Comment: Speak now, or forever hold your tongues

The Maldivian government’s reaction to the fallout from the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s address to the Majlis is deeply disappointing. It largely confirms what many increasingly allege: the change President Nasheed and MDP promised was limited to regime change and does not include a genuine commitment to democratic reform.

Navi Pillay called on Maldivians to consider putting a moratorium on the practice of flogging. She did not say Maldivians who believe in Islam should abandon their faith. She pointed out that the Maldivian State is one of the few among followers of Islam that still engages in the practice of flogging, imposed disproportionately on women.

Her fundamental proposition was: why not be as compassionate as your faith allows instead of being as cruel as it gives you room to be? Her suggestion was that we discuss and debate among ourselves to find this path to compassion. The official government response to this was, shockingly, ‘You can’t argue with God.’

The Islamic Ministry’s condemnation of Pillay’s speech, and its criticism of MPs for ‘allowing’ Pillay to address the parliament are hardly unexpected. At the helm of the Ministry is Dr Abdul Majid Bari who, while having no qualms about pocketing money earned from his stake in the alcohol-guzzling pork-eating infidel tourism industry, presents himself as an ultra-pious conservative when it comes to affairs of the Maldivian public.

This deep-rooted hypocrisy is what allows a man who holds a doctorate in the interpretation of the Qur’an to mislead the Maldivian public into thinking that multiple interpretations of Shari’a and hadith are unequivocally un-Islamic and that debate is beyond the Islamic pale.

The view of Dr Bari and other ‘Islamic scholars’ such as Dr Afrashim Ali (the ex-singer who treats the subject of his doctoral exegesis as a state secret) is neither new nor uncommon.

Had they taken the time to put it to the public in a coherent manner it would read: in view of the fact that there are specific offences and sanctions prescribed in the primary sources of Islamic jurisprudence, the Qur’an and Sunna, there is no justification for suspending regulation specifically outlined in these divine sources.

This is the view of most conservative proponents of the Shari’a, and is obviously the one held by Dr Bari and others leading the charge of the flogging brigade. It is, however, by no means the only view on the subject within Islamic thought and jurisprudence.

Rather, there are a great variety of ‘Muslim voices’ offering different views—conservative, liberal and pragmatic—about whether and how the idea of human rights and Islamic normative requirements fit together.

Diverse ‘Muslim voices’ on human rights

Even before the modern era, Islamic law was characterised by a broad jurisprudential diversity based on geographic, ethnic and racial as well as philosophical grounds.

This is evident from the fact that it was 400 years after the death of Prophet Mohammed that ijthihad—reasoned interpretation of the sources of Islamic law—was brought to an end with the increased petrification of the Shari’a by medieval jurists.

Many liberal Muslim reformers thus demand the recovery of ijthihad in order to do justice both to modern needs and to the original spirit of the Shari’a. They emphasise the Shari’a’s original meaning as a ‘path’ or a guide, rather than a detailed legal code.

These liberal Muslim voices do not attempt to deny the binding character of Shari’a. What they ask for is active reasoning, ijthihad, which was originally regarded as an independent source of Islamic law.

Their view, as expressed by Lebanese philosopher Subhi Mahmasani is, ‘The door of ijthihad should be thrown wide open for anyone juristically qualified. The error, all the error, lies in blind imitation and restraint of thought.’

Critical approaches of liberal Muslims such as Mahmasani, Egyptian judge Muhammad Said al-Ashmawy and Abdullahi Ahmed An-Nai’m have often highlighted the humane character of the Qur’anic revelation, which is the most important source of the Shari’a.

Tunisian scholar Mohamed Talbi has argued, for example, that ‘Were it possible for us to ensure a life of justice and equality in a different way [to corporal punishment], this would certainly be a way pointing in the same direction as the Qur’an does.’

Although Shari’a had continued to be the predominant legal system in matters pertaining to family law, from the 19th century onwards, Islamic criminal justice had gradually retreated from public law.

The introduction of Islamic criminal law through legislation is thus a relatively recent phenomenon that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Libya enacted Islamic criminal laws in 1972-1974, Pakistan did so in 1979, Iran in 1982 and Sudan in 1983 and 1991.

And, despite the enactment of such laws, there has been a strong tendency within most Islamic societies to restrict the applicability of hadd punishments as much as possible.

In Pakistan, for instance, the Federal Shari’a Court resisted the reintroduction of stoning in the early 1980s by repeatedly refusing to apply this form of punishment. Prime Minister Zia ul-Haq replaced some of the judges with his own allies to finally have stoning judicially confirmed as being in accordance with Shar’ia.

