Comment: Burning bridges – SAARC Summit exposes depths of Maldivian intolerance

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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70 thoughts on “Comment: Burning bridges – SAARC Summit exposes depths of Maldivian intolerance”

  1. awlaki,

    "die hard kaafir bunch of atheists like Yaameen, Azra, Moyameeha (aliased) etc."

    This won't be the first time you have called me a 'die hard kaafir atheist', and this won't be the first time you haven't bothered to back up your slander with any evidence.

    You belong to that unfortunate class of people who claim to be Muslim, but think the principles of Islam only apply to others. The correct word for such people is 'hypocrite'.

    I don't know what religious text you refer to, but according to the Qur'an if you accuse another Muslim of being a "die hard kaafir apostate" and fail to
    justify the statement with evidence and witnesses, then God has prescribed punishment for you.

    That is not even a hadith. It is right there in the Qur'an.

    And in your last comment, you have made this allegation against 4 people. Azra, Me, Moyameehaa and Aliased.

    Since you seem to think the bloggers moyameehaa and Aliased the same person, it is clear you don't even know anything about the people you publicly - albeit anonymously - accuse of being 'die hard kaafir blah blah'.

    I would ask you to apologize and sincerely repent. But I know you won't do any such thing.

    Because for arrogant, judgmental people like you, Islam is just a pulpit for you to stand on and judge others - a presumptuous act, as I have mentioned in the comment right above yours.

    You're a hypocrite. An anonymous coward who slanders others, and are incapable of either adhering basic principles of the religion you claim to follow or engaging in democratic debate.

  2. Well done Azra.

    As for the ignorant psychotic bigots criticising this article -> whom Allah led astray, no-one can right them.

  3. Maldivians in general, are very intolerant and xenophobic. From the time in school, Islam teachers always throw disrespectful remarks at other faiths and mocks their followers, and teaches students to do the same. And the extreme hatred they teach towards the 'west' is just unbelievable. And with the radical elements slowly taking over the entire country, soon, even the little bit of hope of creating a more educated youth would probably fade away when pakistani madrassas and camps are chosen over universities around the world.

  4. @Yaamyn,

    There you go again son. Look around you and read about those who have gone before you. Many of us have gone through what you are going through right now.

    Ah for those days of youth when I thought I was always right and everyone around me was irrational...sigh!

    What I pointed out to Azra was meant to be from one Maldivian to another. I fear you misunderstood me. Let me make it clear to you then. I know Azra very well. I have admired her writing from a long time ago. Perhaps when you were in swaddling.

    I will forever praise her for writing style, outspokenness and articulation.

    BUT, I was merely pointing out the need for pragmatism and patience in supporting change within a country.

    Now young folk like you can be allowed to indulge yourselves in a little arrogance. It is the very basis of youth. However, when choosing persons to communicate ideas we must be careful to temper what we publish with the right outlook.

    I seriously do not support the Maldivian practice of absolving oneself of editorial responsibility when allowing content to appear on media under their control.

  5. tsk tsk,

    I sincerely hope I don't grow out of the 'arrogance' of my youth to the utter condescension of your riper age.

    Anyway, your idea of 'editorial responsibility' seems to be restrict content that you think go against the majority opinion or is disrespectful towards that opinion - no matter how wrong.

    A rather shallow view of democracy and free expression, I must say.

    My youthful, arrogant self thinks that despite your "editorial responsibility" argument, you just cannot swallow a dissenting opinion.

  6. So what if we are intolerant?

    The Ayatullah Khomeini, may his name ever be praised, was intolerant, and yet he was a great man!

    We will not "tolerate" idolatry, homosexuality, new fangled pseudosceinces or apostasy! Tolerance has its limits!

    All these so called "tolerant people" must be garroted on the spot!

  7. Azra kujjaa, thihaa molhah liyan egey iru, ehaa ginain "balls" ge vaahaka nugenai nama, liyun varah reethi vees.

  8. "tsk tsk,

    I sincerely hope I don’t grow out of the ‘arrogance’ of my youth to the utter condescension of your riper age.

    Anyway, your idea of ‘editorial responsibility’ seems to be restrict content that you think go against the majority opinion or is disrespectful towards that opinion – no matter how wrong.

    A rather shallow view of democracy and free expression, I must say.

    My youthful, arrogant self thinks that despite your “editorial responsibility” argument, you just cannot swallow a dissenting opinion."

    And me thinks you admire whatever opinion pieces stems forth from the mouths of people who are aligned with your agenda, regardless of the merits of the content.

    Or do you find her diatribe/ad-hominems against ex-footballers acceptable?

    Are you one of those "tolerant" people?

  9. Dhivehi Hanguraama,

    Do I find ad-hominem attacks acceptable?


    But at the same time, this was the single piece of commentary in the media that expressed the anger that I feel towards these clowns.

  10. “As if the MP and his idiocy were not enough to make us the laughing stock of South Asia,..”
    The writer failed to mention that there are 3 “F” graded movie stars in the Male City council and a body builder with a bird brain. There is a “bodyberu” drummer and romantic movie star in the parliament, both hardly know how write. There is a porn star in the cabinet. And the President is another movie star who sometimes gets so drunk that he doesn’t know when he signed for the film and doesn’t see the camera when shots are taken.
    If this is not the laughing stock of the world then I don’t know what would be.

