Comment: Mosque, story of my country

This article was first published on www.patheos.com. Republished with permission. 

I feel the weight of a nation on my shoulders; a nation that is too often spoken of in the global community in terms of its natural beauty rather than in terms of its people. And I wonder whether my individual experience reflects the experiences of all those Maldivians, who share this fate of having their life experiences casually set aside whenever their country is mentioned. ‘Maldives has really beautiful beaches, right?’ I am often asked. ‘Yes, and very interesting people.’

Most of us are Muslims, living in about 190 of the 1200 islands that form our country. Islam is the state religion, and the constitution requires all laws made in the country to abide by Islamic principles and all Maldivian citizens to be Muslims. As young Muslims, growing up Maldivian is a privilege that few of us seem to appreciate. Our community is mostly Muslim; our education system, our laws, our traditions and ethos are loosely based around Islamic principles; we have historically been spared the sectarian disputes that have plagued many other Muslim communities worldwide; almost always, no matter where we are on an inhabited island, we have a mosque within walking distance.

That is not to say we don’t have our share of difficulties. Our rather reserved society has failed to respond to the spiritual, social, economic and other needs of our youth demographic, and we are suffering the consequences. Many young people are becoming either disillusioned with religion or radicalised by groups who promote sectarian violence and Takfiri ideologies among others. Faced with a general lack of everything: proper housing, jobs, educational opportunities, space for self-expression, and for many kids, even a stable family environment – Maldives has one of the highest divorce rates in the world -, many young people are turning to drugs and delinquency as outlets for their emotions and frustrations. To top it all, in an environment rife with corruption and political discord, the growing disillusionment of youth from the political process and social structures is resulting in young people becoming more sidelined from the general community.

In all of this, the failure of the Mosque – as an institution representing religion – becomes apparent. The sermons coming out of the Mosque almost always address matters relating to creed, never relating them to issues that are more directly connected to socio-economic problems. When such matters are addressed, often there is a huge disparity between the preachings of the religious scholar and the tested and proven principles of human sciences.

Moreover, the Mosque is often not a welcoming space for women. In the past year or so, I have carried out a project to photographically document the differences between the men’s and women’s prayer areas. Not all mosques have a women’s area. Of the mosques that do, some mosques have the rainwater drainage pipes coming from the roof ending right at the women’s entrance. Others have women’s prayer areas too small, especially for the number of women who come out to pray Tarawih in congregation at the mosque during Ramadan. And of all the mosques in the capital that I have been to, few have a women’s area that shares the general ambiance of the prayer area used by the men.

This general lack of consideration towards women is doubled by the lack women’s access to the lectures given by scholars (most importantly, perhaps, foreign scholars), in the men’s prayer areas of the mosques. Moreover, no female Islamic scholar in the country holds, or in fact has ever held, a public lecture in a mosque.

Despite the odds, though, Maldivians are inching their way forward. Young people are trying to beat the rising rate delinquency. Despite the failure of the mosque to address human rights, administrative justice and other important issues, the youth are filling the moral gap as they know how, with the help of international and local rights groups. Female worshipers are increasing at mosques, especially for Tarawih and Eid prayers.

Maldives is a country that is moving forward currently, perhaps, in spite of its mosques. The community, and often its most vulnerable, are suffering the consequences and compensating for the current failure of the Mosque. I hope that one day, the Mosque will be an institution that drives and contributes to our progress. For that to happen, the Mosque has a lot of catching up to do.

Aisha Hussain Rasheed is a Maldivian Muslim woman, who believes our Islamic heritage is the key to our future, if only we know how to use it. You can follow her on Twitter @ishahr and on Facebook.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to editorial@minivannewsarchive.com

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Preparations conclude for the start of Ramadan

Today marks the first official day of Ramadan in the Maldives following the conclusion of final preparations for the month of fasting and prayer.

After the anticipated sighting of the new crescent moon did not come on Friday as expected, the Islamic Ministry announced that Sunday (June 29) was considered to be Ramadan 1 in the Hijra year 1435.

The start of festivities also began at midnight across much of the world, with Yemen reported to be the only country to have started celebrations on Saturday.

President Abdulla Yameen has called on Maldivians to observe the period with piety, encouraging the performance of pious deeds and virtuous duties.

