Comment: Maldivian faith to Maldivians

This article first appeared on DhivehiSitee. Republished with permission.

Political prostitutes who pose as religious scholars and sell their Islamic learning to the highest bidder have become some of the biggest contributors to the current socio-political and economic turmoil in the Maldives.

Chief among them is Sheikh Imran Abdulla, current president of Adhaalath Party – an organisation which uses the religion of Islam as its chief recruitment and fundraising tool, and proudly exploits people’s faith for political purposes.

Sheikh Imran Abdulla was one of the chief choreographers of the Islamists’ role in the downfall of the Maldivian democracy. On 2 February 2012, he issued an ultimatum to the then President Mohamed Nasheed: resign within five days or be forced out of office.

Nasheed was forced to resign on 7 February.

Yesterday, Sheikh Imran, now a chief mover and shaker in the current ‘Coalition Government’ issued another ultimatum. This time to the government he helped put in place: get out of the 25-year contract with India’s GMR Group for upgrading and running the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport within six days (by 15 November), or else.

He issued the ultimatum at a public rally widely believed to be funded by rich tourism tycoons, currently openly fighting over the country’s airports, and who have vested interests in getting GMR out.

The rally was a colourful affair, aimed chiefly at rousing the masses into a fervour by making the GMR issue into a religious one. The aim, it appears, is to incite enough public discontent to pressure the government into reneging on its agreement with GMR.

Ahead of the rally, held at the Artificial Beach in Male’, leaflets were distributed all over the island, encouraging people to attend the rally in the name of Islam, to save the Maldivian airport from foreign ‘economic invaders’ of ‘other religions’.

Songs were played on loudspeakers attached to pick-up trucks that went round and round the island, stopping at mosques after Friday prayers for maximum effect.

One of the songs has the title—Maldivians’ Prayer: Maldivian airport to Maldivians. Another is called simply Maldivian Airport to Maldivians. The latter raises the volume on nationalism and the former suggests ending the agreement with GMR is a religious duty of Maldivians.

Here’s some of the lyrics from Maldivians’ Prayer:

You get the picture.

The rally was not as big as the Mother of All Rallies, or the so-called Mahaasinthaa, held on 23 December 2011 to ‘Defend Islam’ by removing President Nasheed from office and endorsing his then Vice President Dr Waheed as his replacement.

But there was still a sizeable crowd of hundreds gathered around the nationalistic/religious banners.

Sheikh Imran told them it was their religious duty to deliver the airport from India’s GMR. Men and women (strange this, given that Imran has repeatedly stated that women should stay home and breed instead of joining political rallies) stayed listening to Sheikh Imran and his fellow Islam-sellers long after midnight and in the pouring rain.

Before ending the rally for the night, another ‘scholar’ led a prayer calling on Allah to bring his wrath upon GMR and cause it great destruction.

Such rhetoric not only fools a lot of people into accepting this economic/political issue as a religious matter, it also helps increase the intolerance and xenophobia which have become defining characteristics of the Maldivian society today, thanks mainly to the religion-political-tourism industry complex that now reigns supreme over Maldivian affairs.

Moreover, as former Maldivian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Farah Faizal quickly highlighted, turning the issue into a religious one also has the potential to make life very difficult for the tens of thousands of Maldivian immigrants in India by creating tensions between them and the largely Hindu majority Indian population.

The rising radicalisation of Maldivians has been a cause for concern in India for several years, and it is well-known that a Maldivian was involved in the Mumbai attacks of 2008, as is the fact that the terrorist organisation Lashkar e Taiba has beenoperating and recruiting in the Maldives.

Young disaffected Maldivians are many, and most are highly vulnerable to ideological indoctrination by individuals who propagate extremist ideologies.

Sadly, many do not see beyond ‘The Scholar’ façade behind which these individuals operate. Tens of thousands remain incapable of looking further than the carefully cultivated beards, or the Pashtun garb—no more Islamic or Maldivian than GMR itself.

