Comment: Salaf or democracy

The appeal of [Islamic NGO] Jamiyatul Salaf on June 12 is interesting for many reasons.

It is the first public statement by an influential organisation in the Maldives condemning democracy and political pluralism as ladini/un-Islamic and fasada/corrupt systems.

To be sure, an Islamist counter-discourse to democratisation is not new in the Maldives. It has its roots in the 2000’s.

Not one, too many

As early as July 2004, following president Gayoom’s June announcement of democratic reforms, Mauroof Hussain, now the Adaalath party’s deputy president, wrote a trenchant article decrying democracy. In the article, Hussain referred to the most influential Islamist ideologue Mawlana Abul A’la Maududi, who railed democracy as conflicting Allah’s hakimiyya/sovereignty.

To be sure, Maududi does not abandon democracy, but gives it an Islamised garb: Maududi’s ‘theodemocracy’ provides restricted popular sovereignty because the legislative function would be limited to ‘interpreting’ Islamic sources.

Sheikh Mohammed Shaheem Ali Saeed built along these lines in a 2006 book on the subject of democracy and Islam. He acknowledges democracy shares a lot of features with what he calls Islami nizam. However, he is emphatic that Islami nizam is not democracy, because the latter contradicts Allah’s hakimiyya.

In a more recent article, reacting to president Nasheed’s remarks that Maldives was a ‘liberal democracy’, Shaheem argued the Maldives constitution now provides an Islami nizam. Shaheem is quite emphatic: we now have an Islamic constitutional system.

It is worth quoting Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed response to a question on voting:

“If we [reject] voting, then we might as well [reject] all other things that we [Muslims] imitate and copy from non-Muslims. For example, minting or even printing Qur’an, or civil and infrastructure developments like building schools, universities or roads…these are worldly affairs. Those innovations depend on human needs and develop according to their knowledge and views. If a people reject such innovations, they will have to be behind others [in development]. Islam does not wish this from Muslims…the Prophet says: ‘You have better knowledge (of technical skill) in the affairs of the world’”.

Shaheem, Rasheed and Maududi go much further than Jamiyatul Salaf’s leader Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad Ibrahim in accommodating democracy. Sheikh Muhammad’s October 2008 article on Daruma magazine rejects democracy in its ‘essence’ as a system of kufr/un-Islamic. While he accepts voting in principle based on Islamic notion of shura, he has a highly restricted view on electing political leaders. Muhammad argued voting rights should be limited to a select few in the society: the ulama, followed by experts and the wise in the society.

Still in a more restrictive view of elections, jurist Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi reasoned that a caliph himself was entitled to appoint his own successor. So there was no necessity for elections for Mawardi. In our times, influential Islamist Sayyid Qutb would not accept democracy at all because it is a jahiliyya product.

Disagreeing with most of the above views, influential Islamist cleric of our times, Yusuf Qaradawi, argues democracy in its ‘essence’ is fully compatible with Islam. He denounces those who say otherwise as ignorant of Islamic teachings.

Unlike Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad Ibrahim of Salaf, for Qaradawi, everyone could, or rather should, vote to choose their leaders. Unlike Maududi and Shaheem, for Qaradawi, popular sovereignty does not conflict with God’s hakimiyya. Again, it is telling that Qaradawi is Qutb’s severest critic in the Islamist camp.

What do we make of all these different views on democracy? I leave it to the readers to make up their minds.

Hypocrisy or politics

But to come back to Jamiyatul Salaf’s Appeal, few observations:

The Appeal is indeed right in highlighting the continued failures of the authorities to address political issues such as corruption and bribery, economic crises, and social issues like violence in all its manifestations.

Islamist utopianism feeds on such failures: Gayoom’s personal dictatorship failed, and now democracy seems to be failing too. So, Islamism says: Islam huwa al-hall/Islam is the solution!

Second, it is interesting that after condemning political pluralism and democracy, Salaf at the same time is prepared to participate in pluralism and democracy: Salaf announces their work to groom an ideal presidential candidate for 2018 elections.

Although the principle of maslaha/public interest is implicit in the Appeal, one wonders why Salaf is not seeking a systemic change, instead of grooming a salih/pious Dhivehi Son (note it’s not a Daughter). Salaf’s anti-political rhetoric in condemning democracy and political pluralism is then highly questionable, if not hypocritical. Narrow politics lurks behind anti-political moralism.