In a statement released by the President’s Office, Yameen noted Maldivians’ preservation of the Islamic faith, appealing to all to continue this tradition over the next 30 days.

The government’s efforts to assist with preparations were also acknowledged by Yameen, with a number of temporary and refurbished mosques having opened in recent days.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was in attendance at the reopening of the Al-Furqan mosque on Friday after six years of construction and multiple delays. The mosque is reported to be the most expensive in the country’s history, at MVR21 million (US$1.3 million).

Speaking at the opening ceremony for new mosque – capable of facilitating 3000 people – Jameel urged Islamic scholars to uphold the country’s Islamic identity by presenting it in a way comprehensible to the nation’s substantial youth population.

Local media have also reported the opening of a temporary mosque in Maafannu to compensate for the recently demolished Fandiyaaru Mosque. The Maldives National Defence Force completed the mosque – with capacity for 800 people – in just 14 days, reported Sun Online.

After initial fears regarding funding, the Islamic Minsistry announced the release of MVR800,000 to Malé City Council for repairs to 22 mosques. Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has pledged to spend MVR10 million on mosque repair for Ramadan.

Additionally, President Yameen has pledged to reduce waiting times for the overburdened Malé-Hulhumalé ferry to just 10 minutes while state utilities company Fenaka is said to have pledged interrupted power supply to all islands this month.

Working times for the Maldives’ 25,000 civil servants have been reduced to the hours between 10am and 2pm after local women’s rights NGO Hope for Women had argued the previous arrangement allowed insufficient time for women’s increased domestic workload during the month.

Meanwhile, the government announced that schools would be closed for grade 9 and below throughout the month, while class times will be reduced for other age groups.

Haveeru has also reported a reduction in the price of a number of basic commodities at the local market, as well as the opening of an additional fresh market in the capital.

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Historical ‘Fan’diyaaru’ Mosque demolished

A historical mosque in Male’- aged at least 268 years old – has been demolished in order to build a new one on the same site.

‘Fandiyaaru Miskiy’ (Judge’s Mosque) was built by Al Qadi Muhammad Muhibbuddin Fan’diyaaru Kaleyfaanu – who was appointed as Chief Justice in 1747- and was subsequently named after him.

REVIVE, a local NGO working to preserve national history and culture, has condemned the demolition, and expressed remorse over the historical loss.

Describing the demolition as unlawful, the organisation called on the Maldives Police Service, Prosecutor General’s Office, and other authorities to investigate and take action.

REVIVE has also called on the People’s Majlis to pass a national heritage bill as soon as possible.

“The government have an obligation to protect such historical buildings under the 27/79 Act on Historical Places and Things and the UNESCO Convention Concerning The Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage,” a REVIVE press release stated.

The organisation also called on relevant authorities to ensure that the digging of the site should be done under the supervision of the Department of Heritage, as historical relics are often found under such sites.

Male’ city council member Ibrahim Shuja said that the mosque was demolished to build a modern four-storey mosque ‘ for the benefit of the people’.

“A generous businessman has offered to build a new mosque there, they have been planning this for three years. It was discussed with the [city] council and the Islamic Ministry before we approved it. We are not doing anything illegal here. It is a mosque we are building, not a carnival. We will go on with the project as planned,” Shuja said.

He also said there was “not that much of history”, that the corpses buried there would be removed, and that the place would be cleaned for building the new mosque.

“If anyone wants to observe, they are welcome. And if anyone wants the wooden structure of the ceiling, they can take it,” he said.

Director of the Department of Heritage Ali Waheed confirmed that the department was not informed about the demolition of the mosque. He noted that while there is no heritage law requiring such approval, considering the department is mandated with taking care of such sites, the usual practice is to consult with it before such activity.

“Even if it is to place a telecommunication antenna near a historical site, we are consulted usually. But we haven’t been officially informed about Fandiyaaru Miskiy,” Waheed said.

Ali Waheed noted that the department has a number of challenges in taking care of historical sites around the country, including the fact that such places are under the jurisdiction of Island Councils with budget deficiencies.

“We have earlier paid people from islands to maintain such places, but since we can no longer pay for the maintenance, those places haven’t been maintained for the past four years. And not all councils are cooperative in maintaining such places,” Waheed said.

