The Ministry of Islamic Affairs yesterday revealed the government’s Islamic policies and programmes for the year 2014.
Unveiling the policies, the Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali said Islam is a religion of moderation, and that the ministry’s main objective is to maintain the methodology of moderation.
He also said the ministry would strive to unite the Maldivian society and inculcate Islamic values.
Eleven targets were give as key objectives of the ministry:
- Not allowing any religion except Islam in the Maldives
- Strengthening and maintaining the Islamic creed and unity in the country
- Establishing and strengthening Islamic Shi’ar (symbols of greatness and glory of Islam)
- Establishing a strong Zakat (Islamic alms taxation) system in the Maldives.
- Development of National Hajj Corporation to ease pilgrimage
- Ensuring all laws and regulations fit Islamic principles
- Advising state institutions on religious matters, and developing and strengthening the Isamic Fiqh Academy to issue Fatwas
- Strengthening Islamic education
- Widening the range of work to spread the Quranic knowledge
- Building mosques and Islamic centers and broadening the role of mosques
- Improving the internal administration of the ministry
The ministry has laid out a detailed programme to achieve these objectives, a large part of which comprise of Islamic awareness programs.
These include the publication of books, television, and radio programmes, Friday sermons, nation-wide preaching programs, weekly preaching at mosques, daily readings of ‘Riyadul Saliheen’ (written by 13th century Syrian Scholar Imam al-Nawawi) in all mosques in the country.
According to the ministry, publications and media content produced within the Maldives or brought in from abroad will be monitored to ensure it is not in conflict with the ‘the Islamic creed’.
Special focus on children and youth
The ministry’s programmes focus particularly on children and youth,with plans to pressure relevant authorities to broaden Islamic knowledge in the national curriculum. The ministry’s Fiqh Academy is mandated with advising on curriculum reform to enhance compatibility with Islamic principles.
Preaching at school assemblies, special workshops, and a monthly Islamic public forum targeting women and youth have also been planned.
In addition to this, the ministry also plans to publish Islamic books, CDs, and a monthly magazine which will be distributed to all school and public libraries. Newly introduced awareness methods include Islamic camps for children and a ‘Street Dawah’ program. Islamic higher education opportunities will also be provided for students.
Other awareness programs include Islamic marriage guidance, annual Islamic fairs, and regular sessions at prison and rehabilitation centers. The ministry will be collaborating with ‘Discover Islam’ – a Bahraini religious NGO – to organise several awareness programmes.
Quran and mosques
In terms of Quran recitation, the ministry aims to train 500 Hafiz (people who memorise the complete Arabic text of the Quran) within ten years and 90 Quran teachers within the year. Quran classes will be held for children and adults all around the country and private Quran teaching centers will receive the ministry’s assistance.
The ministry will coordinate the construction of forty mosques within the year. Fourteen of these mosques are already under construction with MVR72.6 million from national budget. MVR65.2 million has been allocated in this year’s budget for the construction of seventeen mosques.
From the Mosque ‘Waqf’ Fund established in 2013, MVR3 million has been allocated for the construction of two mosques. A ten-storey building named ‘Darul Iman’ will be constructed to sustain the fund.
Saudi Arabia has also agreed to donate seven mosques this year, MVR28.8 million has already been allocated for six of these mosques.
The concept of moderation in Islam was stressed by minister Shaheem, though calls for ‘moderation’ have already been criticised by prominent members of the ruling coalition.
The Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and it’s coalition members campaigned for the presidential elections on a religious platform, vowing to ‘protect Islam’ from ‘irreligious’ former President Mohamed Nasheed.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – Nasheed in particular – accused the PPM and its coalition members of abusing Islam as a political weapon.
During the campaign minister Shaheem said that he prayed for “Allah to curse Nasheed by setting dogs on him”.
Last year Nasheed was criticised and labeled irreligious for supporting Islamic moderation and his criticism of Wahhabism, while the violent protests that lead to the Nasheed’s resignation – in what he describes as a coup d’etat – were also fueled by similar accusations.
Just two months prior to the transfer, a huge gathering calling to ‘defend Islam’ was held by the coalition aligned parties, while opposition MDP held a rally calling for ‘moderation’.
“We don’t know there is a moderate, higher or lower Islam. We only know Islam,” coalition member Jumhoree Party’s leader Gasim Ibrahim, while Nasheed asked his supporters,“should we ban music? Should we circumcise girls? Because we won’t allow these things, we are being accused of moving away from religion.”