Foreign Ministry opposes UN Human Rights Commissioner’s call for debate on flogging

The Foreign Ministry does not support open debates on issues raised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, namely the provision for flogging as a punishment for extra-marital intercourse and the requirement that all Maldivians be Muslims.

“What’s there to discuss about flogging?” Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Naseem was reported as saying in newspaper Haveeru. “There is nothing to debate about in a matter clearly stated in the religion of Islam. No one can argue with God.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Naseem confirmed his statement but did not wish to comment further.

Pillay said flogging was “a form of punishment that is cruel and demeaning to women” and observed that in her travels in Islamic countries “apart from the Maldives and one other country that practices stoning, flogging is not a practice that is condoned.”

She further claimed that the Maldives is signatory to international treaties that are legally-binding obligations, “and such a practice conflicts with these obligations undertaken by the Maldives.” She said human rights conforms with Islam.

Naseem today advised Minivan News that the Maldives had submitted certain reservations to said conventions, including articles on gender equality and freedom of religion, and on these points the country could not be held legally accountable by an international body.

Pillay also called for amendments to the constitutional provision mandating subscription to Islam.

Since her press conference on Thursday, November 24, protestors bearing slogans “Ban UN,” “Flog Pillay” and “Defend Islam” have demanded apologies from Pillay and Parliament, and called for Pillay to be prosecuted in the Maldives for her comments about the national constitution.

Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari opposed Pillay’s critiques. Haveeru reports he also backed political parties including the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), and several MPs and religious groups who also  condemned the UN human rights chief’s comments.

In discussions with President Mohamed Nasheed, ministers and the judiciary, Pillay advised “permanent changes in the law [to] engineer a practical moratorium on flogging.”

NGO network Civil Society Coalition later announced a nation-wide mass protest on December 23 against the government’s alleged efforts to securalise the country.

Speaking with Minivan News today, President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said he believed Pillay’s message focused more on the degrading implications of flogging women than on its portrayal of Islam. “Pillay called for a debate on punishment and how it is administered – these are two separate debates,” he said, distinguishing between Islam and the State.

Zuhair also suggested that the court procedure used to sentence individuals accused of extra-marital fornication to flogging was incomplete.

In response to Pillay’s urging for a debate “to open up the benefits of the constitution to all and to remove that discriminatory provision [requiring every citizen be a Muslim],” Zuhair said “The government’s religious policy is based upon the insights of religious scholars. The government has not made available the means for anyone to defy or ridicule our religion, and it will not do so.”

According to Zuhair, the involvement of religious scholars in the nation’s religious policies is a distinguishing feature of ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

“These are the free times for religious scholars to speak their minds and not be subscribed into one state-sponsored brand of Islam,” he said.

When asked to relate his statement to the Islamic Ministry’s recent censorship of Ismail Hilath Rasheed’s blog, Zuhair said the matter belonged to the Majlis.

“The government cannot be held accountable for the contents of a constitution drawn up by the peoples’ Majlis. Any issues with the constitution will be addressed there.”

Zuhair emphasised that the government supports freedom of expression and assembly to the widest extent provided by the constitution, but he reiterated that the government would adhere to policies advocated by religious scholars as necessary.

Local media in the Maldives widely took Pillay’s remarks on the constitution out of context by reporting only half her sentence.

Miadhu Editor Gabbe Latheef had asked Pillay during Thursday’s press conference, “If you believe we have a Constitution, why are you speaking against our Constitution?” Her reply, “I don’t believe you have a Constitution, you have a constitution. The constitution conforms in many respects to universally respected human rights. Let me assure you that these human rights conform with Islam,” was partially reported by local media as, “I don’t believe you have a Constitution.”

When asked about the impact of the flawed reports on the protests, Zuhair said it suggested the mistake was intentional and demonstrated “a strong political bias”.

“Most media is tied to the opposition parties which were defeated in first round of the election. They are tied by a common rope in that they all include leaders of the formerly-ruling Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP). MDP doesn’t have a supportive media outlet, even in the state media. Any establishment or institution here with 50 or more staff will have some defeated and bitter people who don’t believe in the government,” he surmised.


29 thoughts on “Foreign Ministry opposes UN Human Rights Commissioner’s call for debate on flogging”

  1. Where is this country heading.....regressing too fast and it's getting hopeless. MDP, get your act together and bring about the change we wanted! We don't want fanaticism in our moderate country!

