Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has urged Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars.
The appeal comes after reports of at least two Maldivian men being killed in the Syrian civil war during May.
According to an online media group called Bilad Al Sham Media, a 44-year-old Maldivian man died in a suicide attack on May 25 and another was killed two days later in a gun fight against soldiers loyal to Bashar Al Assad.
“[Islam] does not permit shedding another [Muslim] brother’s blood,” Shaheem said noting a high rate of civilian casualties in wars being fought in Muslim countries elsewhere.
Often, wars are being waged between different Muslim factions leading to the death of Muslim women, children, and elderly people and the destruction of mosques and homes, the Islamic Minister said at a press conference today.
“Islamic Jihad is that waged with sincerity, in the name of Allah, in defense of religion and nation, behind a designated Muslim leader, and against enemies of Islam and nation,” he said.
“Hence, rather than destroying oneself in conflicts of an unknown nature, the Islamic Ministry believes it is better to serve one’s own parents, families, and country,” he continued.
“[We] beseech all Maldivian youth and citizens, who love Islam, to refrain from participating in conflicts between one Muslim group and another. It is better to allow the citizens of the country in war to solve their own problems.”
Foreign interference obstructs citizens of a country from achieving their goals and allows governments to claim they are not fighting their own citizens, but foreigners, said Shaheem.
He further said that neither Islamic scholars nor citizens of war torn countries have asked for foreign interference. Instead, they ask foreigners to leave and allow them to solve their internal affairs.
“We must [only] pray for the beloved citizens of those countries under war,” he said before calling on the international community to do more to end bloodshed and conflict in Muslim countries.
‘Good intentions, but the wrong path’
In issuing today’s fatwa, the Islamic Ministry had consulted both local scholars and scholars from Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, Shaheem told the press afterwards.
“All [local scholars] of them in general agree people must not go there, to ongoing wars. It is not about deciding if it is a Jihad or not, even if it is Jihad, not to go to foreign countries. When foreigners intervene, it creates even more conflict. Instead of achieving goals, it contributes to greater internal conflict and greater disagreements”
Shaheem said Maldivian militants who go abroad must not be punished, but be rehabilitated and informed of religious teachings.
No Muslim scholar in the Maldives has called on Maldivians to participate in foreign wars, “but there are youth, who get emotional from what they see, of the suffering of Muslims, there are Maldivian youths who want to avenge that,” he said.
Their intention may be good, but the path they have chosen is not the right path, he said.
“I do not believe it is the right way. If it is an Islamic jihad, it is for a very holy purpose, the leader of the struggle has to be clear, their manifesto of what is to happen after the war has to be clear, whether it will give victory for Islam. Only if all of this clear, can one go into war,” he said.
Admitting to growing radicalisation in the Maldives, Shaheem said the media and scholars must help the government in its effort to educate the public.
Radicalisation begins with praying in separate communities, refusing to register marriages at court, and declaring other Muslims infidels, Shaheem said.
In February, the government shut down the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque to stop unauthorised Friday prayers by a group described as “extremists”
According to local media, the congregation prayed to Allah to weaken and current government and its leaders and prayed for ill-health and calamity to befall senior government officials, the Islamic Ministry and city council.
In May, the US State Department in the 2013 country report on terrorism said the Maldivian government believes that funds are being raised in the country to support terrorism abroad. However, the Maldives Monetary Authority denied the claim in a subsequent press release.