Comment: Democratic bargaining over religion

Although an Islamist party heads the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in the coalition government of President Mohamed Nasheed, he chose not to mention religion either of his two presidential addresses to the parliament so far. This is only the latest incident that has led to suspicions of ‘almaniyya’ pursued by President Nasheed.

On the other hand, the more liberal or ‘moderate’ Maldivians have lamented over the ‘leglessness’ of the government in the face of the steady growth of religious puritanism and conservatism in society.

It is no easy job for any president or government to carve out a religious public policy that will satisfy both these groups at the same time.

History’s lesson for us is that it is only through a painful process of democratic bargaining over the place of religion in government that we can consolidate liberal democracy.

Price of ignoring or thwarting religion

The history of several Muslim majority countries shows that governments cannot afford to have a top-down policy of ignoring or thwarting religion when religion is a significant part of social identity.

The Iran of Pahlavis, where religion was either ignored or thwarted by the government, only contributed to the rise of mullahs and a bloody Islamic revolution giving power to an elitist group of religious guardians who surpassed their secular predecessors in imposing their brand of Islam on the Iranian population.

Equally true is the case of Turkey where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk pursued a rigid French Republican style laïcité ignoring the religious sentiments of the population. This hard secularism had failed to provide a tolerant and fair democratic system for Turkey, where an Islamic party now heads the government (their second term), which was a slap on the face of the secular establishment.

Top-down secular modernisation programmes have failed in all post-colonial Muslim societies, which are instead mired in corruption, religious and political suppression and autocracy. As a consequence, in these societies, religious puritanism, Islamism, and re-Islamisation have steeply gained ground, and a home-grown, bottom-up, democratically-negotiated secularism has not materialised.

The calls for a so-called Islamic state have been the rallying cry in the wake of these crises.

But is an Islamic state the solution?

Men behind Sharia: the illusion of an Islamic state

A typology of religious views in the Maldives could show that there are at least three broad positionings on Sharia and its place in government. They include the more nuanced, eclectic and ijthihad-friendly version of Gayoom; the more conservative-Islamist yet religion-government-conflationary version of the Adhaalath; and, the more government-independent and insular versions which despise ‘democracy’ and similar concepts as bid’a and Western constructs.

The rule, rather than the exception, is that there are deep religious-political disagreements among these camps, as depicted by their different politico-religious groupings which compete and contest with one another, even when they are doing the same things!

Now, whose interpretation of Sharia would you like to implement?

Such disagreements are the inevitable outcome of the fact that both Sharia and fiqh are products of human interpretation of Qur’an and Hadith. There is no way one can delineate the anthropocentrism involved in this. Even the categorical injunctions like “cut off hand for theft” are bound to be differently interpreted, for instance, as to the exact meaning of the words ‘cut off’ or ‘theft’. Even more disagreements are bound to happen where their practical applications are concerned.

To take an example from among our own clerics, for instance, Sheikh Shaheem’s translation of verse 59 of Al-Nisa (in his book entitled ‘Islam and Democracy’, 2006, p. 15)[1] is literally very different from any of the translations (Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Mohsin Khan, Pickthal, or even the recent Dhivehi translation commissioned by President Gayoom) that I have read.

The religious reason for such disagreements is that even if there is a divine concept of Sharia that is eternal, there is no divine interpreter of Sharia amongst us. If so, whatever interpretation of Sharia you want to enforce as public policy, that is inevitably a human choice, not Allah’s. If so, such policy is strictly speaking always secular. And such policy can always be contested.

It is then not just too naïve to rally blindly behind an illusory ‘Islamic state’ as the final solution to all our problems. It is also dangerous. The only thing close to such a so-called Islamic state is utter political despotism.

The first step

As elsewhere in the Muslim countries, ‘secularism’ is a very negatively loaded term in the Maldives. Unfortunately, it is also a misunderstood concept – both in the Muslim world and in the West.

Dhivehi, like several other languages, including Arabic, do not have an equivalent term for the concept. We have seen in recent Divehi religious literature a term called almani – meaning ‘worldly’ – for ‘secular’. Originally in Muslim literature, the term dahr – roughly ‘atheist’ – was used for ‘secular’, which explains the pejorative view of the concept early on.

