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.

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]


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

  1. Before this azra naseem character went on a mad rant, it would be better if that person went through the Maldivian constitution. because there are some clear rules which are sent in it; what can be imported into the country, what can & can not be put on public display, what sort of opinions that can be expressed.
    Anyone going against these clauses and rules in the constititution should be firmly dealth with.

  2. Dear writer of this Article

    im not a big fan of Mahloof myself. Frankly i dont know the guy well. But you gotta learn to dial it down a notch. I cant help but feel that your poor choice of words is very offensive to ex-footballers describing them as incompetent people who cannot make a living in other walks of life.

    Please keep personal opinions at one side and write with some skill. If not try your luck at football.


  3. Honestly, after I read the title of this comment piece on the front page of Minivan News, I thought this has to be written by Yaamyn. Sorry bro. 🙂

  4. Could it be that Minivan News is partially analyzing the issue? Could there is a bigger underlying problem?

    Religious fanaticism is only ONE of several TYPES of fanaticism in Maldives. However, Maldivians ONLY dare to EXPRESS when it comes to Islamic fanaticism, because it is does not carry such a social stigma.

    There are several other types - extreme ostentatious lifestyles, extreme social class, extreme decadence and drug use, extreme outspokenness and even extreme stupidity. Moderation in ANYTHING is NOT an admirable quality for Maldivians. The whole country oscillates between the extreme of 7 star resorts and less than a dollar a day island life and that is accepted as the way things should be.

    In Maldives ANYBODY who is SOMEBODY would be a extreme in one way or the other. Is this no the case?

  5. @ may be ..

    "In Maldives ANYBODY who is SOMEBODY would be a extreme in one way or the other. Is this no the case?"

    Now, you've got me thinking.
    I am self analysing myself.
    Im afraid my answer is: No, this is not the case. You are wrong.

  6. Rooster,

    No apologies required.

    After I read the article, I wish I had written it.

    Mahfool and the other guy, as well as the Sun "journalists" conduct has been beyond pathetic. It's downright shameful, and I cringe in embarrassment that these people exist in my country.

    How such uncivilized morons get elected to the highest offices in the country, or occupy such positions of immense civic and national responsibility as the media simply fails me.

  7. Hey Azra,

    I think Maldivians and the rest of the world will question your limited brain size judging by the silly comments you have made about footballers (irrespective of whether you or the readers hate MP Mahloof or not):

    Quote: "...To begin with, he possesses a brain that accepts kicking a ball into a net for money is a life well lived..."

    Which drug are you on, dear??? Football and footballers around the world command more attention and loyalty than politicians anywhere, and they are not only much better paid, but have relatively far more decent and respected life-styles.

    As if you didn't realise the kind of pseudo-intellectual person making emotional and foolish comments, more verbal diarrhea from you:
    "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?.."

    Despite many footballers again having a far better career in every sense after retirement than politicians, which other breed of Maldivian politician are you talking about??? Reeko Moosa? A career switch from acting (Bollywood copycats) to filth-shouting politician is far more progressive in an "evolutionary" sense in your (highly intellectual) assessment? hehe.

    Not a big fan of most politicians from either side of the political divide here, but i found your analytical and writing skills as a journalist far more amusing than the stunt shows of politicians here..!

    Please read and educate yourself a bit more before you waste people's time with your words.

  8. EX-footballer??? Who said so? Yeah its true he was the 20th player of under 19 national team. Don't think he ever played a single game.

  9. @Efyou

    "...but i found your analytical and writing skills as a journalist far more amusing than the stunt shows of politicians here..! "

    Clearly you haven't been going out much.

  10. No matter how much Azra Naseem and few others rave and rant, we will never allow freedom of apostacy in Maldives.
    kaleymen jeheyne thigothah halhey law lawa thiben.

  11. Well said Azra. We need more people like you who says what needs to be said. We do need freedom of religion, and freedon from religion.

  12. Ahmed Mahloof is a brainless monkey whose brain is unfortunately under his ass. I really pity the people who elected him to represent them in the Majlis.
    I sincerely hope that he does not show his ignorance when Dr. Singh addresses the Majlis.