Finally, in the usual binary division of ‘Muslim Maldivians’ and the jahiliyya Other (Christians, Jews and Maldivians educated in the West), Salaf projects a Maldives drifting away from Islam under the corrupting influence of the Other. But there is no any empirical evidence that the Maldivians generally have become less Islamic since democratic openings in 2004.

If anything, the Maldives seems to be undergoing an ‘Islamic awakening’ unprecedented in its entire Islamic history since 1153, thanks to the democratic freedoms. The sheer number of women adopting the veil and men sporting the beard is testament to this.


So, the first lesson from our democratic experiment is this: whether or not democracy has delivered on other areas, it has surely freed Islam from the suffocating fist of Gayoom.

The second, more sobering, lesson is: democracy should not be taken for granted.

2018 is not an arbitrarily proposed year. It is only by 2018, Islamists foresee that sufficient numbers could be mobilized through outreach activities.

In the meantime, the ‘Call’ must go on.

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 [email protected]


Comment: On Sawad’s PhD thesis

Ahmed Ali Sawad’s PhD thesis has rightly been hailed ‘brilliant’, and we must all be pleased that a mind of such brilliance lives amongst us. This comment cannot at all do justice to its depth and scope. This is a quick comment in the hope of starting a debate on our own rejection of certain human rights.

‘Cultural’ universalism

Sawad’s thesis is in many ways a demonstration of the remarkable ability of a ‘culturally different’ mind’s grasping of other ‘culturally different’ conceptions of human rights and self-understandings.

Sawad’s culturally different background has not prevented him from grasping the major ‘Western’ conceptions of rights, from natural law theories to John Rawls’s political liberalism. He could also engage in a vigorous ‘universal critique’ of those conceptions (unless ‘universal’, inter-subjective communication would be meaningless and ineffective.)

Of course Sawad would not accept cultural relativism, especially of the ‘thick’ variety. He instead advocates a ‘diversity paradigm’ for human rights. For him, human rights are not based on universalism, but on ‘plural consent’ of ‘States’ based in ‘cultural-legal’ milieu.

New paradigm for rights

The thesis covers a remarkably extensive study of the Shari’a-based reservations by ‘Islamic states’ (including the Maldives) to demonstrate that human rights are not ‘ontologically’ universal. Besides, other universalisms such as Michael Ignatieff’s ‘minimalist’ universalism, Rawlsian ‘overlapping consensus’ universalism, and Donnelly’s ‘relative universalism’ also do not capture this reality. What captures this reality is diversity paradigm.

However, Sawad agrees that the ‘Islamic states’ accept almost all human rights, presumably because they are Shari’a-based. Thus, there are only few areas of divergence, including ‘absolute’ right of religion and gender-based inequality.

Sawad also acknowledges that Shari’a is not monolithic, thus there are differences on, for instance, the issue of apostasy as demonstrated by Abdullah Saeed and Hassan Saeed. However, he quotes Malaysian scholar Hashim Kamali to point out this diversity is ‘diversity in unity’ as there are areas where agreement exists. If one considers Salwa Ismail’s argument in Rethinking Islamist Politics that even such basic notions like ‘God’ have no consensus around them, this unity must indeed be very thin!

Human rights in classical Shari’a?

However, Sawad’s thesis does not attempt to scrutinize the Islamic bases for human rights. He only briefly considers Muslim thinkers such as An-Nai’m. I submit this lack of scrutiny has implications of his overall argument.

The fact of the matter is that classical jurists have not provided any theory of human rights. Khaled Abou El Fadl rightly argues that Muslim thinkers to-date have mainly only provided apologetic views on human rights. Indeed, as Mawlana Mawdudi did, ad hoc Quranic injunctions such as ‘do not kill innocents’ can be presented for an apologetic understanding of human rights that compromises the purpose of human rights. This is what religious scholars like Ibrahim Rasheed Moosa and Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef have done too.

Human rights, in this sense, are not ‘culturally’ authentic in any pre-modern society, West or the East.

If this is so, one wonders how ‘cultural-legally’ authentic would even ‘Islamic states’’ existing convergence on human rights be? If one grants that Shari’a has not given a theory of human rights, it is an escapable point that this convergence cannot be consistently Shari’a-based.

But these ‘Islamic states’ still find it acceptable to converge on non-Islamic human rights. In my view, this acceptability of almost-all human rights by ‘Islamic states’ finds no particularly stronger cultural-legally authentic basis than the rejection of certain other rights simply because a particular group’s current understanding of Shari’a contradicts those rights.