Influential Muslim intellectuals such as Jamaluddin Al-Afghani, Sayyid Qutb, Maulana Mawdudi, Ayottalah Khomeini, Yusuf Qardawi, Sayed Naquib al-Attas of Malaysia, who have voiced against ‘secularism’ referring to it as ladeeni, only added to our dislike towards ‘secularism’.

They, like Sheikh Farooq’s article on the 12th March 2010 issue of Hidhaayathuge Magu, assert religion will wither away or is relegated to private sphere in liberal democracy.

But the fact is, in the United States where there is a constitutional separation of religion and state, to this day religion is very much alive and active in the public sphere. Religion has been a strong voice in public policy and law making. Incidentally, Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the US.

On the other hand, how many of us remember that even in this 21st century, for instance, Scotland, England, Norway, Finland, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, and the Netherlands, could have officially recognised religions? Or why have Christian parties often ruled in several European countries?

What then is the ‘secularism’ proper for liberal democracies?

To be a liberal democracy, the minimum requirement from religion is that no religious institution must have the constitutional right to mandate a government to implement their views without a due democratic process or have the right to veto democratic legislation.

This minimum institutional separation of religion from state does not preclude religion from politics. If you want to implement amputation for robbery, you must go through the democratic process of convincing others through accessible reasons.

The right steps

Religion is an important part of our identity – even our political identity. As the historical lesson has shown in other places, it is therefore naïve, cruel and arrogant for a government to ignore or suppress religion.

Bringing on board religious people in public affairs or using religious language where appropriate does not make a head of state any less democratic or liberal. If President Obama, as in his Cairo speech, can quote from the Bible, Qur’an or Talmud, and speak about his policies towards religion, including Islam, and still be a liberal democrat, why cannot we be? President Nasheed therefore can show more of his religious side.

But, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs’ mandate must be overhauled so that they do not have an undemocratic, and unfair bargaining position to influence the national education curriculum and use public resources unchecked as a platform to promote their own interpretation of Sharia both within the government and society. This is unfair and religiously unjust because there are other religious groupings that do not have a similar advantage. Their mandate must be limited to undertaking training in Qur’an recitation, looking after mosques, regulating zakat, managing annual hajj, and similar non-interpretative religious matters.

This does not mean religious parties do not have a role in politics. On the contrary, religion can and should be part of the political process. It is unreasonable to ask from religious people to separate their religious identity and religion-based norms from politics whenever they step in the public sphere. A case in point is the recent protests on the liquor issue: religious individuals played a politically legitimate role to influence the government.

It is not toothless of the government to respond to those protests, given the profundity of religion in our social identity. Those who opposed the regulation – which itself was not democratically legitimised – might be a minority. Yet the alleged majority was simply democratically dead.

And, this brings us to the single most important arena where we ought to tackle religious issues: civil society.

Through the bloody wars of religion, it is with long, painful democratic bargaining of the role of religion in public affairs that we saw liberal democracy consolidated in Europe. It is only through difficult hermeneutical exegesis of religious texts and reformulation of religious views within the public sphere that we saw its tolerance in Europe.

This was not done by governments. The State, as a coercive apparatus, simply does not have the democratically appropriate resources to tackle and interpret normative issues.

In the face of growing conservative-Islamism and Puritanism in our society, what we need is a functioning civil society, bargaining for religious tolerance and promoting the universal goals of justice and equality envisioned in Qur’an.

What we need are our equivalents of the Sisters-in-Islam of Malaysia or our Sunni equivalents of Iran’s New Religious Thinkers, who will use the resources of religion to engage with the Islamist and puritan appropriations of religion.

We need to invite people like Khaled Abou El Fadl, who will help us ‘Rescue Islam from the Extremists’ who are committing a ‘Great Theft’ in daylight by sacrilising Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, who was even opposed by his own father and brother Sulaiman Ibn Abdul Wahhab.