Hundreds everyday accept these individuals as devout religious scholars and remain blind to how they turn Islamic teachings into a commodity that can be bought and sold to equally unscrupulous businessmen/politicians.

It is these individuals, worked into a frenzy by individuals like Sheikh Imran, who have travelled abroad to kill themselves and others in the name of Islam.

Several government officials were at yesterday’s rally, including the President’s Spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza. Riza loudly accused Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives D.M. Mullay—a key figure behind India’s quick acceptance of Dr Waheed’s government as legitimate—of taking bribes to ensure GMR was awarded the Maldives airport contract.

Here’s Dr Waheed’s spokesperson Abbas Riza at the rally:

But, as is now coming to be expected, the government has stayed wholly silent on the rampant exploitation of religion for political purposes, further reinforcing the perception that it is complicit in this phenomenon and condone it as a valid political strategy.

It is still silent, for instance, on the Salafists’ call last week to have Maldivian girls declared women at puberty. A children’s Afternoon with Ali Rameez remains scheduled to go ahead on 15 November as planned, despite the fact that Ali Rameez is the man leading the call to end girl-childhood at puberty.

And, as we shall see on 15 November (also the date of the GMR ultimatum), there will be many parents who would take their children to this pop-singer turned ultra-religious conservative without pausing to think about what they are doing.

These people will represent the thousands of Maldivians who have already bought into the dogma, among others, that it is their religious duty to have their girl-children married off at puberty to men old enough to be their grandfathers.

The official silence over ‘religious scholars’ and their exploitation of Islam to suit various socio-political and economic purposes must end. Such voices must be strongly countered and condemned.

The long term consequences of their actions will not be seen only in the political economy, but in the Maldivian identity itself which has already changed so drastically in the last decade as to be unrecognisable.

From a laid-back island community of moderate and tolerant Muslims whose relationship with God was their personal affair, Maldives has become a highly radical and tense society in which a large percentage of the population is bigoted, intolerant and xenophobic.

Among them will be the few who will join the violent militants.

What is of equally great concern are the tens of thousands of Maldivians who fail to see these political prostitutes for what they are, and willingly give up their own human rights and dignity and deny others theirs in the name of Islam.

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]


29 thoughts on “Comment: Maldivian faith to Maldivians”

  1. Azra Naseem, thank you for giving voice to a concern a lot of us are feeling today.

  2. Azra. Thank you for being brave and strong. In the absence of any moral strength from our so called leaders, you have given voice to the concerns of the moderate Maldivians. It is a sad day for the Maldives, when the insecurities and anger of a small minority of Maldivians become the yardstick by which all of us are judged. I predict threats of vilence now, that seem to be the only answer they have to those who can out think them!

  3. The truth is often difficult to swallow and Azra Naseem has raised some very good points.
    If girls are declared women at 11-12,some even 10 or younger, our fortunate men will enjoy more women over their lifetime!!! The rate of divorce will increase even more and we can expect a woman to have married and divorced at least 8 times by the time they reach 30 and bred 10 children!!!
    Politicians will always use religion to serve their own interest but we should do our best to avoid helping them spoil our society.

  4. Even in most sophisticated western countries, you don't find nationals talking against nationalistic sentiments. Does the US media critize drone strikes in pakistan. No. Did the US stick to its professed principles of free market and give the go ahead to sell its port to Dubai company. No. It was blocked on nationalistic grounds.

    Azra Naseem and Farrah F likes to make comments that they think appeals to white people. But let me tell you, even the westerners would acknowledge and appreciate the nationalist sentiments of others than some of you, who think taking on any anti - Islamic view makes you cool and sexy, hebe

    Coconuts (brown outside, white inside) would always be coconuts.

    Even I dont agree with adalath but in GMR case they have their finger right on the nation's pulse.

    And by the way, there are bigger Indian investments like State Bank and Taj etc. so this is not an issue with india. It's shameful that u have deviously mentioned maldivians living in Indis

    Finally, this kind of naive writings will only make people associate people like u with MDP, reinforcing the anti Islamic image of the party of which I am too a member.

