Defending the government’s stance on extremism and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has told the Majlis the “Maldives will not allow Maldivians to go and fight in foreign wars.”
Shaheem told MPs today that Islamic scholars have criticised and expressed concern over ISIS policies, and stressed that Western powers also faced the challenge in preventing their citizens from joining ISIS.
He did not provide specifics on preventive mechanisms, and declined to respond to a question by MP Ibrahim Mohamed Didi on whether ISIS constituted a threat to Maldives national security.
According to Jihadist media groups, at least four Maldivians have been killed while fighting in the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, reports of Maldivians travelling abroad to Syria have increased this year.
In October, 23-year-old Ibrahim Ahsan departed to Syria with his wife, mother and 10-year-old sister, telling his father that the Maldives was a “land of sin”. On November 6, the Maldives Police Services and Sri Lankan police apprehended three Maldivians at the airport, on their way to Syria via Turkey.
“We do not support their [ISIS] extremist policies. We have repeatedly appealed to our beloved youth to refrain from falling prey to these ideologies,” he said.
The government had taken action to stop Maldivians from praying in independent congregations, he said.
The ministry first advises individuals who take part in authorised prayer congregations, and only takes action against their leaders if the congregations do not stop, he said.
The Imam of an unauthorised independent prayer congregation in Malé was arrested in early October after he prayed for God to destroy the government and for victory against the “irreligious” administration that was attempting to “obstruct the spreading of Allah’s message”.
Under the Religious Unity Act, permission and written approval must be sought from the Islamic Ministry to preach, give sermons, and issue religious edicts.
Shaheem said the Islamic Ministry has also received reports of unauthorised prayer congregations in island communities and reports of illegal out-of-court marriages.
“From our side, Islamic scholars and ministry’s scholars have been sent to meet these communities and religious advice programmes are ongoing,” he said.
The programme has been successful, he claimed, adding that religious advice had stopped several young people from participating in unauthorised congregations.
The Islamic ministry has also blocked several websites that published offensive cartoons or articles that harass the Qur’an and Prophet Mohamed in order to strengthen religious unity, he said.
The ministry has facilitated opportunity for those who wanted to commit the Qur’an to memory, and is planning videoconferencing lessons to students who want to study the Qur’an in the atolls.
Shaheem said he is “satisfied” with the government’s religious policy and appealed to the public for support.
“President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom’s administration is doing tremendous work to revive religious unity in the Maldives, uphold Islamic identity and strengthen faith.”
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