We need an Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im who will help us ‘Negotiate the Future of Sharia’ and bring us ‘Towards an Islamic Reformation’ by teaching us the possibility of re-interpretation of religious texts through abrogation and teaching us more about the tolerant, pragmatic Mecca period of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

We need a Mohamed Charfi to clarify the ‘The Historical Misunderstanding’ of Liberty in Islam and show us that our practice of Sharia is not fixed, as, for example, the dhimma system, slavery and concubines (all allowed and practised under traditional Sharia) have become untenable and officially banned in several Muslim majority countries.

We need a Nurcholish Madjid who will challenge those for whom “everything becomes transcendental and valued as ukhrawi” while the Prophet (PBUH) himself made a distinction between his religious rulings and his worldly opinions when he was wrong about the benefits of grafting of date-palms. Is Sheikh Shaheem fully certain that when the Prophet (PBUH) is believed to have said “those who appoint a woman as their leader will not be successful” whether or not he was making a personal opinion?

What we need is not another religious minister, but an Abdulla Saeed to teach at our schools what a more tolerant and just Islam will tell us about ‘Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam’, and engage with (Islamic NGO) Salaf to argue that Qur’an as in verse 4:137 assumes situations when an apostate (however we dislike it) continues to live among Muslims.

We also need a reformed former president Gayoom to lecture in the Faculty of Shari’a and Law to show that the ‘door of ijthihad is not closed’ as he argued in a lecture in Kuala Lumpur in 1985.

Last, but not least, the Richard Dawkins-style or Ayaan Hirsi Ali-style calls from fellow Maldivians for outright rejection of religion and exclusion of religion from politics can only hinder such ‘immanent critique’ of religious puritanism and Islamism.

It is through a religious discourse that is democratically promoted within civil society that we could negotiate with our fellow Islamists, puritans, and the rest that Islam’s permanent and ultimate goals are liberty, equality, justice, and peaceful co-existence – that is, constitutional democracy.

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]


93 thoughts on “Comment: Democratic bargaining over religion”

  1. This is an extremely comforting article, looks like there is hope for the Maldives.
    liberals and conservative-Islamists should be able to live together without getting to each others heads.
    Just us liberals not practicing some of the cults and not going through complete Arabinazation doesn't mean we are going to rot in hell...

  2. I agree that the large majority of civil society is 'democratically dead' when it comes to forming tolerant interpretation of the religion.

    But the truth is that today people are AFRAID of voicing their opinions in public.

    The strict imposition of the wahhabi-salafi ideology from the government seems to leave absolutely NO room for any liberal or rational thinking.

    The cancer is also spreading to the National curriculum, with the unlimited powers that have been vested in the Islamist leaning MoIA.

    I believe the 'Richard Dawkins' and 'Ayaan Hirsi Ali' type demands for total rejection of religion from policy and politics comes as a direct resistance to this Islamist onslaught.

  3. A very interesting article you wrote - I found your analysis of the word "secularism" particularly important, since it is too often misunderstood!

  4. Sisters in Islam? Our sisters who studied arabic from Mauhadh, unlike their brothers, did not get the opportunity to study at Azhar and Medina university. They got married after they left high school and the lucky few have middle management jobs as mousy little islam teachers teaching a curriculum so outdated even Salaf is protesting against it.

  5. interesting viewpoint. but i would like to note that "exclusion of religion from politics" is not same as "outright rejection of religion" or anything like what Richard Dawkins and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is preaching. They believe islam and even other religions are man-made and causes more harm than benefit. This is in NOT same as calling for the "exclusion of religion from politics". But these type of people, atheist and anti-theists DO live in maldives ...and i suppose some of them will voice out their views somehow. personally i dont think it is wise to openly discuss religion at that level.

    Very well, so how do you suggest we chose these 'moderate' sheikhs who will interpret islam/shariah for us? while i agree, that moderates like the people you mentioned and civil society, need to be more active on this issue; i dont think we have to silence those with 'extreme' views like jihadis in himendhoo...or we have to silence the liberals who call for "exclusion of religion from politics". and the USA is not the best example of a secular society (or even a democracy). We don't have to ape others in every single thing we do.

