Letter on prejudice

The origin of Maldivians has part of roots from the African continent. It’s been written in history books and is openly talked about by elders in some islands, especially one in Alif Atoll where the complexion of the entire community is 100 percent black and most people have curly hair.

For over thirty years, the African community has been very productive in various sectors of the economy and social structure in Maldives. We have Black African GM’s & Financial Controllers, Engineers, Doctors, Divers in resorts. The Red Cross / IFCR have were managed by Africans until Maldivians took over recently. The agriculture sector derives its consultancy from an African expert and a number of new resorts have been constructed by African engineers.

Every top football team, basketball team or volleyball team have Africans as key players and they bring joy to thousands of fans.

We are black and we are proud of who we are. It is not our choice to have the dark complexion and as human beings we consider ourselves similar to other races of people. As recently stated by one of the religious scholars, we are all the same and no one is higher than the other except the Almighty God.

TVM (Television Maldives) has publicly and openly mocked and disgraced the African race on its comedy clips last night during the Nigeria match. A few of us understand Dhivehi very well, and a number of us married to Maldivians.

It is shameful and prejudiced to suggest that our colour is a mistake from God. Something so horrible and bad, that we Africans are trying to become lighter, cannot be further from the truth.

I do not need to rewrite the ‘crude jokes’ TVM telecasted last night, however, on behalf of the African community in Maldives, we find such comments disgraceful, personal, racist, and this clearly show the unprofessionalism of TVM. We may be a handful but we play a major role in this economy and social welfare, and the least we or anyone could expect is respect for what we are.

We demand an apology, not written, but announced as this issue goes against our rights. No individual, body or government has a right to discredit or disgrace race, culture or religious beliefs of others.

Thank you.

An African living in the Maldives

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22 thoughts on “Letter on prejudice”

  1. Our racism transcends most definitions of the term.

    Racism is looked down upon by most civilized society. In the Maldives, even parliamentarians label expatriates as 'bangalhees' and blacks as 'baburu' people.

    It makes me cringe every time, but it seems to be socially acceptable for some reason.

    Not many Maldivians are capable of treating others with the same kind of respect or dignity that they expect for themselves.

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  2. Go suck a lemon. A million people get offended over humor everyday. Go with the programme.

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  3. only if our kids were taught how to respect others and history of maldives and human species..
    We live in a delusion.
    Yes people joke one many things and we should not be offended, BUT we should know what is a joke and what is an offense? if the joke was constructed in a way it gives the meaning that blacks were a mistake of God etc, then i certainly don't think its a joke.

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  4. black is black. the negroid race must accept they are black. announcing this fact is not racism.

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  5. Many maldivians are not aware of the history of racism. they are not aware of how oppression of black people looked like or how seriously brutal and ugly it was. neither do they know how tough the struggle for freedom was. that sort of racism did not take place here. we have african blood. a large number of us resemble people from nothern africans. many maldivians have married people from africa, without facing any racial problems from the community or families. so i don't think that our culture is racist, but there maybe a small number of people who have racist beliefs. but as a culture, i dont think we are.

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  6. i have worked with an African person from Gana, who turned out to be a huge racist! every time he discriminated me i had to point him out that he is, but then he starts playing i am black thing with me. it was awful. it was very hard to work with him because every single day he would just sit in front of me and complain about Maldivian people and our country!! and call us very dumb. it was very rude of him. he never agreed to the fact that he was being a racist, but because of that man my views about black did change a little bit but i am not a racist.

    in my apartment condo there are black couples who will hold the main door for white people but when they see me coming in they shut the door on my face just after letting the white people in.

    i have found black people to be more racist to Asians than white. maybe its all because they always feel like they have suffered so much and we should suffer too for that reason!

    anyway this is just what i have experienced.

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  7. Many Maldivians are not aware of the fact that they are being discriminated by treating them differently. In resorts, international agencies, government and NGO foreigner's are paid more then Maldivians. why cant minivan news report about that issue just to make it a balanced news.

    Everyone is talking about the annoying bee sound coming from television but it is not about discriminating black people.the players of FIFA are talking about it too.

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  8. ehehe we are talking abt a society which is racist towards its own people, towards one another. How do you expect us to respect others when we don't respect our own?
    Like Yaamin said, Calling ALL expatriates Bangaalhee is the norm here, just like calling anyone from the Inner Atolls, Raajjetherey or personaly I, from the southern most atoll of Addu have been called "Addu Goobaddaa" a thousand and one times, and we reciprocate by hating and insulting ppl from Male'.
    Wannabe civilized, illiterate barbarians, thats what most of us are, here in the Maldives,and of course "All generalizations are false, including this one" as Mark Twain said.