This point is strengthened by the fact that most of the Muslim majority states that have made reservations are authoritarian. We have reason to suspect that an authoritarian state’s action would represent the voice of the people and their ‘cultural-legal’ representation would have any legitimacy.

Relevance of a universal ethic

I think if Sawad considered the arguments of people like An-Na’im and El Fadl on the anthropomorphism or human element involved in the interpretation of Islamic Texts (almost always by male Muslims) and the necessity for a methodologically systematic re-interpretation of these Texts, it would be difficult to reject the arguments for an ‘overlapping consensus’ on human rights.

Of course, the whole point of ‘overlapping consensus’ is that there cannot be a single universal basis (either religious or secular) for human rights. Different comprehensive doctrines will come up with different bases for an ‘overlapping consensus’.

Sawad’s argument against overlapping consensus may be right as far as the practice of reservation goes, but only because ‘Islamic states’ so far have failed to come up with a religiously coherent basis for human rights.

Without such a coherent basis, we only get ad hoc views on human rights, where the equality and equal freedom of human beings are compromised in the name of one group’s understanding of Islam.

I submit, equal rights for all human beings simply because they are humans ought to be a universal value, although only plural bases for an ‘overlapping consensus’ around such a universal value would exist in a diverse world.

We must be direct and critical on this: ad hoc convergence on human rights that results in rejecting equal rights for some human beings simply represents one group’s domination of the other.

The purpose of human rights is exactly to reject such domination.

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 [email protected]


Comment: Islam is for tolerance of the Other

It is disturbing and saddening to see that we dare to curtail basic human interests and entitlements of others that some of us take for granted.

What Islam stands for: According to Article 16 of the Madinah Charter (al-mithaq al-madinah) of 622 CE, social, legal and economic equality was promised to all loyal citizens of the state, including non-Muslims.

Similarly, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s Covenant following the Arab conquest of Jerusalem reads:

“[‘Umar ibn al-Khattab] has given [people of Jerusalem] assurance of safety for their lives and property, for their churches and their crosses, for their sick and their healthy, and for all the rituals of their religion.

Their churches shall not be used as dwellings, nor shall they be demolished and nothing shall be diminished…”

Now all this has basis in the Qur’anic injunction that “there is no compulsion in religion”. Have we then lost our humanity and humaneness?

It is hypocritical of us to ban and curtail such basic freedoms by saying that the Maldives is a ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’.

How we became ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’

It is true that we have a strong Islamo-nationalist identity. But we must know that identities are artificial and they are constructed through symbols and discourses.

Our national identity is a construction of a discourse largely engineered by President Gayoom.

President Amin may have been behind the initial promotion of nationalism. But his nationalism was not based on an exclusionist Islam. None of his national day statements that I have read promoted such an oppressive conception of of Islamo-nationalism.

The discourse of an exclusionist Islamo-nationalism is found in Gayoom’s speeches, writings and policies. In fact, according to Gayoom’s official biography, A Man for All Islands, Gayoom, from the beginning, ensured that an Islamo-nationalism was a priority of his regime.

Gayoom-controlled radio, TV, and the education system promoted and socialised us into this discourse of exclusionist Islamo-nationalism.

We may not readily realize that we are influenced by and socialized into this mythical discourse of Islamo-nationalism based on ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’. The power of this discourse is so perverse that even the most natural word association for ‘sattain satta’ probably is ‘muslim/Islami qaum’.

And all major oppressive measures in the country have been justified based on the discourse of ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’.

Thanks to the 30-year efforts of Gayoom, today our ‘imagined community’ is thoroughly based on an exclusionist and oppressive conception of Islam.

Islamo-nationalism’s oppressions

According to Daniel Brumberg, total autocracies such as Saudi Arabia spread the idea that the state’s mission is to defend the supposedly unified nature of the nation or the Islamic community.

Gayoom’s regime may not have been a total autocracy. But his stated political justification of the state was his mission of defending a unified community.

We must know that, just like his Arab counterparts, this was just a ploy for political control. Hence, any differences of views to that of his vision are taken as ‘anomalies’ or ‘deviations’ or ‘falsities’ threatening national unity.

Such people must be ‘rectified’, exiled, imprisoned, deported, tortured, or if need be exterminated. Exclusion or extermination can also find more poignant forms such as civil death or suicide.