    What we need is what is best for us. and we will decide what is best for us. we should be provided with a platform where all ideas and viewpoints can compete and thrive freely (withing the bounds of LAW).Wev lived long enough with 'elites', 'intellectuals' and 'godmen' dictating what is best for us. We need to bring back the dhivehi national identity, and stop aping arabs or western nations.

  6. really insightful and well balanced, if only more of our society (policy makers ) are as up to speed as the writer we would have so much less stress in our society...

  7. Yes secularism is a misunderstood and much maligned concept in Maldives. But so were concepts like "democracy", "freedom of speech", "free media", "separation of powers" just 10 years ago. But through the hard work of many, most prominently the current President, quite a lot of Maldivian have come to grasp a basic understanding of them and that they are not "western imperialist" concepts used to destroy Muslims. So why aren't the politicians including the President, trying to educated the Maldivians about what secularism really means? And why didn't you in your long article try to explain secularism?

    Also, some European states having state religions is not the same situation as what we have in the Maldives. They don't compel their citizens to hold any particular religious views. And you did not mention India once! Our closest neighbour and the largest democracy in the world has had much success with secularism. India wouldn't be what it is today without secularism. And all forms of religions are very much alive and thriving in India (Yet you chose the US, a far and distant land for most of us, to make the same point). But secularism in India is being attacked by the fundamentalists of both the Hindhu and Muslim variety.

    The "liberals" whom you accuse of wanting throw off region all together, wants no such thing. That is a straw man argument by the religious fundamentalist. What the "liberals" want is tolerance and freedom speech and thought. They want to be able to criticize the Islamic Ministry just as they criticize the Home Ministry. However the official "guardians" of religious thought in Maldives frames any argument against them as a religious issue and they claim that they are the only people who can say anything about it. This is not the democracy we fought hard for. The "liberals" also see a President who seems to be in fear of the fundamentalist. He does much to appease them while ignoring his actual support base. And the "liberals" can see what is happening in places like Pakistan where the fundamentalist were appeased for far too long. While a country the size of Pakistan can absorb some of the shocks of the fundamentalism, tiny Maldives with it's economy based entirely on tourism will not survive even a few months. So it is time the President makes a firm stand on this and deal with the fundamentalists in his own government who accused him of having plans to build "Falhi". They also threatened to bring down the government. Next time there is a confrontation like that it might not be one of words alone. So it needs to be dealt with now!

    Azim, just a word of advice for you regarding your writings. You name drop too much and often unnecessarily. It creates the impression that you are trying to show off. And it also distracts from your main arguments. There is a scene in the wonderful HBO miniseries "John Adams" when Abigail Adams tells her husband "You have overburdened your argument with ostentatious erudition. You do not need to quote great men to show you are one". Something you should think about. Just present your argument and give references to sources that inspired your thoughts. Hope you take this as a constructive criticism.

  8. The recent upsurge in religious groups calling for puritanical Islam is a direct result of globalization. The situation in Maldives not different from what it is in most Muslim majority nations. Al Qaeda and Taliban style Islam is a product imported to Maldives with the backing of mostly Arab Sheikhs. These groups should not be given the monopoly to spread their version of Islam. The government at some point should intervene and stop them from terrorizing the nation.

  9. Excellent article. But I agree with moyameeha that we need to make space for the 'Richard Dawkins' and even the 'Islamists' (for lack of a better word) to voice out their opinions. I don't think it would hinder the 'immanent critique' but rather it would create a dialogue that would further public opinion. Ultimately, give the piousness of our society and the world we live in, I don't think the 'Richard Dawkins' would ever prevail in state politics. But that doesn't mean they should be forced to stay silent! The 'outright rejection of religion' itself is an opinion and in fact an important part of religious discourse itself.

  10. Crap the article,
    We need a society where Mullahs have no right to control the lives of a normal ordinary man, a society where everyone has the right to chose the way he wants to live,society free of drugs and violence, a society where the government has given its people all their basic needs such has housing, education and health service for free etc, a society where the disabled,old and needy are taken care of by the governemnt, a society which respects all their people respects each other despite a persons gender, sexuality, religion and ethnicity. If all this is met, the society will have no problems regarding anything, not even relisious extremism. Just give everyone the freedom to live the way he wants.