Mohamed Shatir, Historian and Director General of the National Archives also expressed concern over the demolition.

“Personally, I feel that it shouldn’t have been demolished. If there was a need to expand the mosque, I think it could have been done while retaining the original old mosque. Perhaps it is not exactly unlawful as there is no proper heritage act in place, but it is definitely not right,” Shathir said.

According to REVIVE, a seven foot tombstone within the mosque premises was also demolished in early 2000s, while the greater cemetery was dismantled in 1970 to provide housing plots.

REVIVE president Ahmed Naufal said that other historical sites such as Koagannu Cemetery in Addu City – one of the oldest in the country- and the cemetery of the old Friday mosque in Male’ have also been vandalised.

“In most islands such places are abandoned and ignored. Not just by the authorities but also members of the public don’t seem to care about such places,” he said.

“We are working on a National Heritage Bill currently. But I really don’t think laws alone will get results. The Maldives National Archives Act was passed in 2011, and they still have only a few staff and no office,” he said.

Referring to the religious extremists’ destruction of historical Buddhist relics at the Maldives National Museum in 2012, Naufal said that even after the incident the security of the museum is poor.

“These are national treasures. They represent our history and our culture. They should be properly protected, perhaps by our national security forces. A lone security guard is not enough, especially considering the place was attacked recently,” said Naufal.

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Funds stolen from Naifaru mosque

Naifaru Island Council President Mahmood Abdul Hameed has stated that a fund box in Masjid-ul-Taqwa in the island had been damaged on Tuesday night, and all the fund money in it has been stolen.

Stating that the robbery has now been reported to the police, Hameed said that the amount of money in the box is not known.

“It is a fund box fixed onto a wall in the mosque. What we get from it is used to repair the mosque and for other needs of the mosque. Every 15 days, the council office retrieves the money deposited in it,” Mahmood told local media.

Mahmood further said that all three mosques in the island had fund boxes in it, and that the other two boxes had also been tampered with, but that the thieves had not been successful in the other two attempts which occurred on the same night.

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Islamic Minister concerned over “extreme ideologies” being preached in Dharumavantha Mosque

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has voiced concerns that Friday prayers conducted in the Dharumavantha Mosque in the capital city Male’ are conducted by Imams who do not hold state-issued authorisation to preach.

Shaheem emphasised the importance of putting an end to the practice of Dharumavantha Mosque conducting Friday prayers in a manner different from all other mosques in the country. He furthermore said that he had personally received reports that the sermons given in the mosque preached a “stricter, more extreme ideology [of Islam]”.

“In the Maldives, we follow the practices of Sunni communities, especially when it comes to matters concerning religion. And then [they] refuse to pray in other mosques behind authorised Imams and form their own prayer congregations elsewhere. The ‘Imams’ conducting Friday prayers at Dharumavantha Mosque do not have permits to lead Friday prayers, nor are they even well-educated. I’ve also been informed that sometimes very extreme preachings are made by them,” Shaheem said on Sunday, speaking to local media.

The minister added that mosques in the capital are now under the jurisdiction of the Male’ City Council, and that the Islamic Ministry no longer has the mandate to act against any “undesirable activities” being carried out in mosques.

Mosques were transferred from being under the watch of the Islamic Ministry to the councils in late 2011 after the ratification of the Decentralisation Act.

Shaheem stated that he had nevertheless worked to ‘reform’ people who attended these prayers with the help of various religious scholars who provided advice to these individuals.

A Male’ City Council official noted that Councillor Hassan Afeef is in charge of overeeing mosques. Afeef was not responding to calls at the time of press.

Dharumavantha Miskiiy

Dharumavantha Mosque (Miskiiy) is recorded to be the oldest mosque in the country, according to the former National Center for Linguistic and Historical Research.

The mosque, which is exclusively for men, is a one-room structure with an attached veranda, located near Sultan Park.

Dharumavantha Mosque is attributed to Mohamed-Ul-Adil, the first Sultan of the Maldives, who was the first to enforce Islamic law in the country.

On March 6, 2013, the mosque was robbed and vandalised. The matter was reported to police by those attending early morning prayers.