What these arguments, incidents and discussions suggest is that reconciliatory mediation between tradition and modernity seems conceivable not only among those who are consciously liberal but also among conservative Muslims, as has been argued by many academics.

In light of the rich Islamic jurisprudence referred to above, it is hard to see what the Islamic Ministry’s statement ‘No Muslim has the right to advocate against flogging for fornication’ is intended to do. Except, of course, to shut the Maldivian public off from any other teachings and characteristics of Islam other than those held by Dr Bari and the Islamists who rule Maldivian thought today.

Yellow: the colour of cowardice?

The deafening silence of any opponents of Dr Bari and other Islamists’ extremist views is inexplicable.

Does this mean that among the Muslim scholars that this country now has in such multitudes, there is not one person who disagrees with the extremists’ position? Does it mean, as the recent Religious Unity Regulations suggest, that Maldives will only consider as legitimate Muslim scholars those who purport a particular fundamentalist view of Islam?

Is there not one member of the Maldivian judiciary, the legal community at large, the legislature, or civil society capable of espousing a different position? Does the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives agree that the UN Human Rights Commissioner is wrong? If not, why not say so? Where are you all hiding? What are you afraid of?

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem’s statement that there is ‘nothing to debate’ is ‘singularly counter-productive’. It makes President Nasheed’s same-day appeal for gender equality ring hollow, like many of his other statements that emphasise democracy and human dignity.

We may never know details of the Faustian pact President Nasheed and MDP have made with Dr Bari and other proponents of extreme Islamism. What we do know is that it is costing the Maldivian people their democratic, and religious, right to intellectual debate and growth.

No matter how far above rising sea levels it is capable of lifting us, or how much it can lift our colossal debt burden, it is not worth keeping in power a government that lacks the courage to raise Maldivians above the quagmire of ignorance the Islamists are sinking us into at such a rapid pace.

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]


75 thoughts on “Comment: Speak now, or forever hold your tongues”

  1. Those who say Maldivians are forbidden to be non-Muslim are themselves committing Kufr. They are not only forbidding some thing allowed in Islam, but is also putting Maldivian Constitution ahead of Qur'an. If Qur'an allows non-Muslims to be citizens of Muslim Countries, how can you say the words of the constitution over-rides Qur'an.....?

  2. @idreesbe

    no we cant. in the hadith muslims are asked to kill those who leave islam, its called "fithna" (and apostates are the worst cos they left islam) islam is suppose to fight until there is no "fithna" this is islam agenda. meaning all non muslims have to be converted or eliminated. you speak as if islam is a different religion.

    look at maldives, the so called great islam is scared of a bible and jails people from different religions for having religious materials. the fear you muslims have is enormous. if you are a muslim, you should be able to live near a church or even read a bible and still be muslim. but thats not the case here in the maldives. you muslims believe that statues are for worshiping. this primitive thinking is making this country and international laughing stock. is it that you muslims are so insecure that a bibile, or a statue of a Buddha will make you leave islam? is that how much faith you have in islam?

    the islamic foundation issued an article which said to kill and revoke the citizenship if an apostate fails to repent after providing 3 chances. of cos Ibrahim Fauzee the Guantanamo bay terrorist has everything to do with that. (not extreme, this is exactly what prophet Mohammed ordered his followers to do regarding apostates)

    muslims are the most intolerant people i have known, i have lived with people of other beliefs and non of them say you will burn in hell for not believing what they believe. this is the originality of islam, the discrimination regarding non muslims by condemning them to hell fire and the racial hatred promoted in islam towards jews by calling them rats and pigs.

    muslims are hostile towards apostates. you speak of tolerance when you cant tolerate muslims leaving islam and in Maldives the apostates numbers are growing, and when we say we left islam, muslims are insulted. even if we dont say anything else. there is no common ground between muslims and apostates, if so its similar to a cat and a mouse being best friends.

    you cant respect indiviguals for the choice they make, but rather you like to impose what you believe on others, your threats of hell fire is just the tip of the ice berg, and i say this with confident that most "HABIEES" in maldives are common criminals who took this form at jail or after they got out. they hope by dressing up like a desert dwelling arab will save them for the eternal hell fire that you muslims are so fond of. and these guys are violent and when following the violent verses from the Quran they feel right at home as a solider of islam. just cos you have a unhygienic beard and dress like a hobo dont make you a better person. and stop threatening apostates with hell fire, we left islam we know what islam is.

