Islamic ministry raises concern over religious divisions

Expressing concern over religious and social divisions in the Maldives, the Islamic ministry has warned the public against “words and actions that upset social and religious customs.”

In a statement on Thursday, the ministry stressed “age-old Maldivian unity” and said any act that may disrupt religious unity is an offense under the Religious Unity Act of 1994.

“The ministry has noted a spread in words and actions that create social and religious divisions and ideological differences. This has disrupted age-old social order and social customs. Such actions that are contrary to Maldivian customs and public interest facilitate divisions, quarrels and social unrest,” the statement read.

“We take this opportunity to remind and advice [the public] that any actions that undermine religious unity, sovereignty and independence of the Maldives is prohibited under Article 4 of the Religious Unity Act.”

The Islamic ministry’s media official, Ibrahim Abdulla Saeed, declined to reveal details of actions or words that have caused concern.

“This is just a reminder,” he said.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, which was controlled the Islamic affairs portfolio in successive governments, split from the ruling coalition in March and launched an antigovernment campaign over the imprisonment of ex-president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-defence minister Mohamed Nazim.

Several scholars have since condemned what they call President Abdulla Yameen’s growing authoritarianism and warned of Allah’s wrath over “injustice and brutality.”

Islamic minister Dr Shaheem Ali Saeed resigned in early May shortly after Adhaalath president Sheikh Imran Abdulla’s arrest hours after he led a historic antigovernment protest on May 1.

Imran remains in police custody.

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Ministry of Islamic Affairs opens bidding process for Hajj agencies

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has opened the bidding process to select the Hajj agencies which will be taking Maldivian pilgrims to Mecca this year.

A ministry announcement read that the proposals should be submitted according to the updated Hajj regulations which were published yesterday (January 27).

Speaking to Minivan News, Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Aishath Muneeza has said that the updated regulations for Maldivian Hajj pilgrims would help prevent Hajj-related fraud cases in the future.

Under the new regulations, the Hajj license will not be released to the company if “anyone convicted or suspected fraudulent Hajj transactions are present in the board of directors or management,” requiring the companies to hand in the criminal records of all board members while submitting the proposals.

“The new law would also require the agencies to submit a timeline to the ministry giving itself deadlines such as the dates by when tickets are brought, money is taken from customers,” said Dr Muneeza.

State-owned the Hajj Corporation is to handle 50 percent of the quota given by the Saudi Arabian government, the remaining slots are equally distributed to three private companies after a bidding process.

Last year, the government covered the expenses of 121 defrauded customers of the Al-Fathuh Hajj Umra Group with an amount in excess of US$500,000.

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Controversial Dutch convert to give religious lecture in the Maldives

Controversial Dutch convert Arnoud van Doorn, one of the people associated with distributing the anti-Islamic short film ‘Fitna’ is due to give a religious lecture in the Maldives, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem has revealed

Van Doorn was formerly a politician with the far-right Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) and had assisted PVV leader Geert Wilders in distributing the short film ‘Fitna’, which argues that Islam promotes terrorism, anti-Semitism, and violence against women.

The film received international condemnation, being branded anti-Islamic by a number of organisations including the Muslim World League and the United Nations.

Speaking to Minivan News, Shaheem said today that van Doorn is due to give a lecture on his conversion to Islam sometime during this year, adding that “a man’s past cannot be questioned after he converts to Islam”.

Meanwhile, van Doorn tweeted his gratitude towards Dr Shaheem for the invitation.

Van Doorn – who now serves as the President of European Dawah Foundation – converted to Islam in 2013, performing the Hajj pilgrimage shortly afterwards. He has also apologised for his attempts at spreading hatred against Islam.

Meanwhile, Shaheem tweeted last week (January 2) that the majority of religious speakers invited to give out public sermons during 2015 would be brought in from Western countries.

Shaheem told Minivan News that such a decision was made because a lot of the Islam related issues are also prevalent in Western countries and because the “western scholars encourage practicing moderate Islam”.

Yesterday (January 3), US Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi announced he will be visiting the Maldives, with the Islamic ministry confirming that he will be both lecturing and delivering the Friday sermon during March.

“I will be coming down to your beautiful islands in a few months insha Allah! I will be delivering some lectures in Male and giving the khutbah,” explained the Saudi-trained scholar via his Facebook page.

Qadhi – currently teaching in Memphis, Tennessee – has been described by the New York Times as “one of the most influential conservative clerics in American Islam”.

Recent months have also seen Canadian scholar Dr Bilal Phillips and Turkish author Harun Yahya travel to the Indian Ocean archipelago to deliver religious lectures.



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Saudi delegation visit Maldives to assess investment opportunities

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Mohamed Shaheem has said Saudi Arabia will be informing other Arab nations about the many investments opportunities in the Maldives.

Addressing the press after a meeting with a special Saudi delegation, Shaheem stated the country was assessing means through which it can assist in developing the Maldivian economy.

“The delegates will have a meeting with officials from the Ministry of Economic Development tomorrow where they will discuss potential investment opportunities in the Maldives and how to increase outreach regarding investment,” he added.

The 16 strong delegation arrived from Saudi Arabia this morning consisting of seven Saudi government officials alongside representatives from private sector Saudi enterprises who have shown an interest in pursuing business in the Maldives.

Speaking at the meeting, Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Dr Abdullah A. Al-Obaid said the visit signifies his country’s intention to enhance the bilateral relationship through trade, investment, and Islamic affairs.

“We are so proud to hear that Maldives is keeping with its Aqeeda [faith], its religion and trying to stick with it even though we have globalism effecting all countries,” said Dr Abdullah.

Shaheem said that the delegation arrived after a request made to the Saudi King by President Abdulla Yameen. He also said that the delegation was due to meet with President Yameen during this visit.