  11. kekeke. Good second point Moyameeha. i will vehemently criticise religion for what it is.

  12. One of the better articles written on the subject - good food for thought. Keep the conversation going so maybe we can awake the "democratically dead" majority when it comes to religion

  13. "Their liberal secularism, the central motif in Egyptian higher culture for the previous hundred years, of which they represent a kind of culmination, has simply been shelved as an operative ideal, though it may survive as an irrespressible yearning. It thus finds indirect expression, necessarily inadequate, as sex or poetry, though in a Voltairean garden one can never be saved by such longings." by John Rodenbeck in his foreword for "The Begger" by Naguib Mahfouz

    Thought the above is worth a contemplation. But I agree with most of them that your article balances and met the issues in our hand. Like you have mentioned the society has to decide without giving the upper hand to few.

  14. Excellent article. We have to recognise that given the (relatively) pluralistic society we live in now, those who want a more extreme/fundamentalist approach to Islam will push hard with their agenda. Rather than moan about the onslaught of their agenda, the proper reaction of liberals should be to group together to counter their viewpoint.

    Obviously there is a climate of fear in this country when it comes to all matters related to religion. One of the comments points to how people are afraid to voice their opinions. Well, strength in numbers is what is needed.

    I believe that those who share views such as those espoused in this article should band together and put forward constructive alternatives to what is being pushed down our throats by the fundies.

    It will not be easy, but then, what is?

    I largely agree with the argument made in this article. I salute the courage of the author in voicing his opinions.

  15. The current president of the maldives swore before he was elected that he was not going to interfere with the religious affairs of the maldives depending on the fact he wasnt a islamic scholar. Apart from that everytime he did try, he got it all wrong and the public was furious. So itll be better if he just let the Adhalath and islamic affairs divert our religious values according to the islami sharia. the most important fact proving that he does think about the religious morals in the country is him giving freedom to all the greatest scholars in the Maldives to talk about any issue they like at any time apart from the former regime which captured and tortured the scholars for stating the "haggu".the awareness in the new Maldives is based on the foundation by the MDP government!

  16. Unless a stable and a sustainable formula is found in dealing with occasional resurgence of Islamist politicians, Maldives can never have a stable political climate. And without policy stability, there can be no hope of future growth and long term investments. Thus a credible mechanism in dealing with religion seeping into all policy areas have to be found without compromising the precious Islamic Identity of Maldives.

    Such a mechanism should not depend on a person, be it Skeikh Abdulla Saeed or Sheikh Maumoon.

    Instead a legal safeguard against the use (or abuse) of human political temptations in the name of divine rule needs to be found. Should this role be assigned to the Maldives Military as an issue of national security. It has worked in Turkey..

  17. Mr Azim Zahir,'
    There is no difference of opinion about cutting the hand due to theft.The Quran clearly states to cut the hand for theft and our beloved messenger (SAW)had shown us where to cut and how to differentiate if its a theft or not.
    Maldives is in the road to be the next Turkey.The citizen of Maldivians have come to know the beauty of Islam and the MDP led coalition had failed its citizen's.This had proven that democracy is not the answer we are looking.
    Islam is the only answer and help.We don't need your deceiving comments so you could separate religion from politics.We are not dumb like you who had sold your own existence , country and religion for hypocrites.Plus why the hell we wanna ask Yusuf Ali, Shakir, Mohsin Khan, Pickthal about Islam.We don't need this secular minded corrupt religious scholars who had sold their religion.We have seen scholars like this being brought here by Mr.JEFFREY WAHEED.
    Hundreds and hundreds are joining adhaalath party.A recent gathering held on 18th March specially for youth had triggered this.I being a loyal to MDP had left the party bringing with me 12 members from my family and friends within 24 hours to sign adhaalath party.Plus adhaalath will very soon join hands with all religious NGO's. INSHA ALLAH WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS.WE WILL CHANGE THE SPHERE OF THIS COMMUNITY.ALLAH (SWA) IS THE BETTER PLOTTER THAN THE hypocrites.