    further more we are the minority in Maldives, you can call us Zionist, atheist, or whatever, but the truth is we are apostates, and our number are growing not just in the Maldives but world wide, we have apostates protesting against islam cruelty all over the world.

    we are human and we deserve the same rights that you fight for. we have the right to choose and the right to exercise free speech. and dont say you muslims are too emotional to hear what we have to say. when you have no problem cursing us with your imaginary hell fire. we apostates will walk the roads of Maldives are free people. if you cant accept that its not our problem its yours

  3. Michael Fahmy, from what you have written, now I know the Egyptians are more idiotic than I thought. Why would they arrest a foreigner passing through their airport because your name doesn't conform to their norms? I am sure your passport didn't state that you are a Muslim, Taoist or a Druid. Someone who commented here wrote that Azra is a "woman by a muslim name". What is a Muslim name? It is just a foreign name, in this case Arabic, and means (wait for this Azra....) "Virgin Breeze" in Arabic. Azra, don't tell me you have a job already lined up upstairs!

  4. these virgins in heaven, does their virginity comes back after they have sex? if not muslim men will have sex with all 72 virgins on the first day and will have sex with non virgins for eternity, now that unheard of, something for you muslims men to check on

  5. The Yellows are not cowards, they are pragmatists, practitioners of realpolitik in statecraft. Well ok, at the very least, they are devious opportunists.

    Convincing a schizophrenic that they are just seeing things is just as easy as convincing the Maldivian populace of their own idiocy; both require time, dedication, management and potent drugs if results are required in a short period of time.

  6. This is our country. Our bussniess. not your’s.. and our forefathers were Buddhists .

  7. To : Mohamed on Sat, 3rd Dec 2011 7:07 PM

    What makes it ONLY your country? Why can't be be MY country or Azra's country? It as as much ours as it is yours.

    There is no religious or logical reason why I can't be who I want to be in "my country". Give me one good reason, even from Quran that says Maldives only has to be 100% muslim country or people of other faiths can't live here.

    Now you'd tell me majority of people want it to be so. right?. Than you are talking about your so called "dimo crazy ".

    So tell me what is it?

  8. this is a great read and very well written. well done Azra!

    I wonder where are the leading women in public life of the Maldives? We have quite a good number of women (lawyers and others) who are quite vocal on other issues but this! We also have an awardee of the Women of Courage, but guess noone would want to stir up controversies for the sake of their seat!

    How many have thought about the fact that the ratio of women being flogged in the Maldives is far higher than a man being done for the punishment. Where are the statistics? why have the Azimas and Rozainas and Dunyas of the Maldives kept quiet on this?

    Appalling how hypocritical Maldivians are! ashamed to be one atm!

  9. @Apostate:

    You are picking and choosing things in sharia haphazardly. Maybe you are trying to emphasize your views with any material that comes your way.
    Fighting in islam is not to kill everybody that is kaafir, rather the command to fight is when muslims are oppressed in their land, or when the chieftains of kufr refuse to allow muslims access to their subjects to propagate the message of islam. So rather we muslims will fight for freedom of expression and religion when it is denied by the chieftans of kufr. individually every person has the right to be in any religion they are pleased with even in lands where islamic sharia is practiced. That is atleast the theory.

    our govt (which is not islamic) bans bibles and statues in this country, doesn't mean we muslims are afraid of bible. its done so to appease the senstivities of the ppl. as for statutes, every sane person shall oppose it as its clear wasteful extravagence nobody benefits from. Just think about the 600000rf they spent on each statue in addu and the continuing military precense to protect it which is like daily 2000rf to protect what? a stone monument? who needs that when we have so much need of precious resources in the country. If u want to oppose islam at every inch of the way then you may approve of the statues, but anyone who is capable of clear thinking will oppose this at least by reason of its wastefulness.

    from my experience with local apostates i can tell that they are more intolerant and disrespectful of others faith than 'born unbelievers'. So the ball is really in your court to play nice with ppl who don't take your line.

  10. "chieftains of kufr refuse to allow muslims access to their subjects to propagate the message of islam"

    The chieftains of kufr already allow that. Look at the huge mosques in the lands of the Kaafarun. Do we see any Christian, Buddhist and Jewish Buddha-temples here in our land? Do the chieftains of Islam reciprocate? No. We always take,take,take. We never give anything back.