In October, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud donated US$1.2 million to a mosque project, with further plans to build 10 new mosques in the islands.

The Saudi Prince reportedly told Shaheem that he was willing to help the Maldivian government in preserving the Islamic identity of the nation and that Saudi Arabia sees the Maldives as a country of ‘special importance’.

During the recent Malé water crisis – caused by a fire at the capital’s only desalination plant, unnamed Saudi donor pledged to assist the Maldives by providing US$1 million to the government’s water crisis fund.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year, meeting with the Imaam of the Grand Mosque of Makkah.

The vice president stressed the importance the government placed on enhancing ties with the Arab world and in strengthening religious unity in the Maldives.

Shortly after Jameel’s return, the government initiated its pledge to introduce Arabic lessons in schools as part of a drive to increase Islamic learning in the country.

After signing an MoU to permit flights between the Maldives and Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Mega Maldives has this week begun flights between Malé and Jeddah.



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Islamic affairs minister calls for the preservation of independence on National Day

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem has urged all citizens to refrain from actions which might threaten the independence of the country.

While addressing the nation on the occasion of National Day, Shaheem said that a nation will develop only if there is unity and peace within the country.

National Day is observed on the first of Rabee ul Awwal – the third month of the Hijri (Islamic) calendar – celebrating the victory of Mohamed Thakurufaanu over the Portuguese occupation in the year 1573.

“There is peace and calm within the Maldivian people. We have maintained Islamic unity and are strengthening ties with the Islamic Ummah (community),” said Shaheem this morning.

Shaheem’s Adhaalath Party is also reported to have called upon Muslims not to become involved in Christmas celebrations.

“The only festivals that Muslims should partake in are Eid-al-fitr and Eid-al-adha,” Haveeru reported the party as saying. “Partaking in another religion’s festival or celebration is akin to adhering to another religion”.

The paper has also reported that customs have seized a number of items imported as Christmas decorations for a resort in Noonu Atoll. Religious materials deemed offensive to Islam and idols for worship are prohibited in the country.

A special National Day flag-raising ceremony was held this morning at Republican Square, with Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer attending as the chief guest alongside high ranking officials from the Maldives National Defense Force.

The ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) leader and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom tweeted his greetings on the occasion to all Maldivians.

Also tweeting was former President Mohamed Nasheed who called upon the Maldives to take the example of Mohamed Thakurufaanu, who “fought against the colonial power of the Indian Ocean at the time for the freedom of Maldives”.

Folklore holds that Thakurufaanu – from Haa Alif Utheemu in the North of the country – set sail to the capital Malé alongside his two brothers and companions in order to bring an end to the 15 year Portuguese rule in the Maldives.

Using the cover of the night and their famed vessel – known as ‘Kalhuohfummi’ – the  brothers are said to have landed on different islands every night, fighting the Portuguese and outmaneuvering the their vessels by using their knowledge of the Maldivian oceans.

The brothers landed in the capital in 1573 where they fought against the Portuguese soldiers garrisoned in the capital. Mohamed Thakurufaanu is sais to have shot dead the infamous ‘Andhiri Andhirin’ using a musket, thus ending the 15 year oppressive Portuguese rule.



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Islamic Ministry to provide financial aid to private Quran classes

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has announced that it will be accepting applications for financial aid from privately run Quran classes from next Monday.

Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Ali Waheed told local media that only three classes had applied for the when the program was previously announced.

The ministry has decided to provide financial assistance to 25 Quran classes this year from the Zakath fund.

They will be providing a monthly allowance of MVR 2000 (US$ 130) for each business that qualifies for the program.

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‘Halal certificates’ awarded to three companies

Under an initiative of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to categorise food products produced in the Maldives as ‘halal’, three companies have on Sunday been awarded the first ‘Halal certificates’.

After research into the manufacturing process, the Islamic Ministry today awarded five products of Felivaru Fisheries, 12 products of Maldives Industrial Fisheries Company (MIFCO), and three products of Horizon Fisheries with the certificate.

The certificates were awarded by Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed at a ceremony held  in the Islamic Ministry on Sunday.

The new policy represents the government’s attempts to find alternative fish export markets, including the middle-eastern and the Malaysian market, after withdrawing its application for European Union (EU) duty-free status of imported fish from the country.

Last November, the EU declined to extend the duty-free status on Maldivian fish exports under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program – a non-reciprocal trade agreement extended to developing countries – as the government had not ratified all 27 required international conventions.

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Islamic Minister states MVR 35 million deposited in the Hajj Corporation to date

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has stated that to date, MVR35 million has been deposited in the accounts of the Maldives Hajj Corporation.

Speaking at the launching of PPM Parliamentary Candidate Ahmed Nihan’s campaign, Minister Shaheem stated that the “large amount of money deposited in the corporation in such a short period of time shows the level of trust that the citizens have in the corporation”.

The minister further revealed that both the previous and the incumbent administrations have provided financial aid to the corporation, detailing that the Yameen administration has so far provided MVR5 million.

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Saudi organisation to spend MVR 1.6 million to spread Quranic teachings in Maldives

Saudi Arabian organisation Al Hayat al Alamiya li Tadabbur al Quran ul Karim has decided to run a program to promote Quranic studies in the Maldives.

Delegates from the organisation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Sunday night, under which they have pledged to spend MVR1.6 million for related projects.

According to Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, the organisation will assist the Maldives in the field in numerous ways – including the establishment of a distance study program at the Centre of Quran and the establishment of a system where modern facilities can be used to research Quranic disciplines.

Providing information about the visit of the eleven delegates from the Saudi organisation, Shaheem stated that they have pledged to further develop the “Kulliyath Ul Madhrasathul Dhiraasaa” in the Maldives and to translate their literature into the Maldivian Dhivehi script.

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