Police have so far not publicised details of the investigation, and the case is believed to remain unsolved.

Dharumavantha Mosque is the only known mosque in the capital which refuses to read out pre-written sermons issued by the Islamic Ministry during Friday prayers, as is the current practice.

Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was not responding to calls at the time of press.

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Time “not right” to amend Freedom of Assembly bill, MDP claims

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it is opposed to a Freedom of Assembly bill accepted for discussion this week by the People’s Majlis – despite praising the overall nature of the legislation.

According to local media reports, 41 ministers out of 62 present during a vote this week favoured tabling the bill, which was proposed earlier this year by the independent MP Mohamed Nasheed. The bill is said to have been devised in a bid to clarify the rights and responsibilities of both protesters and authorities policing them.

MDP Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor told Minivan News that while the party believed the proposed bill was a “good piece of legislation” – the time was deemed “not right” for such amendments to be made to the existing law.

The MDP has continued to allege that the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed was ousted in February through a “coup d’etat” supported by mutinous elements of the police and military. Hamid contended therefore that amendments to police controls in the present political environment would not be supported by the party.

“We continue to maintain that the police are not a legitimate body due to their role in the coup,” he claimed. “This is a good piece of legislation to implement with a legitimate police force, but we believe that [the security forces’] role in the coup was such that this is not the time to get the bill passed. It would simply serve for authorities to gain leverage and take away the democratic gains made in the country in the last three years.”

“Up the ante”

With parliament now reportedly discussing whether the bill should be sent for evaluation through a temporary or permanent committee, Hamid added that the MDP was itself preparing to “up the ante” in terms of the protests it has been holding over the last few months concerning the legitimacy of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s government.

“At the moment, the mood in the party is to intensify the protests,” he said. We continue to believe that the present government is not legitimate and we will continue to protest this within legal means under the eyes of the law. The courts have not yet been able to rule against the freedom of assembly,” he added.

According to Hamid, with the MDP continuing to conduct protests on a weekly basis, there remains suspicion that the new bill was being prosed simply to stymie and “squash” the right to protest in the country – a claim denied by those behind the proposed legislation.

The opposition party’s supporters again yesterday marched around Male’ past sites including police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) barracks – albeit on a slightly modified route – to reflect what they claim is growing impatience with the Waheed administration.

Following the transfer of power in February and President Waheed’s delayed innagural address to parliament a month later, there have been incidents of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters – particularly in the capital of Male’. Since these events, clashes between the police force and the MDP have been reported to be much more sporadic and small scale.

Hamid claimed that the MDP was not going out with the intention to confront police officers, alleging that some law enforcement officials had in recent weeks attempted to incite violent clashes themselves.  He pointed to an incident last month where police marched straight through a large gathering of demonstrators including former President Nasheed as an example of this allegation.

Coalition view

In considering the implications of parliament approving the Freedom of Assembly bill, Deputy Leader of the government-aligned Dhivehi Rayithuge Party (DRP) Ibrahim Shareef said Thursday evening (July 5) that it continued to support freedom of assembly and would voice changes to the bill where it believed they were required.

“As a party, we have not discussed [the bill] yet.  As far as we are concerned the bill is about regulation regarding protests,” he said.

Shareef added that the parliamentary vote held this week was simply over whether the proposed changes should be tabled for discussion among MPs. He added that the legislation was now being looked at before being submitted for committee review, where the specifics of the bill would be debated further.

MPs Ahmed Mahloof and Ahmed Nihan of the Progressive party of Maldives (PPM) – a coalition partner of the DRP – were not responding to calls at the time of going to press regarding their opinions of the bill.

Proposed changes

Upon introducing the bill back in April, independent MP Nasheed said new legislation was required to replace the current regulations concerning freedom of assembly devised before the current constitution was put in place.

The proposed bill is based largely on guidelines published in 2010 by the European advisory group on constitutional law, the Venice Commission (officially called the European Commission for Democracy Through Law). The guidelines argue that any restrictions to freedom of assembly must consider legality, necessity and proportionality.