  11. "doesn’t mean we muslims are afraid of bible. its done so to appease the senstivities of the ppl"

    Funny that. The same "sensitivity" is found in such diverse places as Malaysia (which banned a shipload of Bibles recently), Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and among Islamic communities in Europe and North America. Why?

  12. @bacon and whisky lover..
    the chieftains of kufr has issue with smaller things like headscarves and mosque minarets also. are you aware of that? if they are so tolerant than why is all this fuss about a piece of cloth?

    &FYI muslims are not ruled by muslims anymore. most of the current rulers of the muslim world can better be discribed as faasiqoon or faajiroon. they are very very far from the beautiful teachings of islam. Look at how they squander muslims wealthy by creating palaces and golden toilets for them to poo? is that islamic?
    I am not counting on you even to admit a manifest truth.

  13. @idreesbe

    i guess you dont know your own religion than.

    hint learn about "FITHNA" and it will help you.

    your delusions and the lack of knowledge regarding islam is pathetic

  14. Wine and Pork Lover

    they will say just about anything, cos they have to even if it all bull. we all know the status in Maldives, and we all know what islam asks to do to apostates. muslims like these will defend and deny, but it will never change whats already in the religious scriptures.

    sad part is muslims dont know their own realigion, cos they never bothered to take the translation of the Quran or Hadith and read it. NO. the "recite" the Quran. meaning reading it in Arabic like a chant and feel holy about it. they will read through killing fields, and never realize it.

    Quran is a miracle: the only book read by majority muslims without understanding a single word of it.

  15. The saddest part of it is that our apostate brethren has made up their mind about everyone's knowledge about islam including their own! They know more about islam than everyone else's knowledge combined! I think this is called boasting and i have very little care for ppl who boast about things they have little knowledge of.

  16. I agree with Idreesbe; apostates can be very annoying.

    Tell them that Islam is a tolerant religion, suddenly they go on a rant about how Muslims MUST be intolerant and then, hilariously, demand that they become more tolerant; to iterate, they call upon them to do this while while denying that it is even possible for a Muslim to be tolerant.

    Pure silliness.

  17. "the chieftains of kufr has issue with smaller things like headscarves and mosque minarets also. are you aware of that?"

    Yes, it is called reciprocating. The chieftains of your cult do not permit kaafarun to go about in normal dress without wearing your gross shroud. It is not just church spires you don't allow. You don't allow churches. You burn any carving that looks to you like a Buddha. You know what? It's called tit-for-tat. That's the only language you savages understand.

  18. idreesbe

    the only knowledge i have on islam is based on Quran and Hadith, and your lastest tasfir with commentary. its all there. care to read? cos apostates do. why? cos we wanna know the truth that why we resort to reading the religious scriptures in a manner we understand it. you gotta try it. islam is clear when you read those.

  19. @apostate..
    you seem to have encountered too many problems (about islam) at the same time. care to state your objections one by one? just saying that you are against a whole body of learning is useless. there will be bits and pieces where you can object and where you can agree with. if you cannot find agreement with anything islamic, then there is nothing more to go on.

  20. "whole body of learning". I suppose this lot would describe sitting around a camp fire and sucking bone marrow as also "a body of learning".

  21. @ pork lover.
    there is saying somewhere that says you become what you eat. so if you love and devour the meat of pigs then you becomes what? 🙂 IF (a big if) you became what you eat then its unlikely you will be able to comprehend much about learning... mee alhe dhoge tha?

  22. By that logic, you have a fish brain because you eat fish and a bird brain because you eat chicken. What do you have Idrees, fish brain or bird brain? Perhaps you eat peas.

  23. Azra, I wonder how much time you spent to wrote this useless shit. Democracy and human rights!!! Do you even know who and where it practice. Those are just words. It has lost its real meaning and now people laugh for those words. cut the crap and be realistic caz we live in a real world

  24. idreesbe

    im against all violence and unjust acts. people should be free to choose what they wanna believe in, you cant impose your idea on them and threaten them if they dont except.

    everyone has the right to freedom of expression, and you say apostates insult muslims, well when an apostate says he/she left islam your already insulted to the maximum.

    muslims can go practice their religion in non muslim countries, but for them to practice their religion in maldives is a no no, DOUBLE STANDARDS!!!

    understand this, i stand for whats right. and right now in the Maldives unjust acts towards apostates are brewing, even the state is an enemy of them.

    you think thats fair? so you rather have people lying and pretending to be mulims cos they fear to openly talk their mind? is that what you want?


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