    Please get sober

  5. Dear Azra,

    Please write with courage about the issue of using religion as a political tool. Your blogpost - which I assume the above is given the personal tone of it - does not capture the enormity of the actual issue.

    There is not a single political party in this country who has not used religious rhetoric to create hatred against an individual or individuals.

    - The Wathan Edhey coalition headed by former President Mohamed Nasheed mounted his campaign against Qayyoom on religious grounds using Adalat to call Qayyoom an apostate. Nasheed and his allies also repeatedly attacked Qayyoom's wife Nasreena for failing to don the veil.

    - Fayyaz Ali Manik is scheduled to release the second volume of Sahih Bukhari and Muslim, a tome used by Wahhabis to shape Islamic discourse to their liking. Fayyaz Ali Manik is a senior member and financier of the MDP and also a close associate and confidante of former President Nasheed. Volume 1 of the book was released by Nasheed himself who praised the translation of the book calling it progress.

    - The MDP has close links with an ultra-orthodox outfit called the Islamic Foundation of Maldives which now operates a channel by the name of MVTV which actually acts as a money-laundering front to collect donations. The television channel was set up with the help of MDP.

    We can go on and on and on. It is not Imran or any other single political party but a national issue.

    Also as others pointed out above, perhaps we are not alone in this given the wide use of religious and nationalist rhetoric in elections elsewhere.

    However we all must be kind to Azra. She is a propagandist after all and she is limited by her bias and therefore cannot write to the full extent that she might have if she was an independent observer.

  6. Islam breeds on ignorance .Maldives is literally very backward ignorant people, it is no point to waste anyone’s time on this people. One only can hope one day these morons will get enough brain fuel so that they can be educated to see the world from different angle.

  7. Tsk Tsk

    I am tired of your comments about me being a propagandist that you make on every occasion something I write is published here.

    Propagandist for what, or for whom?

    I write on the issue of extremism because it is a subject I have specialised in, and am well qualified to speak about. I research what I write, and provide evidence to support my arguments.

    I am not a member of any political party, and I have no personal OR professional connections whatsoever with this government or the former government.

    I have regularly written about extremism in the Maldives since 2009, and have criticised any policy or action that facilitates extremism in the Maldives regardless of who initiated them.

    I do not get paid by anyone for the comments I write for Minivan or on my blog; and I write with complete independence. No one tells me what, when, where or how to write.

    If you do not agree with the issues I raise or opinions I express, by all means, argue against them.

    But these attacks on my integrity and efforts to discredit me professionally by falsely portraying me as a propagandist must stop.

    Not only is it slanderous and unethical; it takes away from the issue, and destroys serious debate and discussion on a matter of grave national concern before it can even begin.

  8. Muslims tend to be quite ignorant and downright stupid because Islam takes away their ability to think. The sheikhs use this as an advantage by speaking on behalf of God. The way sheikhs propagate Islam makes it look like the religion is central just to the small island nation of Maldives.

    Also, Azra, what tsk tsk said when it comes to MDP using adhaalath and other random sheikhs before is true and there is no denying that. In fact, I believe they are the reason Adhaalath have gained this much power without a single member in the parliament, and not even 10,000 members.

    I guess we can add Maldives to the list of countries Islam destroyed.

  9. Agree with Tsk. Azra is a propagandist for anti-islam values. Because in this day and age, the easiest way to make a name would be to a lil bit islamophobic in everything. The west doesn't anything islamic even the symbolism of islam is to be ridiculed.So islam is basically extremism to her and the like minded kuffar.

    But we muslims expect this. Islam will be fought with, both with weopons, words, ideas and in every realm. But islam will prevail. The thing they call extremism will prevail. The sharia that they loath will be established. The khilafa will come. All this has been prophesied.
    Salaam to those who embraced guidance.

  10. Azra! Your insights are as sharp as your socio-political analysis! And your tongue is as sharp as your wits! Proud to be friends! Just carry on! Carry on!!!