  18. Dear Azim
    Tell your boss Anni that most of us are voting for DRP next election.
    Best regards

  19. Great article, now we need ways to implement these ideas at reform.

    One of the major problems is that the alleged liberal majority is silent when it comes to religious views, and it is not without reason. Lack of religious knowledge, fear of being labeled negatively and being ostracized the majority sits. We need a activist who is a sheik of the liberal cloth to weed out the personal interpretation of Islam as you mention.

    Today it is without this that we have the ultra-liberal Dawkins/ Ayaan Hirsi style secularism being preach as the opposition. I believe this will never work.

    Even Minivan should have more Azims Zahir's and not Munira Moosa's.

  20. alhamdhulillahi! dats gr8 news rilwan! whos gonna be the candidate in the presidential campaign? sheikh ilyas. dats thetrue anei dhivehiraaje were lukn for!

  21. Azim, I must say that your article is disingenuous and I am perceived that you are giving a malign to the religion of Islam, probably with your lack of understanding. Firstly, because Allah (SWT) is omnipotent and do you think from your common sense that the rulings in the Quran would be something feeble and contradictory in its meaning than a man made law? You have tried to justify that the man made laws are effective than Islamic Sharia. If so, show me any single evidence that Prophet (PBUH) has practiced a law other than Islamic Sharia. You seems to be a timid person using your intellect to distort and change the ruling of Islam to suit for what Westerners and Americans are demanding. The religion of Islam does not oppress any non-muslim and the practice of Prophet is the epitome of peace. I havent met any scholar saying that seculiarism is the way of Islam, which is what you have indirectly concluded in your article.

  22. And what of the Maldivians who were born into an Islamic society but have decided to choose another religion? Have they any freedom? Until they do, no one in Maldives has religious freedom.

  23. rilwan, you're a laugh and a half. The adhaalath party has been exposed for what they are; a fundsucking political prostitute who lusts for power no matter what; because we all know that alone, they have no chance of winning even a mere parliament seat.

    While schools like Arabiyya are crumbling apart, they squander their vast budget to build cathedralesque mosques.

    The only people who will join them now are either fools or paid to joiners.

  24. Agree with "Name Required" that Maldives, depending almost entirely on the tourism sector, would not survive long with its fundamentalists thriving.

    If this small nation wants to move forward, its religious and political powers should be separately dealt with, and freedom of religion has to come sooner or later.

    Like "Yaamyn" said, people are afraid of raising their voices - I think many people's minds are already liberal even though they don't dare to speak it out (in contrast to "Rilwan" who seems to have just convinced his family & friends to join the extremist movement - God may bless you with smelly virgins & wine in heaven!).

  25. According to Rilwan above, him and his cohorts are intent on World domination. For them there is no merit in debate. For them everything is a plot against religion.

    Rilwan name-drops a few liberal scholars and questions the merit of referring to them. The question remains, why we should, then, ask Maududi or Qutb or any one of those scholars who are of a more radical bent. Do bear in mind that Sheikh Fareed is actually a lawyer trained in Qatar (that other bastion of capitalism in the Middle-east) and not really a theologian in any sense of the word. I might as well sport a beard, develop a funky baritone and start misleading the public.

    I think it is high time we all agreed that there is no such thing as a unified singular interpretation of Islam. Even in our own Maldives, I can offer you a few variants. MA Gayoom's Egyptian pan-arabic style of Islam, Sheikh Fareed's version complete with a hell that talks back at you, the disguised wahhabism of those in the Islamic Ministry, Sheikh Ilayas's biding my time on earth before getting drunk in heaven version, the helmet wearing crew from the good island of Himandhoo the infamous dot group who have eschewed hygene in the interest of a historical re-creation of 7th century Arabiaand the list goes on and . Point is there are many Islams in this country and, as Azim says, it is unfair for any one of these groups to enforce their particular viewpoint on the rest through processes not legitmised by the democratic process. I agree one can never separate religion from public life. In this, sense secularism may not be achieved. The question however remains what is the appropriate register for religion in society? The answer lies in what moral principles are intersubjectively or commonly understood and subscribed to by society at large. Any and all standards of justice should occupy this common ground. The law should be fair to the secular liberal as it is to the bearded Salafi. Giving one religious interpretation supremacy over the others wiould be unfair and a negation of the social contract upon which society is based. Simply, this country belongs as much to the liberals as it does to the Wahabbbis, Salafis, and all. This is why we have a constitution, otherwise we could have simply cut paste a first year Sharah textbook.