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  9. I saw the clip referred to by the author and in my view it is offensive and racist. There are so many funny incidents but TVM seems to concentrate on interviews and people yelling. For me it is neither humorous nor funny.

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  10. It is, in my opinion, simply a matter of poor education and awareness. We have not been a member of the international community for so long and therefore do not have a palpable sense of what the apartheid, the holocaust, the American civil rights movement or even the ongoing conflict in Darfur really is. We have a love-hate relationship with Europeans whereby we admire and emulate them and yet react xenophobically to their attempts to administrate and better our society.

    Most of us are unaware that we are racially composed of a Tamil substratum and Sinhalese elements in the South with further racial mixing over the years. We reject our Indus Valley Civilization roots and have bought into Arab neo-colonialism wholesale. This is not a conscious rejection but one that comes about by being unaware of who we really are.

    We have a strong historical connection with the people of our region but through miseducation and faulty emphasis on Portuguese occupation we often do not feel this connection, hence, the use of derogatory terms such as "Bangaalhee" and "Baburun". We also do not feel the need to be politically correct in our speech and actions. However, most Maldivians, regardless of making foot-in-the-mouth comments, do not outwardly display the type of racism that is common in Europe and European colonies.

    Maldivian television caters to the lowest common denominator with almost no entertainment for the cultural, social and academic elite in the country and therefore reflects the attitudes and preferences of a demographic which have been denied proper education and exposure to foreign cultures and history since time immemorial. Therefore, I feel the educated and intellectual expatriates amomng us should be more understanding and sensitive to such issues. However, TVM, should, as suggested, take the initiative to apologize and take this opportunity to sensitize the populace to issues such as race.

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  11. We have to understand that these stuff r made by people who have not had much opportunity to get exposure from the outside world. They are mostly secondary or primary school leavers and hence it is difficult for them to empathize the impact that their actions might have on others.
    Deep apologies to the writer as Maldivian. But this all come from ignorance and a lack of exposure to the outside world. Things will change in the future hopefully. Thanks.

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  12. I have heard Maldivians denigrate Maumoon as a "nigger," yes...that exact word, because apparently there is meant to be some African blood in the ancestry which can be traced way back What surprised me was the frankness with which they said it...as though I was meant to be impressed by their superiority for being able to be so racist and politically incorrect... But, if a person with perhaps one hundredth percent of negro is a "nigger" then imagine what a full bood negro is to such???

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  13. I am an African who lived and worked in Maldives for three years. During my time there, I made good friends but also had some downs. I have not watched the cartoon in question but if that were the case, the animators at TVM created them with influence of their ignorance rather than prejudice.

    One thing I learnt while I was in Maldives, and I worked in many islands, is that most people had not had interaction with the outside world. I do remember, with amusement, how a Maldivian friend insisted I visit her home in the island so that her mother could have an opportunity of seeing an African. I was not offended. I obliged. After all it would be an opportunity to tell her something about Africa that she didn’t know or always assumed. That most countries in Africa are actually more developed than Maldives. And that Africa wasn’t a diseased place as it is often portrayed by the Western media.

    Anyway, what amused me most is that my friend and her family members had darker skin than mine and than a majority of my countrymen. Yet her mother wanted to touch me and see if my skin was really that black! I told them that my country had wildlife, minerals, forests, an ocean, a couple of islands and a number of island resorts just as Maldives had. I also told them how my country had more than ten top quality universities and how the literacy rate was high. I did take my friend to visit my home country and even took her to my home village. She was pleasantly surprised and her perception changed.

    So while I understand where the writer of this letter is coming from, I think what s/he could have done was to try to inform what Africa was all about. I am proud to be an African, and I am not ashamed of my colour. I do not look at people based on the hue of their skins, but by what they are underneath.

    But what amused me most about living in Maldives was the trips I had to make out of the country. My job demanded regular travel and everytime I returned to Male, the staff at the immigration and health desks would just act as if they got their ‘catch’. It didn’t matter to them I had lived in Male and had gone to Singapore, or London, or Delhi, or Dubai for a few days and back – they needed my health certificate. Their questions about vaccinations would follow. The most fascinating was “when did you last have malaria?”. I haven’t had malaria all my life – but then my country doesn’t have dengue, which once I got in Maldives. I took my every visit to the health desk as an opportunity to educate the health professionals a little about health issues in Africa.