Gayoom’s discourse of ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’ often oppressed two kinds of opponents: Islamiyyun such as Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed and non-religious challengers like current president Nasheed.

Islamiyyun were brandished as ‘Islam din rangalah nudanna meehun’. And non-religious political opponents were brandished as either ‘fundamentalists’ or ‘Christian missionaries’.

The outcomes of this oppressive Islamo-nationalist discourse are naturally not limited to Maldivians.

Hence the migrant workers in the Maldives also cannot practice their religions as respectable and equal human beings.

Undoing Islamo-nationalism

Identities cannot easily been undone. But it is not impossible to undo them. As an immediate step, the government must stop spreading Gayoom’s discourse of ‘sattain satta muslim qaum’.

Even the current government spreads the discourse that ‘Maldives is the only 100% Muslim liberal democracy’. While this discourse is presented often to the donors, this is just the same Gayoomist myth. We are neither 100% Muslim nor a liberal democracy.

We are still a borderline democracy according to comparative democratization research. The Freedom House still designates the Maldives as an ‘electoral democracy’, and our donors know this. Instead of promoting Gayoom’s discourse, we must acknowledge our oppressive laws, practices and attitudes, and try to change them.

Secondly, we need to create a Divehi equivalent for ‘tolerance’. Divehi word ‘tahammal’ or ‘kekkurun’ does not fully convey the meaning of the concept of tolerance. Tolerance means accepting people and permitting their differences and practices even when we personally strongly disapprove of them.

We may not want to become Buddhists or Hindus, nor may we approve of Buddhism or Hinduism. But we must accept the Buddhist and Hindu Sri Lankans or Indians in the Maldives and we must permit their religious practices.

Third, our education system must promote tolerance, mutual respect, and a critical-history of the country and Islam in general.

Textbooks must problematize the mythical narrations like Rannamari, which as Maloney said, served to render other historical events peripheral. Instead, the real age and images of Divehis must be re-taught.

The age of the Divehi is not 900 years, but more than 1500 years. The real Divehi is indeed indicative of a far richer adventurism, innovation, cultural practices, linguistic uniqueness, adaptability, and the sheer incredible strength of spirit and survivability in these lands against numerous odds, not least foreign interventions.

The real Divehi is indicative of an incredible story of inclusiveness, of co-existence of political exiles and immigrants from India or Sri Lanka. This Divehi story must be our discourse for re-doing our historical identity.

Gayoom’s mythical unity as found in the oppressive Religious Unity Act is not even our historical reality in the Muslim period. Maliki madhab was dominant until 1573, when Muhammad Jamal Din advocated Shafi’I madhab.

Thus, whether we approve of it or not, we have both intra-religious and inter-religious differences. There is no way to stop this diversity except through despotic oppression.

We cannot remain ignoring this reality and deluding ourselves into a utopian umma. We must embrace the ‘fact of pluralism’ and tolerance as basis of our new national identity.

That, after all, is also what Islam stands for.

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 [email protected]


Comment: Al-Islam huwa al-hall, from utopianism to hizbiyyah

Shura, ijma, and ‘amri bil ma’ruf wal nahyi’an al-munkar were largely formalities in the medieval Muslim world, and the situation was justified by Muslim jurists based on the notion of ‘ajz or impotence. At any rate, those concepts do not constitute a theory of a modern state.

Neither of the Islamists’ favorite jurists, Ibn Hanbal or Ibn Taymiyya, advocated rebellion against their respective dunyawi rulers. Such rebellion is only under ma’siyya. Ibn Taymiyya’s one of the most famous fatwas was not against his Memluke rulers, who by no means were particularly very religious, but was against the Mongols.

Equating state with religion: Maududi’s innovation

Therefore, what the most influential ideologues of Islamism, Abul A’la Maududi, did by advocating din wa dawla (not merely din wa dunya) was a clear break from the medieval conceptions of Islam.

Arguably, Maududi’s ideology was a reaction to an all encompassing modern state-formation and electoral politics dominated by the Indian Congress party at a particular point in time in India. His ideology was not intrinsic to Islam, for no founding texts of Islam has a theory of the modern state. Nation-states are all modern phenomena.

