A Nasheed government would “need external assistance to keep this strategic island nation out of the hands of Islamic extremism Wahabism and Salafism,” writes Bhaskar Roy for the Eurasia Review.
“It is known that an increasing number of youths are going to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to study in Madrassas, which impart extreme religious education and encourage jihad.
“Finances are also coming in from Saudi, Kuwaiti and other NGOs. This happened in Bangladesh in the 1990s and early 2000, leading to a burst of Islamic terrorism, which continues to haunt the country.
“A new group called the Hifazat-e-Islam, Bangladesh (HIB) recently tried to hold the government hostage, demanding Sharia Law. The Hifazat had backing from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) and the main opposition party. But the government in Bangladesh was strong enough to put down the challenge. This is not over, however.
“What kind of chance do the moderates in Maldives have when the Wahabis and Salafis launch their siege? In Maldives, the women and girls are increasingly taking to burkha/hijab in fear of retribution. With bans on anything remotely seen as un-Islamic, there is no breathing space or food for the mind. The Maldives is a country of around 1,200 islands, reefs and atolls, with barely 400 of them inhabitated. Around 30 per-cent of the country’s foreign exchange comes from tourism. The tourism industry is under attack with alcohol being prohibited in most places, extending gradually to tourist resorts. When dress codes are extended to tourist resorts, this industry will die.
“The strength of religious extremist groups lies in keeping the people poor, uneducated and unenlightened. Men from such backgrounds easily become soldiers of religious jihad as is seen in Pakistan, for example.
“The Maldives, under the current disposition, has all the potential to become a sanctuary for jihadists. If Waheed wins the elections later this year, India will become one of the jihadi targets. People in Maldives have links with the Al Qaeda and Pakistani organisations, like the LeT. Islamic extremism today is no longer handled by individual organisations. They have become an industry with organisations supporting each other. Lone-wolf terrorism that was recently witnessed in UK and France is a new challenge.