The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs has claimed that both himself and Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari have no “major issues” with the government despite today’s resignation of Islamic State Minister, Mohamed Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed.
The resignation, which has not yet been officially confirmed by the President’s Office, has been linked by figures within government to alleged differences of opinion between the State Minister for Islamic Affairs and President Mohamed Nasheed, particularly in relation to recent protests that have taken place in the country concerning the work of an Israeli NGO.
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Didi, said he had been taken by “surprise” this afternoon after being informed of the State Minister’s decision to resign by a colleague within the ministry.
“This is a complete surprise to me, I wasn’t aware of the decision until I saw some news reports and a member of staff here then told me,” he said.
Speaking to Minivan News this afternoon, Didi said that although he had yet to speak with Shaheem about his decision to resign, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs would continue to function as normal as Dr Bari remained in his position.
“I don’t see any differences as a result of the resignation while the Minister is still here,” he said. “As part of the Ministry’s policy, there is no difference of opinion between us and the government.”
Dr Bari is a member of the religious Adhaalath Party along with Shaheem.
In looking to at the long term status of the Adhaalath Party in the Islamic Ministry, Didi said it was “a bit early” to tell what sort of action, if any, might be taken as a result of the resignation.
While the President’s Office confirmed that it had received a letter from Shaheem today, it was unable to disclose the contents of the document until they had been seen by the President himself, who is currently away on a visit to the country’s northern atolls.
Press Secretary for the President, Mohamed Zuhair, told Minivan News that in light of a recent number of protests against government policy that had allegedly involved Shaheem, “it was possible that the State Minister may have decided his position was untenable”.
Zuhair claimed that there had perhaps been concern that as both a prominent member of the Islamic Ministry and the religious Adhaalath Party, Shaheem had appeared to “overstep boundaries” by allegedly using his Friday sermons to incite “political protest” and “demonstrations” against the government he worked for.
“Things came to a head this morning when a group of parents from Arabiyya School came to the President’s Office over concerns about funding, a political advisor then held a meeting with them about their concerns,” he said. “Protests then took place outside containing a number of individuals considered to be members of the Adhaalath Party.”
Zuhair claimed that “well wishers” to the government, said to include members of the Adalaath Party, had suggested that some of these protestors may have “met last night with Shaheem”. He claimed that if this was true, then this could have amounted to “provocation” against the government from one of its own state ministers, making Shaheem’s position difficult to maintain.
Both Dr Bari and Shaheem were unable to respond to calls from Minivan News at the time of going to press. However, Shaheem last week spoke at a mass protest meeting gathered against eye surgeries being conducted in the country by an Isreali medical NGO called Eye from Zion, which had met with the president during their visit.
According to Haveeru, the speech given by Shaheem “warned of ‘direct action’ if the government continues with its ‘anti-religious’ policies.”
“The President’s Office sent me a letter giving a warning to not to speak about Islamic studies,” the paper quoted him as saying during his speech. “Where is their shame? What is the meaning when they ask to keep quiet in response to the head of Islamic affairs in the Maldives?”
Correction: The article had originally incorrectly stated that Permanent Secretary Mohamed Didi was a member of the Adhaalath Party. Minivan News apologises for the error.