  11. Islamists and their kin are having a field day criticising the author of the article and taking refuge with the age old tactic of feeling sorry for themselves.

    The so-called "westerners" are not the only ones who are critical of certain sections of the Muslim community. There are millions of Muslims who find their behaviour abhorrent.

    This longing for a "Khilafa" is laughable. The "Khilafa" never even got started! Abu Bakar, the companion of Mohammed, just about survived to leave behind the legacy of Mohammed. Caliph Uthman and Ali were murdered by power hungry politicians of the day. The "Khilafa" was embroiled in rivalry, back stabbing and political instability ever since, until the Ottoman Turks finally lost power.

    Here's another lesson from history. The tragedy of Al-Andhalus is no accident. Muslims brought that upon themselves. The city of Cordoba under Muslims was at one time, the greatest city on earth! Did you know that rival Muslims actually fought alongside Christians in the "re-conquest" of Cordoba? The Caliph of Cordoba knelt on his knees and handed the keys to that great city to the victorious Christians who were helped to the cause by fellow Muslims in return for land and power. And, no this is not just a handful of politicians conniving against each other. This is Muslim society bringing the downfall of their brothers and sisters. Nothing much has changed to this day.

    I fear that most of the people who are claiming for this romantic idea of a "Khilafa" have no idea of the violent history of the politicians that led Muslims from the 7th century onwards. If, instead of blaming others, these Muslims started looking at their own failings, they might even realise a way out of their sad state of affairs.

    What's the overall human development level of Muslim countries? How much do Muslims contribute to learning and advancement of knowledge (as instructed in the Quran)? How many Muslims enjoy the freedoms that Allah gave them instead of being oppressed by power/wealth hungry dictators?

    A reality check, every now and then may be in order. Get your own house in order, before blaming others for your plight.

  12. Dear Azra,

    I fail to understand what ethical or professional standards anyone is bound by when commenting on an open forum.

    I have followed my upbringing to the letter and have neither insulted you against any values that I hold dear.

    As for your qualifications, I am personally aware of them, however would it not serve your righteous indignation better if Minivan had published them here for our information?

    As for your blog post, you are not bound by the same ethical, journalistic or professional standards when writing on a personal blog that you operate yourself.

    I am sure every statement you have made in this article is backed up with evidence.

    However bias can be defined in several ways. I am inclined to see bias when;

    - Someone begins operating a blog only after a certain event takes place (say for example the resignation of a President).

    - Someone claims to comment on systemic issues but quotes examples of offensive behavior only from a certain target group.

    I was taught to call a spade a spade. I'm calling it as I see it and as far as I'm concerned I have every right to make my observations on this comment forum same as you do.

    Perhaps the common assumption about my background and my political affiliation has colored your response to my comments. Yet, as I have repeatedly maintained, those assumptions are false. Neither this government nor any others in the past could employ a person just to make comments about articles on a website. Commenting here is a personal interest.

  13. I cannot help but feel great sympathy for Azra Naseem. She is a young lady who was born in the wrong country at the wrong time, and who is struggling to accept the ground realities of the place, she has little choice but to call home. A product of a Maldives so occupied with $ & £ that parents had no time to teach their children the basics and so turned them into coconuts - brown on the outside, white inside but still a c'NUT.

    She hates to be called a propagandist but she comes out as a wannabe propagandist selling a "secular Maldives" that she had so hoped that her beloved MDP headed by President Nasheed had sprung on Maldives forever. However in spite of Nasheed's fervent efforts (championed by people like Azra, Farah, Dr Shaheed, Ibra) at secularisation of Maldives the effort failed; for two important reasons :- 1. Democracy introduced by MAG in 2008 and 2. Islam.

    This failiure explains her veiled vitriolic attacks on Islam because she & like minded secularists don't have the guts to launch a frontal attack on Islam. Instead she chooses to vilify the people who are calling people to Islam. Azra is unable to hide her rabid hatred for Sheik Imran because she rightly realises that the Sheik and his fellow Sheiks were the prime movers for Nasheed's downfall. With his unbelievable downfall the dream of spreading the religion of secularism was given a painful blow. She also perhaps hates to be reminded that it was also the very same Sheiks who handed her hero the presidency of Maldives on a platter.