Failure of ‘al-Islam huwa al-hall’: lessons from Islamist politics

Again, advocating a bid’a concept of din wa dawla and condemning Nasser’s society as jahiliyya, Sayyid Qutb advocated a more militant strategy, but nevertheless an equally novel idea. We saw Qutb’s militancy taken up by several groups in Egypt and elsewhere to create an ‘Islamic state’ under the banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall. What happened? Clearly, we have not seen any ‘Islamic state’ anywhere in the world. The Islamist project of forcible change, under the banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall, has failed everywhere it was attempted.

After departing from Muslim Brotherhood’s founder al-Banna’s original and more conservative strategy of creating pious individuals, pious families, and a pious society first, which will then lead to an alleged ‘Islamic state’, Islamists learned lessons from their failure of militancy and re-embraced ‘Banna-strategy’.

Banna-strategy has, of course, been adopted by our Islamists, including Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Dr Abdul Majeel Abdul Bari, in several of their writings and khutba. The ‘Islamic nahda’ we now see in the Maldives, through modern social movement strategies, is an outcome of this more conservative Islamism of focusing individuals and families, through prayer groups, mosques, schools, the Internet, the economy, and so on. There is, however, a limit to conservative Islamism too.

No Islamist party that had a platform of creating an ‘Islamic state’ had won a major national election in recent times. Neither in Turkey, where the AKP abandoned their former platforms, nor in Indonesia, where the almost 90 percent Muslim population chose reformist parties over Islamist parties, have we seen din wa dawla/al-Islam huwa al-hall platform succeed. But both Turkey and Indonesia saw a hitherto unseen level of increased Islamic piety and observance in their societies during the same period. Today, even Muslim Brotherhood is part of modern party politics/hizbiyyah who now at least pay lip service to democracy.

Not surprisingly, the Adalaath party too has failed miserably in the major national elections. If Adalaath party has an ounce of sense for political pragmatics, they need to learn from others’ failures. A utopian notion of Islam is neither al-hall for our social problems nor al-hall for Adalaath’s failures in electoral politics.

Din wa dawla: despotism and a mockery of religion

If al-Islam huwa al-hall means anything, then the Islamic Republic of Iran, where allegedly din wa dawla and velyat-e-faqih exist, would represent al-hall to life’s problems. Instead, what we see in Iran is not only brutal despotism, but also a mockery of religion. Khomeini, when faced with the complexity of a modern nation-state, authorised sacrificing even basics such as prayer if they contradicted the religious rule.

After all, what does it really mean to rally behind a utopian slogan of al-Islam huwa al-hall? A slogan is no hall to anything, except perhaps drawing few more members to one’s almaniyy/secular power politics. Virtue, piety, religiosity are all good things. But these utopian visions of the good life do not provide hall to drug-abuse, the housing crisis, gang-related violence, inflation, and violence against children and women.

The logic behind all utopian hall is absolute despotism: there is no way to make all people, even a majority in the Maldives, subscribe a single vision of the good life except through utter despotic force.

Blind taqlid and nifaq: failing shar’ah’s maqasid

Calling for codification of hudud punishments, while Qur’an emphasises a balance between retribution and islah, is blind taqlid of Islamists elsewhere. Moreover, enforcing hudud punishments only on the people who commit crimes cannot absolve us from our collective responsibility in these social ills. We as a society have collectively failed these youths. In our failed circumstances, Islam’s higher maqasid would not allow blind taqlidi implementation of fiqh.

Enforcing fiqh – which itself is a human outcome – through codified positive laws by a modern state with enormous power over the life and death of people of different conceptions of good life does not represent a particularly Islamic act. It is very much an almaniyy attempt. Democracy, parliaments, codifications of fiqh, positive laws, are all beset with almaniyya/secularism and are handled by very much almaniyy representatives who act not on the logic of piety but on the logic of power.

Besides, as other Muslim scholars have argued, Qur’an’s allowance for tauba and islah at all major instances of hudud punishment would be lost in a rigid codification of punishments to be implemented by an equally ad hoc and corruptible judiciary.

Thus, behind a false notion of satthain sattha/100 percent muslim qaum to codify fiqh is pure nifaq that is condemned in Qur’an. The banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall is in reality nothing more than a political party’s almaniyy strategy to mobilise political support.

However, if Adalaath party is to win the hearts and minds of a sizeable section of Maldivians, they must come out of the pretense of subscribing to an alleged Islamic notion of din wa dawla while at the same time attempting modern hizbiyyah.