  11. I think we all have come to an impasse.

    The differences of opinion here are based on personal differences. In my opinion, once more as a humble fool who certainly cannot be as cosmopolitan or as enlightened as Azra, Yaamyn et. al., religion, the freedom or lack thereof, has never been the reason for conflict. Religion has been used to justify other differences. What today has been labelled as conservatism underscores fears, differences of wealth, ignorance and envy.

    Contrary to what the literati and middle class would like to believe, no ignorance is voluntary, therefore, once again in my poor uneducated opinion, the anger and arrogance displayed towards the ignorant is unjustified.

    Politicians use whatever means at their disposal. Why I was shocked by the allegations of homosexuality against former government officials as well as the regular fracas made over Maumoon's supposed lack of religiousness by the MDP when they were in the opposition. If a people are easily stirred and mobilized by a talking point then no doubt those in the opposition and in the ruling party, will use it to energize their agenda. We have already mentioned the Landaagiraavaru incident here.

    Based on the views expressed in this forum from those on opposite sides of the political divide, we all have lost confidence in certain members of Parliament because of their rhetoric. However, I personally know that a lot of these MPs are directed to speak as they do. Directed by persons whom we respect as educated progressive individuals. Grassroots mobilization requires these MPs to behave as they do. It makes them popular and also serves their party's ends.

    Perhaps it would be a solution to raise the age bar as well as require a certain degree of education and experience to qualify for the Parliament. However, certainly the councils in this country are too numerous and the number of qualified individuals are too few to support a similar process for local governance elections.

    In the end we have ourselves to blame for our inability to elect suitable leaders. Yet, we cannot dwell on this either. Because in the end our choices reflect who we are. We will progress if we receive the right education and a better standard of living. This brings me to why I do not support Nasheed, his government and his cronies. They have refused to focus on prioritizing education and public health. Awareness is degrading and the education system denies us the acquisition of common-sense. So in the end what we see in the country is a systematic dumbing-down of the people who in turn would elect anyone that the political parties in this country thrusts into their view.

    What do we do then? Personally attack the mere puppets? Viciously derogate the helpless Maldivian people? Does this make you feel better Azra? Does this help you sleep at night my boy Yaamyn? Then by all means - continue.

  12. I guess you are too emotional in your expression. As the Law states what can be imported, it is inappropriate to bring in illegal stuff. I strongly believe that you have a lot to do, to improve your writing skill.

  13. to all the peaceful & tolerant "real" Muslims who have commented here arguing "DONT insult the majority!!"
    what exactly DO u tolerate? o_O

  14. a person does not become automatically Muslim because of his name. If you consistently insult Islam, work tirelessly to mislead ppl and ridicule Quruan, Hadhees and the seerah of Rasoolullah then you are a veritable kaafir. You do don't need any more fatwa to determine this. This much is known and basic knowledge for most Muslims.

    So for those cowards who call themselves Muslims and insult Islam, they are the real hypocrites quruan mentioned.

  15. @awlaki

    i think extremists like you are doing a very good job of defaming Islam. Continue to do so and you will see your religion wiped off the face of the earth (Non violently of course).

  16. "This brings me to why I do not support Nasheed, his government and his cronies. They have refused to focus on prioritizing education and public health."

    tsk tsk, it appears you have been too busy with your pseudo-intellectual rants to check out the ground reality. Our media, framed on past conventions have of course been unable to report on anything that they do not "see". Reforms in education and public health go unnoticed.

    While you languish comfortably in uninformed bliss, it certainly have not gone unnoticed by its numerous recipients.

  17. You mean the numerous recipients who are force-fed questions and answers in revision sessions and then tested on their ability to correlate meaningless answers to meaningless questions in exams?

    You mean the numerous recipients of a sham top 10 filled with students who mostly end up nowhere when expected to complete tertiary studies or actually work?

    You mean the uncountable numbers of top 10 winners and A-level graduates who cannot discern between Nehru and Nero and could not point out Russia and Canada on a map?

    You mean the kazillion alumni of the Maldives National Farce....sorry University that complete the loop by returning the fruits of their miseducation to the future generations?

    Why by all means, it all seems to have passed me by.

  18. I used to believe that we, Maldivians, are a sophisticated people compared to most of our neighbors. We have a better GDP per capita; a much lavish life style. Every Maldivian has two mobile phones and every house hold has two foreign servants. We have the highest internet connections per head in the region. But then, our true self is emerging when we are put to the test. Thanks to a long era of dictatorships of past presidents, kings, sultans, we were not able to express ourselves freely to the world. We couldn’t show who we really are. We had to hide all our emotions and feelings and believe within us, in fear. The dictators used to think for us, they will show, and explain to the rest of the world who we are. We just hesitantly nod in approval. Now we got the freedom and got the chance to show the rest of the world who we really are. And what did the world see in us; bigotry, xenophobia, and ignorance. I see in my mirror; a man from Stone Age with one gold tooth with a big smile.


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