    Maldives was paradoxically saved *by Democracy. What Azra and her alter egos should realise for their own sakes is that post 2008 the will of the people reign supreme. The ground reality is that in Maldives an overwhelming majority of people has no hesitation in calling themselves Muslims. This being a Democratic country the Sheiks such as Imran, Iliyas have every right to express their interpretation of the sacred texts and they are doing it with gusto. That's their right. Those people who wish to follow them have every right to to do so and let those such as Azra oppose them as they choose, that is their right too. The Constitution and the statutes providing the checks and balances.

    What Azra needs to accept is that the days of authoritarianism is over*. The pitiable sight and plight of Nasheed and his cabal in MDP lusting for power is proof of that. No amount of "writings" to please the farangiis is going to change *anything. The Sheiks *are here to stay. If she and her kind want to challenge them the BEST course open is to study the texts they studied and offer an alternative  interpretation to the texts and offer it to the people- that is if they want to be effective or relevant rather than keep on whining ad infinitum.

    To exploit a small child's horrors at the hands of a diabolical criminal is another  form of pedophilia and no sane person should or would do it. You are doing that child irreparable damage and should be ashamed of yourself keeping the fires burning forgetting that her parents, relatives, friends would read your words and you are keeping the torture of that child going on and on. 

    Take lessons from the MPS and minister Diana. Quietly with the minimum of fuss they are taking care of the child and dealing with that 45 year beastly freak (who deserves nothing short of death by public stoning). Instead you are raking mud around that child. Truly sick!

    Azra  & Co wake up! We are no longer under authoritarian rule. just as people from Algeria, Morroco, Libya, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and now Syria WHEN given freedom to choose, ALL overwhelmingly chose proponents of Islam and the secularists were relegated to their dingy holes. Remember the secularist Saddam Hussain found in a spider hole, Gaddafi found in a sewage pipe. TAKE LESSONS! 

    One final thought - to pray, fast, go on Hadj pay Zakat can be the most exhilarating of experiences and staying away from Alchol, eating pork, staying away from Zinna, usury really can be pretty coooooooool too. Those who haven't yet tried it please do try. U wud be surprised how liberating it can be. Peace!

  14. According to the most learned, wise, liberal and sophisticated thinkers among the commentators to Minivan News and who appear to be the intelligenstia and the true guardians of the Maldives, the vast majority of Maldivians are inherently incapable of thinking due them being Muslims.
    If this is the case, Maldivians cannot do anything to change their situation for the better. The only solution to all the problems Maldives faces is simply to sell or lease the country to the highest bidder for a minimum period of thousand years. The successful bidder must ensure that all impediments to positive and creative thinking, especially Islam as the wise pundits here have stated, must be eliminated during this period and before being handed back to the Maldivians.

  15. Azra, you have to admit that the tone and perspective of all your articles are very one-sided (i.e. MDP sided) and rarely looks at things from a multiple perspective or attempts to understand why people believe or support certain things without discrediting them. Your comment 'Songs were played on loudspeakers attached to pick-up trucks that went round and round the island, stopping at mosques after Friday prayers for maximum effect' – not sure what you are getting at here? Also nothing wrong with a cheesy patriotic song.. Doesn’t all this entail standard Maldivian campaigns for religious or political causes? Your mockery and sarcasm of people who are more orthodox than you or differ from your political view discredit your writings and your objectivity. Try to avoid labelling people and address the issue. Perhaps this could be the reason why people see you as propagandist and as a researcher I don't think you should be so defensive when someone questions your writings. You are well educated but a PhD doesn't guarantee objectivity. I agree with most of what you write but you have a tendency to be too critical of different views and this becomes a distraction from the very good messages you want to send out from your articles.
    Good article though.

