born three months premature, was discovered in a discarded container near the power house area of the island.

On May 22, 2011, the body of a newborn baby boy discovered in a park in Hulhumale’ was found with underwear tied tightly around his neck.

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Government calls for immediate Tourism GST increase to 15 percent

The government has submitted a bill to parliament calling for the Tourism Goods and Services Tax (T-GST) to be increased from 8 to 15 percent, effective immediately.

The bill was submitted by Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed last week on behalf of the government.

A T-GST of 3.5 percent was first pushed through parliament by the former government in 2011, with planned increases to 6 percent in 2012 and the current 8 percent in 2013.

Prior to the introduction of the T-GST, the primary sources of state income from the tourism sector included resort rents, import duties, and a flat eight dollar a night ‘bed tax’.

During the first month following the introduction of the T-GST, the government collected US$7.2 million from 800 of the newly registered 871 tax papers, a figure that revealed the Maldives had been underestimating the total size of its main industry by a factor of three.

Economic crisis

The proposal to increase the tax comes as the Maldives faces increasingly dire economic circumstances.

Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad revealed in April that the government had exhausted its annual budget for recurrent expenditure (including salaries, allowances and administration costs) in the first quarter of 2013, and announced the suspension of all development projects.

The State Bank of India’s refusal to roll over loans at the start of the year has seen central bank reserves at the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) “dwindle to critical levels”, as noted by the World Bank, to barely a month’s worth of imports.

The State Electric Company (STELCO) – the country’s main supplier of electricity to inhabited islands – meanwhile revealed this week that the government had failed to pay electricity bills to the tune of MVR 543 million (US$35.2 million), and warned Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee in a letter that it faced cash flow problems and an inability to roll out new projects as a result.

T-GST rise contentious

Tourism industry figures have previously warned that a sudden increase in T-GST would have an immediate effect on the industry’s bottom line, as many resorts are locked into year-long supply and pricing agreements with tour operators.

An overnight near-doubling of the tax to 15 percent would have “serious ramifications on tourism and the Maldivian economy,” warned one resort manager.

“Most wholesalers will not accept price increases mid-contract irrespective of what clauses we put in a contract, as laws within the EU prevent this. Hence, this will have to be absorbed by the resorts,” he explained.

“I am aware that many resorts are struggling financially and this may be enough to put them over the edge. It will be very difficult to attract much needed foreign investment when the government continues to give these signals,” he added. “Why hamper and reduce demand to a destination that is already struggling to attract its core and traditional markets?”

The resort manager said that it was unreasonable to expect the resort industry to foot the bill for the state’s financial irresponsibility, “considering there have been limited efforts within the government to reduce its expenses. [The proposed tax increase] is short term thinking that will lead to a major default within the Maldivian economy and industry, if this proceeds.”

“What continues is a large bureaucracy that makes it as difficult as possible for tourism to provide high end service to its guests in order to maintain our positioning [in the market],” he observed.

“What is basically required is that these slow and lethargic government departments to go through a productivity and efficiency program. Make the processes more efficient, make civil servants accountable for productivity targets, reduce the government workforce and increase the percentage of Maldivian workers in resorts,” the manager suggested.

The issue here is that the resorts will need to cut costs and increase efficiency to counteract this. This may hamper guest service, product enhancements and refurbishment, and staff benefits which is again detrimental to the industry as a whole. The Maldives is a premium destination with premium levels of service and this tax increase would hamper this positioning. The Maldivian people will need to expect cost cutting and in some aspects retrenchments.”

New tax fatwa

Prior to the submission of the government’s proposed increase to the T-GST, local media reported that the Fiqh Academy had issued a fatwa (an Islamic ruling) prohibiting the government from levying taxes of any sort except under exceptional conditions.

Announcing the Fiqh Academy’s ruling in a statement on May 22, the Islamic Ministry noted that taxation was only permitted under Islam in certain circumstances.

“Tax can be taken from citizens to fulfill their basic needs, and only up to the amount required to fulfill these needs in cases where the state does not have enough money [for this],” the statement read.

According to local media, the fatwa requires that any tax money collected be “invested fairly and according to Islamic principles”.

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