Leader of the government-aligned Jumhoree Party (JP), resort tycoon MP Gasim Ibrahim, has accusing former President Mohamed Nasheed of leading a “coup” against the Maldivian state, and called for a “jihad” to protect Maldivian society from “Nasheed’s antics”, local media has reported.
Speaking at the JP’s fourth anniversary ceremony yesterday, local newspaper Haveeru reported Gasim as saying the nation had fallen “victim” to Nasheed and his supporters, whom he accused of conducting “terrorist acts”.
“The time has come to undertake a Jihad in the name of Allah to protect our religion, culture and nation. Such a sacrifice must be made to restore peace and stability in the nation,” Gasim was quoted as saying.
MDP Spokesperson, MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, claimed Gasim’s calls for “jihad” were of “very serious” concern to the nation.
Gasim’s statement highlighted the “growing jihadist spirit” among senior government politicians linked to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, whom he accused of promoting “extremist hate speech” against their political opposition.
“What we are seeing are some of Gayoom’s generals trying to stoke a jihadist sense of nationalism,” Ghafoor claimed. “This is a product of Gayoom’s rule.”
Gasim was not responding to calls at time of press.
JP Spokesperson Moosa Ramiz meanwhile said he had been asked to forward questions from media to the party’s president, Dr Ibrahim Didi. Dr Didi was not answering calls at time of press.
Ghafoor contended that politically-motivated calls for “jihad” had to be taken seriously, given that Gasim was not only a key financier of the December 23 coalition that criticised the Nasheed administration for “un-Islamic” policies such as diplomatic relations with Israel, but also the Vice Chairman of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI).
“Gasim is the main financier of the [religiously conservative] Adhaalath Party that came into the MDP’s coalition government [elected in 2008] through him,“ Ghafoor claimed. “We cannot take such comments from him with a grain of salt, given that he was one of the chief thugs of Gayoom’s regime.”
As well as leading the Jumhoree Party, Gasim is both a member of parliament and its representative on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) – the judicial watchdog recently accused by the UN Human Rights Committee of being “seriously compromised”.
During the Maldives recent defence of its human rights record in Geneva, a panel member also raised the “troubling role of the judiciary at the centre of many of these [recent] developments.”
“The judiciary – which is admittedly in serious need of training and qualifications – is yet seemingly playing a role leading to the falling of governments,” he observed.
Gasim was also accused by the MDP of supporting the Adhaalath Party’s February 2010 protests against new regulations permitting the sale of alcohol and pork to foreign nationals at licensed hotels of more than 100 beds, on islands designated as ‘inhabited’ in the Maldives.
According to customs records for 2011, Gasim’s Villa Hotels chain – including the Royal, Paradise, Sun, and Holiday Island resorts, in 2011 imported approximately 121,234.51 litres of beer, 2048 litres of whiskey, 3684 litres of vodka and 219.96 kilograms of pork sausages, among other commodities restricted to islands classified as ‘uninhabited’ in the Maldives.
Political use of Islam
Ghafoor also raised concerns about rhetoric of present Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel, whose Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) this year published a pamphlet whilst in opposition entitled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians.”
Ghafoor alleged that allegations within the document – denied vehemently by Nasheed, and which leading to the controversial arrest of two senior DQP members including Dr Jameel – amounted to a work of extremist “hate speech”. The repeated dismissal of Dr Jameel’s case by Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed, and the subsequently arrest and on the judge by Nasheed’s government on charges including political collusion, led to the downfall of the Nasheed administration in a police and military mutiny on February 7.
Ghafoor rejected the JP’s allegations that the MDP’s ongoing protests in the capital during the last few weeks – which have escalated at points into violent confrontations with police – were perceived as “acts of terrorism” by the public.
“This is something [our political opponents] have always thrown at us, to brand the MDP and its supporters as terrorists,” he said. “Though they brand us as un-Islamic, we have won election despite these sort of allegations,” he said. “I would also say that Nasheed has received numerous international awards, including the James Lawson Award for Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Action. We are an exemplary case of providing a peaceful political transition despite the country’s coup-ridden past. “