  26. Dear BJ,
    In an Islamic community iam afraid there is no room for churches and temples.

  27. Islamic scholars and their teachings is a major obstacle for progress and development of the country. Democracy and Islam is not an ideal combination for a harmonious society. The answer is a secular state without the interference of scholars.

  28. that is just wishful thinking.....if you think the ultimate goal of Islam is liberty, peace, harmony, noodles and are dead wrong

    the imams are preparing for the end of the world, a grand religious confrontation. They yearn for it, it would give their lives meaning, it would legitimize their existence, it would give them someone to hate, someone to blame....intolerance is all they preach

    Islamic terrorism is a symptom of a much deeper problem within Islamic scripture itself.....

    The foundation of democracy is freedom of speech, freedom of faith and equality of rights of all citizens irrespective of their gender and belief. In Islam men and women are not equal. Believers and non-believers are not equal.

    If we accept Islam, we must also accept terrorism. Jihad is a duty of every Muslim. It is inseparable from Islam.....

    Muslims have different interpretations of Islam and they fight and kill each other over who is right. This has been going on since the death of Muhammad (PBUH). But Islam is what the Quran teaches. There is no peaceful version of Islam because it would go against the Quran. There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Every true Muslim, must kill the non-Muslims and strive to make Islam dominant. If he is not a terrorist he is not a good Muslim.

    The goal of Islam is to take over the world, topple the democracies and establish the Khilafat. This is a political goal. Islam is political. We do not have another form of Islam. The difference between Islam and other totalitarian ideologies is that Islam is disguised as a religion and this makes it more insidious.

  29. @Rilwan; I don't think BJ was talking about constructing churches or temples, he was merely pointing out that there really is no freedom of choice regarding religion in the Maldives.
    Just because we are born in an Islamic state doesn't necessarily make us Muslims.
    I sincerely believe that its not right for the state to dictate our religious beliefs. We have our freedom; to choose which religion we want to follow or not.
    I wish we could build churches and temples just to annoy people like you. Who think only their way of thought is the right way. Well Rilwan, there is no black and white answers to anything. Just because the Quran says something it doesn't have to be right to everyone...and its definitely wrong sometimes. So please don't go say others are wrong or right, they are just as right as you are. INGEY 😛
    @BJ; Maldives has no religious freedom, if you desire to be free then you must give up your identity as a Maldivian. Unfortunate really.

  30. BTW a very interesting article you have written here Azim, cheers.

  31. Rilwan : "In an Islamic community iam afraid there is no room for churches and temples."

    And hence, the worldwide Islamophobia.

    Also, yes. There is no disagreement of the fact that the Qur'an explicitly mentions the chopping off of alternate limbs for theft.. but there IS disagreement on whether this can be suited to better reflect the times we live in.

    1400 years of civilization does make a difference, you know?

    Stoning a live human being to death, beheading him, chopping his limbs,.. these might have sounded like appropriate justice 1400 years ago, but today many of us consider if barbaric.

    We'd rather the theft was punished - but without shedding blood - and giving the person a chance to reform and rehabilitate.

    That - in short, is the bottomline difference between obtuse puritans and thinking liberals.

  32. @ kanfaroo
    quran has never been proven wrong even by the greatest scientists or politicians. show me one fact proving your imaginative claim. making such an irresponsible claim shows that you dont beleive in the Quran. believing in it is a pillar of Eaman. my advice for you is to seek apology from Allah the forgiving or if you die in that condition hell might be awaiting you.. Quran is never wrong . its 100% valid. no suc

  33. I do agree that we need 'more Azims Zahir’s and not Munira Moosa’s. Enlightening as it is, I hope that author continues to clarify some issues and concepts that have been perverted in Dhivehi language to the advantage of the Mullas over the years.

