The President’s Office has issued a response to a 30-page pamphlet published by minority opposition Dhivehi Quamee Party (DQP), which accuses the government of participating in an anti-Islamic conspiracy.
According to translations of the pamphlet released by the President’s Office, “[President Mohamed] Nasheed’s big plan is to undermine Maldivians’ religion, introduce other religions into the country and encourage vice.”
According to the President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, however, the pamphlet “contains a litany of extremist, bigoted and hate-filled rhetoric aimed primarily at President Nasheed and his administration.”
“There isn’t a sentence in this pamphlet that isn’t a slanderous lie against the government,” Zuhair was quoted as saying. “This is an official DQP pamphlet, colour printed and branded with their logo and contact details.
It has clearly been sanctioned, and probably written, by senior party officials including leader Dr Hassan Saeed”, he said, adding that Saeed and DQP members “should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.”
A former Attorney General and 2008 presidential candidate, Dr Hassan Saeed made similar claims under the previous government in 2007, prompting then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s government to contract UK security and private investigation firm Sion Resources for a surveillance operation dubbed ‘Operation Druid’. After a series of inquiries, it was clear that nothing untoward or anti-Islamic had taken place.
Saeed today said he would not speak to Minivan News. When asked whether other DQP members would be available for comment he retorted, “you can try your luck”.
DQP members Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed and ‘Sandhaanu’ Ahmed Ibrahim Didi were summoned for questioning at 8pm on Thursday, January 12.
Saeed accompanied the pair as their lead lawyer. Since that time, Jameel has been detained twice and Didi has been detained once, although they have both been summoned for questioning every night since except for Friday. Didi was not summoned on Monday.
One of DQP’s vice presidents Abdullah Matheen was also briefly detained.
At 2312 members, DQP is the sixth smallest of the nation’s 15 political parties. No other DQP members had responded to phone calls at time of press.
Meanwhile, opposition supporters have protested the police action against DQP leaders on a nightly basis on the grounds that the government is impounding the people’s freedom of expression, granted under Article 27 of the Constitution.
Portraying the government as sympathetic to the Jewish people, the pamphlet contends that the President aims to undermine national unity by attacking the national religion of Islam.
“When the Nasheed administration established diplomatic relations with the biggest enemy of Islam [Israel], the government agreed to change the school curriculum and teach our small children about the goodness of Jews,” reads page seven of the pamphlet.
Deputy Minister of Education Dr Abdulla Nazeer believed the accusations were “baseless lies”.
“We haven’t had any such discussions at any stage during the reform of the curriculum,” he said.
Nazeer pointed out that as the school curriculum had not been revised since 1984 at the time that the current government took office, the Ministry had issued 7,000 surveys and held 200 public meetings to get the public’s input on the matter.
He added that information discussed at a curriculum symposium is publicly available on the ministry’s website. While the ministry has added a group of elective subjects, Nazeer noted that Islamic and Dhivehi studies were mandated according to the public’s request.
The only subject that comes close to teaching about the “goodness of Jews” would be the broad, non-religious discipline of Social Studies.
“The O-level pass rate has improved from 27 percent to 35 percent over the pass three years, and this year we are hoping for 40 percent. Parents, schools boards and teachers are working very hard to improve the school system.
“Unfortunately, some social and oppositional elements are not happy with these efforts and are looking for ways to ridicule the government,” Nazeer concluded.
The DQP pamphlet also criticises the government’s foreign policy as evidence of its penchant for the Jewish people.
“The government accepted the responsibility of monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in Iran. This task was assigned to Nasheed’s former Foreign Minister Dr Shaheed. There is no doubt that this was a reward for the Nasheed administration’s efforts to strengthen ties with the Jews and please the Jews,” the pamphlet reads on page 20.
“The Jew’s plan and way of thinking is to divide Islamic countries,” it adds, further claiming that Maldivian government officials hold secret identities as “Christian priests”.
Directing accusations at neighboring SAARC countries, DQP claims that the cultural monuments gifted at the 2011 SAARC summit hosted in Addu City are really “religious statues, depicting other Gods for praying [towards].”
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is also implicated for unveiling his country’s statue of the national lion – a “statue for praying”, DQP claims.
According to DQP, the monuments prove President Nasheed’s involvement in an international conspiracy to introduce other religions into the Maldives.
Following repeated acts of vandalism and theft, the monuments were recently removed to a secure location by Addu City Council. Officials have claimed that the acts against the monuments were not religious but political, and noted that the stolen Nepalese monument was a simple block that read “Nepal”. Other accusations target people who dance and women who wear skirts as “disrespectful towards Islam”, reads the President’s Office translation.
Dancing is frowned upon by conservative interpretations of Islam. However, the popular Maldivian dance and drumming tradition of bodu beru engages men in dancing activities.
According to Press Secretary Zuhair, DQP’s statements have “[undermined] the religious harmony of the country” by using the constitutionally-granted right to freedom of expression as an excuse to engage in hate speech.
“With rights come responsibilities. Freedom of speech does not entitle you to maliciously shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre,” he said. “Similarly, you cannot spread malevolent lies about the government, whip up hatred against people and undermine the religious harmony of the country and claim it is your right to do so under freedom of expression.”
Meanwhile, the President has requested Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari to investigate DQP’s allegations and advise on the proper response–whether to form an independent commission to investigate the matter, or request Dr Bari to seek the counsel of his colleagues.