    The so-called journalists who are reporting news in Sun magazine are not trained journalist with proper educational background. These people write to please their boss.

  13. Us Maldivians have a serious issue with other faiths and opinion of others as well.

    I have seen some Maldivians apparently holidaying or on whatever purpose spending time in Sri Lankan, strolling along Hindu and Buddhist temples stopping front of the gate giggling and laughing at the worshipers inside and making uncouth remarks in Dhivehi with regard to their faith.

    I can understand attacking drawings what’s in our own country but to laugh and giggle at faiths in another is not at all acceptable.

    Whether we like it or not there are believers of other faiths live in our world and in our Country, I think we must show some respect to other societies and faiths, to be a good Muslims.

    As far as I am concerned, the practicing Muslims in these multi-religious countries are the true Muslims who follow Allah and his Prophet's teaching without any compulsion.

    Few years ago I have stopped attending my five time prayers in Mosques because it has become totally intolerable to attend to the congregation. Why? well as you enter the mosque funnily dress up persons will approach me and request me to shorten my trouser length (faikuriolhaa) and during prayer time the neighbour is not satisfied occupying his space alone, he has to trample my feet and invade my space and elbow me for some reason.

    It’s so sad to see what’s happening to our country, politicians seems to think they have to oppose all other political parties at all times and religious group thinks they should attack every other religion.

    One wonders what has happened to our good old Dhivehi Raajje, what went wrong? I wonder?

    Please spare me though, I have no intention of being better than either on of you.

  14. Mahlouf =100% Arrogance+0% Common Sense

    This lethal combination has produced a nincompoop who is surprisingly successful at launching idiotic initiatives, unhindered by self doubt or embarrassment.

  15. Hey Azra, very well written article. Clearly most people who read this article left their humor elsewhere. Well humor does not come easy in an uptight, highly insecure country where someone writing about intolerance, inhumane treatment to migrant workers, immature political stunts can be described as insensitive and bigoted. I for one, understood exactly what you have illustrated here. It's time we all took a good long hard honest look at our own country.

  16. Azra,

    As someone who has read a few books and experienced a few other cultures I thought I would speak to you here without engaging in verbal violence.

    In one sense I applaud the pragmatism displayed by the MDP government this time around by making the best use out of the opposition's opportunism.

    In another sense we have to give some deep thought to the statement we are making to the foreign world about ourselves. How can we represent our brothers and sisters as fools and barbarians while expecting respect for our culture and our country.

    There is a lot that is wrong with the nations of the world. However, imperialism and conquest is not the solution to these problems. At least that is not how this poor fool feels things should be.

    What we suffer from is a common malaise felt in countries where foreign investment and foreign direction guides our very livelihood. We detest ourselves for being less than a foreign other. That self-hate is often displayed in two ways.

    1. Either through extreme self-consciousness and copycat behavior around Western society while trying to emulate them in every way possible


    2. Through extreme hate for and violent rejection of all things foreign.

    The PROBLEM with our country, as you would like to phrase it, is not with a particular ethnic mind-set or genetic predisposition. We are not born bigots and our blood does not force us to be in-ward looking.

    We have been an isolated nation for a very long time. That is, of course, we the greater majority. The ruling class and their favorites have been allowed access to worlds of information and experience that the rest of us have not.

    While the ruling class benefits from foreign investment and becomes more and more cosmopolitan, the rest of us linger very much behind. Give us time to catch up. If you label us as barbarians and ingrates and invite big corporations to reject locals as employees and affiliates then we will be subjected to an eternity of darkness.

    I condemn Minivan for writing articles that either deliberately or inadvertently derogate and denigrate our people.

    I urge commentators and opinion-piece writers to think twice before creating a culture of disrespect for your brothers and sisters in the international community.

    I fear this would fall on deaf ears. Because you young people would rather talk about everything that's wrong with us rather than what we can achieve by being more nationalistic and less passive in our policies and actions.

  17. Oh and by the by. The dialogue on freedom of religion found in Minivans comment section will not be found elsewhere.

    The majority of Maldivians are deprived of a decent English-language education while English is the only academic language which we can actually read and understand.