The unusual nature of the country, Nasheed argued, requires that “absolute” restrictions on static protests remain around the state’s vital institutions, in particular those areas on Republican Square which affect the security forces’ ability to operate.  These require an area of 200ft to the front and 50ft to the side of police and military headquarters to be prohibited from static protests, such as sit-downs. Other military barracks require a protective zone of 50ft; other police facilities, 25ft.

The police protest on February 7 that led to the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government took place outside the MNDF’s headquarters.

Additionally, the bill suggests that a minimum distance of 25 feet be maintained from mosques, schools, hospitals, court buildings, the President’s Office, the President’s house, and from parliament. The proposed bill places no restrictions on moving protests.

Concerns were raised in May about protests being held near to the country’s mosques after a group of people said to be MDP supporters obstructed a sermon held by prominent religious scholar Sheikh Ilyas Hussain.

The only time-based restrictions under the bill are those that proscribing protests outside of an individual’s home after 10pm, and those that use loudspeakers after 8pm.

Nasheed was also keen to point out that new bill, and the timing of its submission, had been unrelated to the controversial transfer of power earlier this year. He stated that he had been working on the bill since 2010 and had completed a first draft last year.

He was realistic, however, about the difficulties the bill would face.

“People who are protesting will be unhappy with any restrictions… but they should respect the rights of others,” said Nasheed.

The MP has previously predicted that the bill could take up to a year to be passed.

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One million rufiya expected in donations for mosques: Islamic Ministry

The “Help Mosques Fund” set up by the Islamic Ministry received approximately Rf 950,000 Rufiyaa (US$61,608) within one hour on Friday.

Thirty-two donation boxes were placed on Friday in mosques around Male’ to collect money for mosque repairment works in preparation for Ramadan.

Permanent Secretary for the Islamic Ministry Mohamed Didi said the fund is expected to collect about one million rufiya by the end of the week, reports local newspaper Haveeru.

“We noticed how prepared some people were to help the mosques. Some of them just put 10,000 rufiya in an envelope and donated it,” Didi told Haveeru.

The fund will be open for donations at the Islamic Centre in Male’ until June 14, according to the ministry.

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Adhaalath Party condemns MDP for disrupting Sheikh Ilyas’s sermon

The Adhaalath Party, led by Sheikh Imran Mohamed, has condemned the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) after a group of people said to be MDP supporters obstructed a sermon held by prominent religious scholar Sheikh Ilyas Hussain at Masjid-al-Furqan on Friday night.

In a statement, the party said the Maldives was a 100 percent Islamic nation and that no one should be given the opportunity to obstruct religious views, and called on authorities to give harsh penalties to people involved in such un-Islamic activities.

The Adhaalath Party said that such people were mentioned in the Quran and cited verse 114;1 ‘’And who is more unjust that he who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah, Allah’s named should be celebrated? –whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and in the world to come, an exceeding torment.’’

The party also said that people “who use their brain” should “realise that MDP is a cult that revolves around former President Mohamed Nasheed.”

The Adhaalath Party called on all citizens of the Maldives “to stop supporting these people who do not love the religion or the citizens even a little bit.”

Last Friday a group of people said to be MDP supporters gathered outside Furqan Mosque while Sheikh Ilyas was delivering a sermon inside, and shouted at him saying he was a traitor.

A group of people came out of the mosque and clashed with the group outside, before riot police arrived in the area and restored order.

According to police, five men were arrested following the unrest and brought before court.

The court released three of them and extended the detention period of the other two.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today told Minivan News that Male’ City Council on Friday night requested police stop a sermon at the Furqan Mosque, just as it was beginning.

‘’We did not think it was appropriate to stop it because it was a religious thing and not a criminal offence, so we decided to solve it through dialogue,’’ Haneef said. ‘’But when police went to the area people were gathered and there was unrest.’’

He confirmed that two of the five men arrested were still under police charge while the other three had been released.

Sheikh Ilyas is a member of Adhaalath Party’s religious council and has been very critical of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

Adhaalath Party is one of the parties aligned with the current government. Current Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed is also a member of the party.

Tonight there is another sermon by Sheikh Ilyas due to be held at the same mosque, on the topic ‘Death’.

MDP Secretary General Ahmed Shah referred Minivan News to MDP  Spokesperson and MP Imtiyaz Fahmy ‘Inthi’, who did not respond at time of press.

