Democracy strips a people naked by giving them the freedom to be who they really are. Recent events reveal that the Maldivian so exposed is not a pretty sight: she is bigoted, xenophobic, and ignorant.
First came the gutter press hullabaloo about an illustration of Jesus on a banner welcoming leaders of the SAARC region which, as it happens, is home to the largest collection of deities known to man.
Pardon me if I am bordering on the verge of apostasy here, but is Jesus not Easa? You may know him from such books as the Qur’an.
Perhaps the good people of the Sun magazine, which ‘broke’ the ‘news’, are not too familiar with the book. Be that as it may, truth is, Sun writers had not been this excited about alleged ‘anti-Islamic activity’ since they went under covers in a brothel.
When the public failed to foam at the mouth (not about the brothel, about Jesus), other plans had to be hatched to ratchet up hatred. Along came MP Ahmed Mahloof, our saviour from the unlikely Second Coming of Jesus as a line-drawing flapping about in the warm breeze of a tropical island.
The ex-footballer as a public figure is an interesting (side)step in the evolution of man. To begin with, he possesses a brain that accepts kicking a ball into a net for money is a life well lived. The capacity of such brains to adjust to other styles of living is minimal, though not non-existent.
It has been proven, for instance, that they can successfully switch from playing ball to building a career of provocatively displaying one’s own balls for couturiers of men’s underwear. But a career in politics? Mahloof is proof that electing ex-footballers to political posts is an own goal of epic proportions.
As if the MP and his idiocy were not enough to make us the laughing stock of South Asia, we then set about destroying a monument installed by Pakistan because it contains idolatrous images.
Maldivians destroying a Pakistani creation for alleged anti-Islamic imagery. Now, tell us – does that not make it clear once and for all who is the more Islamic of the two states: the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with its 97 percent Muslim population, or Always Natural Maldives, the tourist destination extraordinaire with a hundred-percent-minus-one-Muslim population? Surely we have won this religious pissing contest that Pakistan probably did not even know they were engaged in.
At least we cannot be accused of bias in our India-Pakistan foreign policy. Last month we deported an Indian for having on his laptop a religious hymn. This week we destroyed a religious display from Pakistan.
In fact, we are very even-handed in our policies and attitudes towards all our neighbours. Just ask any of our hundred thousand Bangladeshi Muslim brethren: we treat them all with equal inhumanity and cruelty.
And surely Sri Lanka would attest to just how seriously we take the commandment to love thy neighbour: for didn’t we, while on the UN Human Rights Committee, describe the UN’s condemnation of Rajapaksa’s war policy as ‘singularly counter-productive’?
Somewhere in this unpalatable exposé of the 21st century Maldivian is a lesson, not just for Maldivians but also for democracy itself. And it is not just that ex-footballers should not be elected to public office but also that, given the freedom, a majority of people are just as likely to choose intolerance as they are to choose tolerance.
That is the tragedy of three years of democracy in the Maldives: we have chosen to use its liberties to exercise our freedom not to be free.
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