  2. "No one can argue with God." How capable of understanding the intricacies of international relations is our foreign minister.

    You could get a higher level of intellectual engagement on the subject from a cab driver.

    Having to appease people like this with top government positions is going to be Anni's downfall. What a shame.

  3. Wonder if these will support to amputate the hands of robbers. I think not because Maumoon, Yaamin, Gasim, Nasrulla and the lot will not have hands by now.

  4. I am deeply disappointed with Foreign Minister Naseem.

    First you say that Maldives is promoting human rights abroad, and is a progressive country THEN you go on to deny women their basic rights and say that flogging is acceptable.

    Religion or not!! Inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment of OUR women is unacceptable!!!! Get your act to together MDP.

    Deeply disappointed.

  5. Foreign Minister wants to butter up both sides. Jumping the band wagon I would say.

  6. What about the adulterers. If the adulterers are given due hadhdh.. most people who have power will not be alive today..

  7. folks! you will know the pain of being raped when you or a loved one of yours is raped. Only then will you wish the criminal to be punished harshly. All these kaafir ppl calling for abolition of islamic values need to feel the pain of victimhood to understand that islamic sharia is only fair!

  8. Naseem is right. Maldives has signed the Conventions with reservations so we cannot be held accountable at the UN for these differences.

    As for Pillay she is not fit to be in that position and she has to go. Not because of what she said in Male but because she is using her position to press on a personal agenda. I do agree with Zuhair that whatever punishment that is given must be administered humanely and without degradation.

  9. This is so deeply disappointing coming from our progressive government. Why sell your souls to the devil?

  10. The article is clever in that the main theme is that Naseem (and the likes?) just didn't get it while the Press Secretary had it spot on.....Zuhair had cleverly refuted everything Naseem said..from Ms. Pillays focus (on punishment ..not religion) to...the fact that despite what Naseem said debates would go on..."the government supports freedom of expression and are free times for religious scholars to speak their minds...And the aside on the media deliberately prevaricating Ms. Pillays remarks on the Constitution..."strong political bias" other words, the opposition's concerned but obvious efforts to falsely portray the new government as "agents against Islam"....great reporting by Ms. Johnstone..

  11. Idreesbe

    Why are you connecting this to rape? This is more about extra-marital or pre-marital sex. And plus, women are the ones getting raped, and they are the ones getting flogged as well. Just look up the statistics yourself. 80-85% of flogging victims ARE women!

    You cannot restrict people from having sex before marriage. It's human nature to have sexual feelings. Any two consenting adults can do it, and it's not the business of anybody else, especially not that of a certain god/gods.

  12. Maldives can, without a doubt, be held liable for breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Maldives acceded to the Covenant on 19 September 2006 with the following reservation:

    "The application of the principles set out in Article 18 of the Covenant shall be without prejudice to the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives."

    At that time the Constitution did not prohibit Maldivians from following religions other than Islam. The Constitution was amended in 2008 making it (arguably) illegal for Maldivians to be followers of religions other than Islam. Having acceded to an international treaty and then changing domestic laws to contravene the terms of that accession is similar to cheque fraud. So Maldives is now a criminal state under International Law.

  13. Why is the amputation of the hand of robbers not practised in the maldives? isnt that the punishment in the Sharia for robbers?

  14. Some ladies had thought out a commercial flogging room, to visit before meeting up with their dates ... The judiciary should pre-empt this by establishing special flogging areas, perhaps on the side of popular coffee houses? Some ladies are planning on reserving "I already got flogged but no date yet" badges that can be issued by licensed(dheyvaanis) floggers.Adverts can read: "A buck a flog"..Or Get Fully Flogged for only Rf 100/=" ??

  15. @ Wugg Noot: Business will be brisk...with bouncers at the door turning away bounders in beards... by the dozens...

  16. I don't think our Majlis members deserve any wages. They are not willing to work. We can dissolve this place and make more restrictions for these cartoons to represent us.

  17. Oh, please forgive the Foreign Minister. Some haabee was threatening to behead him if he didnt say so.

  18. Maldives has no reservations to CAT so it is obliged to uphold that no form of punishment is degrading or humiliating. foreign minister seems to be confused about Maldives' obligations under the conventions it has signed.. should do some homework before putting his foot in the mouth!