    Educated from Saudi and Egypt, Maldivians have always been told the Arab version of Islamic history and empire.

    It was Arabs who conspired with the British and the French and revolted against the Islamic Empire ruled by the Ottamans. Arabs and their arrogance are the causes of disunity in the Islamic world even to this day. They are using oil wealth and Islam for personal advantage. Even themes like westernization and Israel are used as propaganda tools to manipulate their masses.

    The sheiks they produce from medina are agents of this Arab propaganda. It has nothing to do with Islam and everything thing to do with Arab domination.

  34. @ kanfaroo
    dnt tell others to not to determine gud o wrong. its not rilwans thoughts. god determined whats rite o wrong. and you r being arrogent and using the little intelligence god gave you to derive conclusions against him .god created us we hav no right to talk against him with voice and intelligence he gave us after he created us out of clay. can u do that on your OWN?

  35. "Stranger" ... I should not say this in this country but... (I hope nobody gets offended)... your comment is very realistic!!

  36. @Stranger: as strange as it maybe to you, you have expressed your honest opinion of Islam; yet it is not the belief which drive the great majority of people who call themselves Muslims...

  37. I wanted a liberal democracy for the country where each Maldivian chooses his religion, but your article was a great wake up call. It made me realize, that given the immensity and complexity of the problem of surfacing radicalism, not to mention the sensitiviy of religious faith, a greater role of civil society is the obvious answer. Maldivians should dictate the state and terms of their religion, not the conservative mullahs at Adhaalath.

  38. Excellent article!

    Islam, like all other major religions, have been used as a control tool through out history and continues to be used as such in modern times. In the case of Islam it has been abused by Sheikhs, Imams and men in general. With all the interpretations of the Qura'n out there, and the majority of it been nonsense, one has to make a personal choice on what interpretation to follow and this interpretation must be guided by logic. A favourite tactic of the Sheikhs, Imams and men-with-mama-issues has been to rob women and children of this right; the right to make a choice. This is what is happening in the Maldives.

    Creating a dialogue is important. I look forward to a day when we will have the equivalent of a Sisters in Islam in the Maldives. Ladies? But do take note that this is not going to be an easy journey: .

  39. Maldives is not a democracy.

    If Maldives was a true democracy it would not be forcing people to choose Islam nor would it claim to be a 100% muslim country. It is not.

    A democracy should have the freedom of choice and belief. Maldives simply lacks that. The clowns in the parliament needs to realize this is not 1960's and we have our rights and freedom to believe or not to believe.

    Its sad that we can actually quote Maumoon on Maldives being a democracy. "It's simply not true"

  40. Azim, great post.

    This is like getting fresh air after a lot of "wanna be" religious analyst writings have been thrown at us.

    Thank you.

  41. The following excerpt from a speech by President Obama summarises my views on religion and the state pretty well (Now someone is gonna label me pro-American/Western)

    "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all . . . Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy-making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing." -Barack Obama

  42. "...whatever interpretation of Sharia you want to enforce as public policy, that is inevitably a human choice, not Allah’s..."

    This is an excellent point I have often tried to convey myself. If any particular religious ruling is not clear enough to come to a decently wide concensus, shouldn't these be classified as optional with recommendations rather than one human being (however knowledgable he claims) imposing his own interpretation on others. This will have to be a big sin making people do or not do certain things from rulings that are simply not clear to an intelligent person. Don't we all have a religous responsibility to use our own thoughts and judgement.

  43. I guess Obama is saying that we cannot make public policy in the name of God.

    However, as individuals nothing should restrict us to live by Gods words.

    Does that mean religion is entirely personal and not a state affair.

  44. Oh man... "Mohamed"... we're living in the year 2010! Wake up!
    Back then, 1400 years ago, people might have been satisfied when being told they were made out of clay, but now ?! It's undoubtedly a nice metaphor, but in fact nothing else than rubbish.
    And, apparently, "voice and intelligence" he didn't give to all of us...


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