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 [email protected]


Comment: Democratic openings and Islamic nahda

Who is not worried about the recent spike in violence of all forms? Who is not anguished by the madness of senseless killings? And inflation? What explains these issues?

And what explains Adhalaath’s reaction or action? Maybe ‘functionalisation’ of Shari’ah in an effort to enlist more members before the upcoming Adhalaath party elections?

Maaddi was a word that was prominently censured in Sheikh Ilyas’s darus on April 22. Now according to maadi social science, attempts toward ‘shariatisation’ of the state happen under such general socio-political conditions as we now see in the Maldives, and as we witnessed under not very dissimilar conditions but in a different context of post-Suharto Indonesia.

That is, however, another story for another comment.

So is lack of Islam to be blamed for social ills?

History of Islam in the Maldives: a mixed story

Maldivian history is littered with examples of ‘bad’ religious beliefs and practices: from Maloney’s ‘parallel religious system’ of fandita, sihuru-haahooru, astrology, and so on to visiting the dead, maulood, and beliefs in demons of all sorts; from unveiled women to women who would not cover their chests; from a woman ruler (which was noted with ‘strangeness’ by Ibn Battuta) to ex-wives sharing homes with ex-husbands and to people fainting when Ibn Battuta passed hudud punishments, we see a very mixed story in our history. The popular Islam in the Maldives especially prior to late 1970s was a far cry from the ‘puritan’ Islam we now see.

Hence, I argue, it is simply bad maaddi social science to blame the recent social ills on alleged lack of proper Islamic education.

Gayoom’s ‘renewed commitment’ to Islam

Writing in the late 1970s, Clarence Maloney, a maaddi anthropologist who did maaddi ethnography in the Maldives, has this to say: President Gayoom’s government ‘engineered a renewed Islamic commitment’. In fact, since the 1980s we have seen a hitherto unseen effort to Islamise the society.

From Mau’had to Arabiyya to the introduction of Islamic studies at all levels in the education system; from annual Ramadan Ihya darus started by Gayoom at Mulee-aage to darus throughout the year by Gayoom’s government in the islands; from the ‘lot of attention given to Islam, as part of nationalism’ (as the then Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Mohamed Hussein was quoted in Gayoom’s biography) to re-marking of the mythical Maldives’ conversion-to-Islam day in 2000, the Maldivian society we see today is far more conscious of ‘true’ Islam than it had ever been in the past.

Democratic openings and Islamic nahda

If what President Gayoom did was not enough, come 2004’s democratic openings, we saw an unprecedented Islamic nahda in the country. The young public sphere or al-mujtama’ al-madani saw itself largely controlled by Salafi organisations.

From Jamiyyathul Salaf (the first-ever salafist NGO in the country) to quasi-political Adhalaath party to the Islamic Foundation, this rise in the salafi phenomenon has not been matched by all other jamiyyas combined. In terms of organisational capacity, outreach, activeness, and financial capabilities salafis surpass all others.

From rallies addressed by world-class televangelists and da’ees like Zakir Naik, Abdurraheem Green, and Bilal Philips to darus CDs to Facebook groups, blogs, websites like,,,, and to almost daily darus at rallies, in taxis, on television and radio like Radio Atoll; from children’s specialized darus to religious camps like Hijra; from Rihla to I’lmi khazana; from English-language madhaha and nursery rhymes to other innovative outreach programmes such as road-side darus on mega-screens, the country has seen an unprecedented effort to re-Islamise the society.

This is truly an Islamic nahda.

Correlation between Islamic nahda and social ills

Now there is a clear positive correlation between Gayoom’s Islamisation and recent re-Islamisation phenomena and the apparent rise in social ills in the country.

But, no, I will not blame these Islamisation phenomena for the social ills.

Blaming Islamisation phenomena for social ills seems to me as bad an explanation as Sheik Ilyas’s explanation that Islamic studies get a meager three hours weekly in the curriculum, or that Islam teachers are not qualified, or people are not Islamic enough, or there is a harb al-afkar against Muslim Maldivians by adaavaaiythereen (enemies).

If there is one single thing prominently wrong with our education system, it is the utter lack of maaddi social sciences and humanities subjects such as sociology, political sciences, anthropology, philosophy, theology, linguistics, and literature.

Finally, I am not a maaddi sociologist, so I do not know where the explanation for our social ills lies. Disappointingly, we do not have sheiks doing such research in the country, and hence the government’s increasing ‘militarisation’ of the issues.

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 [email protected]