  19. Cherished medieval traditions such as flogging women, even if they are rape victims, must be preserved at all costs, Follow the Saudi example, just ignore what the civilised world thinks! Dare I mention that such practises are in fact a source of sexual excitement for some men? But of course, this is all about the will of God, or so we are told.

  20. Why do we need a debate for this?? Adultery is considered an immoral sin in all Abrahamic religions.

    There are larger issues to be debated! Let's talk about Islamophobia and repression of Islamic people living in Western societies!!!

  21. You must understand flogging is not only practiced in Muslim countries. Singapore is one of the country which practice flogging and their society is more peaceful than any other. Before you do a crime think about the consequences. In Islamic law 4 men have to see at the same time to convict a women.

  22. Bravo Naseem, who have shown your true colors as a coward and the greatest hypocrite in the government.

    Poor Pillay, the government prostituted her, and discarded her.
    Maldives has a lot of men who hate women, many closet cases who marry women since they have to, but have secret homosexual affairs. Many of them. Specially those who pretend to be super "religious"!!

  23. The word translated as adultery in the Quran is Zina. Zina means both adultery and sex out of marriage. The Zahiri believe that Zina (proven) between unmarried ppl should be punished by whipping. For adultery per say, the Hudud or Rajm (maximum puniushment) is stoning to death, they claim, even though stoning to death is not written in the Qur’an itself.

    Frankly, it is none of my business who has sex with who, I actually don’t CARE! However, I find it absolutely disgusting, utterly cowardly, utterly narcissistic, intensely cruel, and most of all, sickeningly hypocritical, when I see Maldivians who have had sex out of marriage themselves refuse to come out and condemn flogging for zina when they themselves are, according to this Shariah Law, deserving of it themselves! From what I had come to learn the list of silent Zinni’s is MASSIVE and includes the rich, the powerful, the parliamentarians!

    How the hell could you be weak, dirty, cowards be so weak spirited so as to remain silent when somebody else is being whipped for something YOU DESERVE!!!! If ANY of you had an inch of courage or morality, an inch of heart or caring, an inch of chest, you would condemn this massive travesty of justice with a fierce rage, even if you were punsihed or condemned for speaking out for justice!

    Something ten times MORE horrific! I have seen, heard both Maldivian Women and Men, whom I know have had sex out of marriage before they became “ultra-religious” state that these women deserve to be flogged because they are sluts and dirty whores!

    If that is not the most selfish, irreligious, subhuman, Graceless, souless attitude in the world I don’t know what is! You guys make me so sick, Allah chose to have Mercy on YOU by not letting you be caught or punished for your Zinni, how dare you insult the treasures of his Grace and protection over you by not extending that same Mercy to others!

    I am furious about this, I have spoken all the technocratic clap trap in the world, but what is needed here is not smug, complacent, impotent “speech” advocated by those too cowardly to confron the tyranny, what ius needed to change this thing is resistance, someone with courage!

  24. Maldives Slams UN on Adultery Penalty

    The government of Maldives has rejected UN calls for debating the practice of flogging women guilty of committing adultery in the island nation

  25. Agree totally with you, Ben Plewright. Allah only knows whether even the person ordering the flogging needs to be flogged or not! And what about the huge crowd that gathers there to witness such flogging. Just how many people would be there who should also be getting flogged?!

    Seriously, Islam is a much more merciful religion than any of these self proclaimed islamic scholars will ever know. When Allah forgives us for so much when we repent, why do our muslim brothers and sisters have this urge to judge others and punish them without even knowing whether or not that person has repented and that Allah has forgiven him or her. These things are only between each individual and Allah. And what is very clear is that we are all responsible and held accountable for our own actions on the day of judgement. So why the need for some of these bearded mullahs and their followers to play God when they obviously are just as human as the next person?! It'll be interesting to see just how many of those people calling for others to be flogged, deserve a good flogging themselves! Double standarded and hypocrites that's what you people are!

  26. A foreign Ministry of a tiny country that is only concerned about flogging, LGB rights and petty issues. How weird things can get?

    Is this how the foreign Minister understands globalization?

  27. Probably the only state which entire foreign policy machinery and media are obsessed with flogging.


  28. Hypocrisy!! Flogging 15 years old girl for being a victim of rape, yet admitting hundreds adulterers every year in their hotels and local resorts. They don't mind as long they pay monies.... looks like some people have very selective sense of decency, shame on you!


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