We’ve heard in recent news government officials referring to rising fear of Islamic extremism in the Maldives.
We’ve heard about children not being vaccinated or not being sent to school in the name of religion; women being provided with a single bucket of water for the day, again in the respect of religious norms; children being restricted from music and other types of art; male children being forced to wear trousers shin high; schools threatened for asking male children to shave their beards; the classifying of many immaterial matters outright haraam such as smoking, watching movies or cartoons (Tom & Jerry, Mickey Mouse), singing, playing or listening to music, women travelling of women without a husband or family member, the showing of hair or wearing of perfume by women; or news and blogs promoting genital mutilation of females.
Another serious threat is the increased preaching of hatred against the west. The west (the majority of whom are understood to be Christians or Jews) is portrayed as the singular prime threat to the religious stability of the country.
This is a paramount danger to our economy given our dependence on foreign money. We should keep in mind that an act such as the one that happened at Sultans Park a few years ago could cripple our economy, slashing our foreign income.
Currently, the government is committing the Maldives to large contracts with foreign nations, with majority populations of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others. The Maldives is not self-sufficient and therefore we are at the mercy of other nations who are willing to ally with us and help us bear fruit. We cannot afford to live on the annual ration of a few tonnes of Saudi dates.
During recent years, many industries and public services are being capitalised on foreign investments. At such a time, how can we even allow the thought to draw a religious boundary around ourselves? We have been selling liquor and allowing illicit sex on all our resorts for almost 40 years because we cannot let religious boundaries starve us to death.
Our main politico-religious party is Adaalath Party, who also has its presence in the government sphere, ruling the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. They are assigned the responsibility of upholding the religion of the country – Islam – with a reported US$16 million budget.
Adaalath recently held one of their statutory meetings at a prominent public space (Alimas Stage). The whole meeting was aired live on Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation’s TV channel, MNBC one. The station is well known for its pro-government programming.
I was watching intently one of the speeches of this meeting. I found it really distasteful and offensive, to hear one of the famous preachers in the country, Sheikh Ilyas, known for being arrogant and blunt about religious statements.
He was saying that Muslims should not trust Christians or Jews in any way for they are not reliable on their word. He went on to say that any agreement made by them would never be kept. He mocked human rights and women’s rights as tools used to evade Islamic prudence. Every now and then he raised a copy of Quran above his head and said that he was presenting the word of God.
It is hard to imagine why the government, on one hand, is acknowledging the spreading extremism in the country, while at the same time is assigning public funds for the spreading of such extreme and radical ideologies.
The reason is that it is constitutional for the government to uphold and strengthen Islam as the religion of the country. And the government fulfils this part very smoothly: sets up a specific Ministry (the first religious ministry of the country), puts the leading religious political group in charge, and assigns a significant chunk of budget for their purpose.
Here is something the Ministry of Islamic Affairs published on their website (in local language), followed by a translation (by a blogger) during the Haiti disaster:
“Are there any Muslims in Haiti? Do we have to gain wisdom from this [disaster]? Haiti is a caribbean island nation, located not far from America. A certain number of Muslims live there. It is reported that they are not good people. There is no doubt about this; such earth quakes are moral lessons for everyone. Such [disasters] are caused by God because of the actions of mankind.”
Now, the public is at a loss for words. Those who are assigned the responsibility of upholding and strengthening Islam in the country, are advocating against the government’s policies and also promoting extremism. They are outright in saying that no deals should be made with infidels (such as Christians or Jews, who are not trustworthy as per God). They mock human rights and women’s rights in public.
It doesn’t take one to wonder, why this could happen? Why is the government apologetic about growing extremism but still allowing such things to preached in the public? Is our government crippled from doing anything about this?
Firstly, the Islamic Ministry was a promise the ruling party made during the elections. Protecting Islam was one of the major five promises of the ‘Other Maldives’ campaign. Since Adaalath sided with the MDP during the coalition to overthrow Gayoom’s dictatorship, MDP duly handed the reigns of the ministry to Adaalath. On top of this, our constitution demands our government promote and strengthen Islam. As such the government is carrying out their constitutional responsibilities.
Our constitution also says that Sharia is based on the Quran and those findings, judgments and rulings concurred by the majority of religious scholars. When the majority of the leading scholars of the country concur on hatred against Christians, Jews and other infidels, backed up by our Constitution, what should the government do instead of sleeping with the enemy? I think the government should change their partner, before its too late.
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