    So, whatever wool Nasheed and Iruthisham pulls over your eyes, any real dialogue on introducing liberal freedoms to this country is a long way off.

  18. I feel Azra is angry cos she didnt get to marry him 🙂 lot of girls like him a lot 🙂 I like Mahloof and what he does too.. He's just great

  19. Democracy is also about accepting the will of the majority. At this moment in time this country is tolerating a number of undesirable practices, all in the name of "freedom of expression". I am optimistic! We are in transition and would emerge a stronger, more tolerant people!

  20. TSK TSK and Mohammed Rasheed are correct in this respect, I feel. This now seems obvious, democracy is not compatible with liberty unless the mssses believe in liberty as a value. Perhaps a more tolerant version of Islam could be promoted so that oneday freedom of religion could occur without causing too much grief. Please read Abdullah Saeed's Book on Apostasy, I have read it four times. Is it still banned in Maldives?

    Maldivians are not uncivillized as people, they are just people. Many Maldivians are brilliant, breathtakingly intelligent. I also feel the frustration and have lashed out and make racist remarks against Maldivians, and I am actually very sorry. It is not right.

    After all, us Westerners are not civillized in general, by the way, that is an Imperialist myth, or at best an ideal only understood by politicians, poets, and humanities students to which we are deluded into believing we have achieved.

    The great masses of us Australian working classes are uncivillised, ignorant, prejudice, bigoted apes. Liberty is actually imposed over the democratic will of the majority through a constitution which upholds representative democratic power rather than direct democratic power. Our representatives do their best to serve us, yet they cannot push for our will to kick out Asians because we are jealous of them, or to kill Aboriginals because we are afraid of them. (When we more democratic and had a white Australia Policy, freedom showed our true nature, vicious anglo-saxon tribal brutality.

    In no democratic nation is there actually a pure democracy, because no people are actually civillised enough to have a pure democracy.

  21. Fantastic article!! Well thought and so true. Sad at many can't follow you, but it's beyond their capacity

  22. My last thought for the month on minivan is...

    If we want to communicate ideas of tolerance to a bigot, perhaps we need to explain our reasoning in a compassionate manner which upholds the human dignity even of the bigot, or else we are not acting out what we are preaching. It has been demonstrated that if we are not prepared to seek to understand and empathise with another's point of view, they will not listen to our point of view. Perhaps, if we try to have compassion on the underlying pain that is the real route cause of the bigotry, we could promote attitudes of tolerance, and a culture of liberty could develop in Maldives. After all, freedom of religion can only be realized through an evolution of liberty, not through a revolution of liberty, and it MAY take many many years of difficult acculturation...

  23. The intolerance towards other faiths in the Maldives is truly shocking to a secular Indian like me. I cannot understand this primitive attitude towards images...........clearly an import from your bedoin friends. Religious fundamentalism is turning the Maldives into a backward province of Saudi Arabia. You already have an Islam Ministry.........what's next?.........saudi style religious police? Then you will have a bunch of fat overweight thugs going around ensuring no other religion but islam is practised, women are covered up like ninjas, restaurants and shops are segregated on the basis of sex, all businesses are shut at prayer time and nobody has sex.

  24. @Indira NewDelhi, It is true that the dirty Saudi Arabians and Arabs do not have straight sex. It is because they prefer camels and donkeys.
    In general the dirty bearded Mullahs are homosexuals.

  25. @Azra -Some valid points and some parts devoid of reason. So writing substandard, value-laden articles like this is a life better lived than that of a footballer?

  26. A mouthful of salty insults way too out of kilter for

    Mahlouf MP, like most other MPs in our circus of a parliament is truly unworthy but nevertheless this news website is putting its worth into question when articles of poor taste as such go up on it.

    the same point could have been made without having to disgust its readers.

  27. See this:

    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]

    therefore minivan is not responsible..

  28. yoour idea is totally wrong.Maldives is trying to build bridges. And they are a tolarating nation. They tolerate bikinis or half nakedness White skin and dollars.They are trying to builld bridges with the west.they are half American and why build bridges with the east?