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Social stigma limiting employment of local women in resort industry, report finds

A new study finds that Maldivian women are the least employed demographic in the resort industry, accounting for only three percent of the total eight percent of female workers at resorts in 2010. Local and foreign men constitute 92 percent of the industry.

Tourism directly accounts for 30 percent of the Maldives’ GDP, and for 70 percent indirectly.

The thesis, “Women in Tourism: Challenges of Including Women in the Maldivian Resort Sector” was prepared by Eva Alm and Susanna Johansson during their five-month stay in the Maldives in 2010.

According to their findings, “culture, religion, and women’s role in the family, the role of the family, safety, geographical spread, transportation, education and awareness” were the main factors preventing women from seeking resort employment.

Interviews show that resort life is perceived as ‘western’ and imposes the negative practices of consuming pork and alcohol, supporting nudity, and allowing extramarital sexual encounters on Muslim Maldivian women.

By contrast, Maldivian male resort employees are exempt from these risks.

“Working in a resort as a woman is perceived as bad, as going the wrong way, as not a good place for a woman to be,” said one source.

Women interviewed said social stigma prevented them from seeking resort employment. The combination of not being able to come home at night and working at a resort with a significantly higher ratio of men to women is considered intimidating, sources said.

One father said, “If my daughter would not have the possibility of going home every night, I would not let her work in the resort, it is not safe […] if a woman will not come home at night after work, and she would maybe have a relationship with a man in the resort, which could result in a pregnancy […] this would have very bad impact on the family and would not be tolerated.”

Maldivians who engage in extramarital intercourse risk social ostracism, and women sometimes face punishment for pregnancy outside marriage. The country has among the highest divorce rates in the world.

Parents are said to play a significant role in a woman’s professional future. “In Maldives, in our religion, we are not allowed to drink or be with just any guys and things like that. So our parents are scared about that,” said one young woman.

One resort manager said awareness is a major challenge to promoting female employment. “Convincing the parents is difficult. They are very possessive of the girls. The parent’s perception is that they will mix with the European culture and do bad things such as drinking alcohol.”

A government representative added that “there needs to be a focus on educating mothers and fathers of the women who are willing to join the industry and demonstrate that it is perfectly in order for their daughters to work in the resort sector.”

Female unemployment in the Maldives is estimated at 24 percent, while male unemployment is only eight percent. Reports indicate that the industrialization of fishing, an enterprise previously shared between women and men, and the beginning of tourism eliminated the need for two incomes per household.

According to the report, Maldivian culture does not encourage women to take on entrepreneurial or leadership roles in business. Women are found to be raised to follow men, and a lack of domestic care services prevent women from leaving their posts as mothers and wives.

Women interviewed said that in order to employ more women resorts should “become more Muslim.” Most said they would not work where they could not wear the burqa, although when told that several resorts allow the burqa they maintained their position.

Women were also unaware that many resorts provide mosques for their Muslim employees.

Separating resorts from local island culture was an early tourism strategy, claims the report. Tourism officials at the time were said to believe the policy would protect local culture.

The separation is now considered a factor in island underdevelopment. “The problem we have is that we have first class resorts in the Maldives, next to them are the third world local communities, the villages,” said a government representative quoted in the study. “We have to get these engaged as the people from the island communities can get direct benefit from the resort industry through participatory involvement and inclusive growth.”

Some resort companies, such as Hilton and Soneva, try to compensate for this gap by outsourcing tasks to local islands.

Hilton resort began the “Green Ladies” program, bringing in groups of women from neighboring islands to sweep the resort during the day. Soneva supported the Veymandhoo women’s production of chili sauce in 2008.

Soneva’s Social and Environmental Manager said localizing resort development made Muslim women more comfortable in new professional opportunities. “It has got all the elements necessary for a solid livelihood project. You got women involved, it’s got livelihoods, it’s got commercial value to it, and it’s got localization aspect to it”.

Yet island production capacity does not meet resort demand. “’The communities have to be very much upscale to be able to manage small businesses, because resorts are big business and they wont rely on people who can‟t provide for their demands’”, said one source.

“Women in Tourism: Challenges of Including Women in the Maldivian Resort Sector” was presented at Sweden’s Lund University in May, and is due for publication this month.

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