No additional reporting by missing journalist Ahmed Rilwan
The militant organisation Islamic State (IS) is not only un-Islamic but anti-Islamic, former President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik said yesterday (September 30) at the UN General Assembly in New York.
“These are terrorist groups, not religious groups. Islam, our great religion of peace, compassion and tolerance, is being hijacked by radical and extremist elements to perpetuate hatred and violence,” Dr Waheed said in his speech as President Abdulla Yameen’s special envoy to the 69th session.
“We, the government and people of Maldives, condemn in the strongest terms, these groups, their ideologies, and their activities. We join our fellow Muslims around the world in saying ‘not in my name’.”
Ignorance was the biggest challenge to development, Dr Waheed said, and “violence, subjugation and eternal poverty breed ignorance.”
“Misinformed, yet talented, young people can be easily lured into fanaticism, radicalism, and extremism. Islam’s identity as a religion that supports innovation, knowledge, and scholarship is slowly eroding away, the golden era of our religion is almost forgotten,” he continued.
“Today, the world has a choice to make. Should we allow extremists to shape our future? Or should we take decisive actions to defeat these extremist ideologies? Our answer to these questions will define the way in which we deal with the so-called Islamic State and other terrorist groups.”
The Sunni jihadist group IS claims religious authority over all Muslims and has declared a caliphate in territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.
In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
Dunya’s remarks followed Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.
“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.
The Islamic ministry has also provided a meeting hall of the Islamic centre for a religious sermon which was advertised with the ISIS logo, the MDP claimed.
The party claimed to have learned that police and army officers were involved in putting up the banners across the capital.
A Facebook page called Islamic State in Maldives promoting IS in the country was discovered last month, which shared photos of protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists where protesters carried the IS flag.
Moreover, a new site called Haqqu and Twitter account sprang up recently featuring IS-related news and publications in Dhivehi as well as translations of a sermon by self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Last week, former President Mohamed Nasheed suggested that radicalised gangs were behind the recent “atrocities” in the capital, referring to the torching of the MDP office.
Several journalist were also sent a text message warning them not to cover “the incidents happening in Malé now.”
“This is a war between the laadheenee [secular or irreligious] MDP mob and religious people. We advise the media not to come in the middle of this. We won’t hesitate to kill you,” read the threat.
Extremist religious indoctrination of youth was a relatively recent phenomenon in the Maldives, Nasheed observed.
The opposition leader claimed that many young men from criminal gangs were seen in a protest march held in Malé on September 5 with participants bearing the IS flag and calling for the implementation of Islamic Sharia.
Of the approximately 150 participants, Nasheed claimed most were “active in gangs.”
“So youth in gangs are turning to ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] ideology. That activities of ISIS are happening in the Maldives is becoming very clear to us. And while this is happening, the government is unable to stop gang activities,” he said.