  29. i think the monument by pakistan had a bust of its founder jinah. at the bottom of it there were small carved out objects which i think depicted the historical artifacts found from the now long gone indus valley civilization. that was thousands of years ago...i don't think anyone worships any of them any more if they were even ever worshipped. so how can they be idols of worship if nobody worships them?

    and i pity the two tourists caught on mahloofs "armada". they must have thought it was the end of their road right there...caught in a ferry with jihadist who might blow ship for all they know...what a sad pathetic little man that man mahloof is...with the pay we give him he could've at least chartered a ferry...what an idiot!

  30. Straight to the point. This is a good article.

    Sad to say, most Maldivians prefer to be completely in the dark, chanting the arabic verses, that they NEVER have a clue what they mean.

    Now we joke about the case of the guy who was prosecuted some 10 years ago, for possessing a french letter. I as sure we will joke about the utter madness of the society, 10 years later, about the hate-filled anger at anyone who is not a muslim.

    It will take some time still, for the Maldivians to think with their brains. You need to ask a few questions.
    1) Why has not God obliterated India and SriLanka, for praying to an Idol/Cow etc?
    Answer : God is not angry with them.
    2) Why are we promised all that we wish for in heaven, but forbidden here on Earth.
    Answer : That is akin to a carrot in front of a donkey.

  31. Education is the key. It is our schools that breed such hatred, bigotry and intolerance. How do I know this? I was schooled here.
    And this brainwashing by ignorant teachers , happen everyday at schools. Not necessarily those who teach the subject of Dhivehi and Islam, but ALL the teachers, who themselves are products of this very xenophobic society. This problem has escalated in the last few years with more and more bigoted Maldivians taking on the field of teaching, trained in the Maldives, with no exposure to anything foreign, with no respect to anything foreign. Unfortunately the very people who should be the light bearers against these dark age behavior are the preachers of this insolence towards other cultures.

  32. tsk tsk,

    "I condemn Minivan for writing articles that either deliberately or inadvertently derogate and denigrate our people."

    An easy logical fallacy.

    You're seem to be under the mistaken assumption that Azra and others who condemn the intolerance of this so called 'majority' are not "our people".

    I don't see the author claiming that the majority are in agreement with her views.

    Nevertheless, the author has as much rights and the next citizen to have an opinion - and you just sound ridiculous when you put her in a separate category than "our people".

    I am a Maldivian, and I absolutely condemn the intolerance and medieval mentality prevalent among sections of our public - and I will not apologize for it.

  33. It is an unfortunate trait among so many of our people that we consider anybody who refuses to have stick with the herd mentality as an 'outsider' - or worse, a non-Maldivian.

    If Azra's views - or the views of other secular minded Maldivians - offend you, then do realize that your views probably offend us as well.

    I detest this delusional supremacist attitude that some people possess, whereby they somehow fancy themselves the judge of who forms "our people" or "true Maldivians" or "true Muslims" or whatever.

  34. the only ppl with medieval mentality that i can read from the comments in Minivan is the die hard kaafir bunch of atheists like Yaameen, Azra, Moyameeha (aliased) etc. These ppl are worse than Abu Jahlu when it comes to accepting reality. The reality in our country is that the majority of my countrymen are Muslim weather you like it or not. So if you are so democratic then at-least do not offend the majority's religious belief. If you want acceptance, then accept reality first.

  35. @Salim, as a foreigner I like to read Miinivan news because the reporters dare to publish real events that are happening in Maldives unlike almost all the other news websites that publish news selectively; especially news that are contradict to the teachings of Islams, other websites will always sweep it under the carpet and hope that no body will know it. Hence, reporting the truth is very different from slander.

  36. @The Musketeer
    I think you should look up "pathetic" in the dictionary.

    You are a moron, what else can be said about you really? May Allah bless you with a reality check and maybe how to use that little brain in your head some day. You make no sense.

    Azra. You are an inspiration. Your comment pieces are always intelligent and humorous. Pity some people just don't get it.


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