The opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) has condemned a poll on state television about freedom of religion, accusing the government of attempting to allow religions other than Islam into the Maldives and undermining Islamic faith.
A press release by the party yesterday states that the poll on a Television Maldives (TVM) programme on Sunday night was “a devious scheme” intended to show that other religions could be practiced.
“Maldivians have remained 100 per cent Muslims for over 800 years and no effort was made in the name of religious freedom to see whether Maldivians could practice religions other than Islam,” it reads. “We call upon [President Mohamed] Nasheed’s government to cease its efforts to show through TVM or any other state institution that there is space for religions other than Islam in the country.”
The party believes that the purpose of the poll was to “philosophically” weaken Maldivians’ faith and “encourage the people trying to bring other religions to the Maldives”.
It adds that Islam in the Maldives was under threat due to the government’s policies.
DQP is led by former presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed, who resigned as special advisor to the president on the anniversary of the government’s 100 days in power. In October, the party left the coalition government, arguing it was failing to deliver on campaign promises.
Speaking to Minivan News today, Mohamed Zuhair, the president’s office press secretary, said the president’s office had no connection to the poll.
“The[Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation] is a company now,” he said. “There is no official mechanism to interact with them, apart from inviting them to press conferences like everyone else.”
He added DQP’s line of attack was “a joke” and clearly politically motivated. “It’s like saying the dried buns sold at some teashop tasted too spicy today – let’s blame the president’s office.”
Zuhair claimed the party were resorting to the same attacks it deployed unsuccessfully in last year’s presidential election because “they can’t accept defeat”. He predicted the DQP would disseminate more press releases in the near future to prove it was an active party, as the Elections Commission will soon be allocating funds for political parties.
Ahmed Afruh Rasheed, editor of TVM news, told Minivan News today the DQP had taken the poll out of context as the programme hosted a discussion on disputes within Islam.
“Their press release shows that they didn’t even watch the programme,” he said. “The question wasn’t whether other religions should be allowed in Maldives. It was about whether space should be given to disagreements about Islam in our society.”
The show focuses on “controversial social issues” that were not spoken about publicly, he added, with the purpose of raising awareness in society.
Afruh denied the poll was meant to encourage religious freedom or that it was put up on the orders of the president’s office.
Other issues addressed by the programme have included the rights of expatriate workers, the neglect of the elderly and media freedom, he said.
Zuhair said there was no reason to harbour ill will towards the new government apart from “an inability to digest defeat”.
“This government hasn’t used devious means to torture an inmate to death. This government hasn’t used tried to meddle in a judicial trial. This government has not had high-level officials accused of corruption,” he said.