  16. I agree with Mustho, highly biased article nothing but silly girls imaginary s**t

  17. So What's the real issue here?
    As far as I'm concerned, Adalat's (or in general Islamists) rise to power in the Maldives is aided by none other than MDP and Dr. Azra is ignoring this fact and at the same time painting Adalat as a STAND ALONE evil force.

    What's wrong in the Madam doctor's analysis is Adalat does not stand alone and MDP has everything to do with giving Adalath a voice,

    You reap what you sew

  18. I have stopped reading rest of this biased crap on the line "Sheikh Imran Abdulla was one of the chief choreographers of the Islamists’ role in the downfall of the Maldivian democracy."
    List down what nasheed has done during his administration and find books on Human Rights, Constitutional Law, Governance, Economics and International Law, and decide whether it was democratic or not.
    Azra You may not be a member of any political party, but these faeces shows nothing but you thinking of Nato and UN or America bombarding Maldives.

  19. MDP came to take Maldives to a different level and this cannot be done without a change. Islam teaches blind believe, no question, no change, live like 07th century Bedouin. 99% Maldivian are hardcore Islam believers who are blinded by Islamic faith. Anyone hopes a different Maldives is his widest dream. MDP has tried to do something different by accommodating Wahhabis and in the meantime adopting moderation so that the Maldivian belief system that’s is so emotionally engraved in their psyche is not disturbed. They have failed because there are opportunist politician who took every advantage to use religion because the only tool they can use against MDP was Islam. Islam is the only tool either MDP or their rivals can use and both have no choice and use Islam to get the support of Islamic Maldives.

  20. Easiest way to get fame on international media is now basing Islam and relating Muslims to terrorists. People like Azra, Amina Wadud and Salman Rushdee doing the same, get fame nothing else.

  21. See the reality : not one single Muslim country has democracy and development for the common man, but millions of poor people, non-educated, jobless, bad economies, ruled by dictatorial regimes of guns, seduced by sheikhs who misuse religion to keep people and complete societies backward and thus powerless ... in order to contribute to the power of the rich, like in Maldives.

  22. As if we Maldivians ever had a faith ....
    One more Rannamaari and we will be following another faith over night. Thats Maldivians ....
    We are lucky it was Barakath and not Pope Pole the last time.
    This time its Imran-bin-Fahari,& Elloakuda Boafan Allho & Dheedhibeyge Shameem.
    Tomorrow it will be Boakuday, Sarangu Sameema & Beyhokko.
    Maldivian faith has been sold/bought in the Friday Market

  23. wrap a white cloth head band with "Allah akbar". on your forehead, go up a podium and scream ... you are famous

  24. @Ron.
    The leaders of Muslim countries are put there and propped up by west against the wishes of muslim people. The whole idea is to keep us as customers so the west can produce and sell. That's why they supported Saddam despite his oppression, Hafiz his son Bashar and all these tyrants they helped keep there. Even now the Russians are supporting the mass murderer Bashar. They made Mubarak and Gazzafi, all these tyrants propped up for a reason. The reason was to keep the muslims the underclass so the master race can rule over them.

  25. Islam is dangerous ideology that diminishes the human rational thinking. If you give free choice to Muslims communities they will elect extremist to rule them. Look at Egypt and Iran. The west had supported unislamic dictators in the past so that Islam will not raise its head. Nothing will work in Muslims countries because their brains are dead with very dangerous virus

  26. Extremists put moderate islamists on the same line with anti-islamists. I sometimes wonder what extremism does with peoples brains.

    Remember you'll be judged by your acts, not by what you pose to be.

  27. reading lots of crap news about the maldives,maldives is nothing but a dust particle to the world.Truth be told maldivans need the world (aid/money) rather than the world needs maldives,get to your senses either you want to bring prosperity and higher living standards to your people or want to live the life of a salafist Bedouin living as per the standards of 7 century arabia.Follow the examples of the gulf states religion kept to its place,business and economics in another.
    There are LOT OF TOURIST PLACES with cheaper rates and comparable amenities to the maldives to visit,and most of all these places don't impose any restrictions on their guests(cultural,religious or chauvinistic)


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