    I am a medical doctor by background, though I worked in a different sector in your country. Yet upon a visit to a hospital in Male a medical practitioner recommended that I take a double dose of some medication because Africans were too strong and the ‘normal’ dose wouldn’t work for them. Then there was a work colleague who asked if we had beautiful houses back home. I joked that we lived on trees and that I was afraid mine had overgrown with leaves because I was in Maldives for long. When I showed him photos of my 6-bedroomed maisonette he was a little surprised.

    It doesn’t matter what level of education one has, a bit of exposure is what helps. I remember reading a story by a ‘history authority’ about the orign of bodu beru in Haveeru. The writer said that bidu beru had its origin in Africa. Congratulations followed about how well researched the article was. But it didn’t occur to many that saying the origin of something is Africa is same as saying that the origin of something is Asia. Probably the writer meant to say Eastern Africa because the beats from Central, Western, Southern and Northern Africa are certainly different. Africa is as wide as Asia. Just as you cannot call a Korean a Maldivian, you cannot call a Somali an African.

    I can only hope that more and more in the Maldivian society get to learn about other cultures and countries. As for TVM, they certainly need to research their programmes well. The world has become almost borderless now, and it is time to get out of ‘our country’ cocoons.

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  14. I should qualify what I mean by “Just as you cannot call a Korean a Maldivian, you cannot call a Somali an African.” Their ‘Asianness’ and ‘Africanness’ are very broad parameters. Indeed all Koreans (regardless of colour) are Asians and all Somalis (regardless of colour) are Africans.

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  15. That's odd. I call all my African friends "niggers", and they call me a "gook". (Yes, it's all in good fun)

    I thought taking offense to those names was old hat?.

    Or did I miss something far worse?

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  16. i think the TVM clip in question was in bad taste. most of the clips on ‘dhandufoaru’ are. i dont understand why they keep showing it. if the public are so easily amused over such crass things, it doesn’t say much about us as people surely.

    This is not the first time TVM has behaved with utter lack of regard for ethics. they have this crappy midnight show called "dhanvidhanvihen" where they showed a song sent in from an island in the Maldives. So, they had made this video to Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl and had kids ages ranging from 8 to surely no more than 12 or 13 dancing lewdly to the track. I was just flabbergasted at this sexualization of children and thought it was alarming that TVM would consider it funny enough (the hosts were laughing and cheering it on, in the commentary that followed) to air on live, national TV.

    I mean it’s one thing that whoever sent it thought it was a good attempt but for state television to broadcast it tsk tsk…I mean shouldn’t there a responsible code of conduct for them to follow? Who is monitoring this conduct and why is this being allowed in today’s society – it is a disgrace!

    I was similarly aghast at the poor broadcast that is ‘dhandufoari’ and would like to deeply apologize on behalf of many humane Maldivians to our African friends. This shouldn’t have happened and should not be tolerated!

    Responsible Journalism Everywhere!

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  17. I haven't watched the video the writer is talking about. But let me share something I have experienced. I work in England as a teacher and some of my friends happen to be from African countries. One of them, who is from Nigeria, once we invited to join us to play football, asked me "Can u even run?"...I said yes but it was difficult for him to believe that Asians could play football...So what Im trying to say is not to judge the whole of Maldivian community based on the comments of one individual/organisation...

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  18. very very ignorant.it is 2010...we should know our history. when u insult africa and africans..we r truly insulting ourselves. tvm should stop displaying their ignorance. i am a maldivian living in new york...do u think anyone sees me as any other color...but black.i embrace my african brothers and sisters...and im appalled by this,,,please accept my sincere apology for my people's ignorance...for they know not what they do.

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  19. when a child is born the first question everyone asks is 'baby dhontha?' (is the baby fair - as in light skinned?) I dont know how we have gotten into this mindset. Most of us stand barely 5 ft tall and of course doesnt possess the looks of brad pitt. this is insane. Im deeply saddened and as a Maldivian I apoligize to the agrieved African community in Maldives for this latest 'joke' by TVM.

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  20. What I understood from our African friend above, Dr. Zulu is that he is not happy when is called an "African" although he is. He prefers to be A European with white Skin. The problem is not with his friend or his mother in the island but him. Did his friend in the island want his mother to see a black man or an African? Its clear from his statement: His friend's mother had never seen an African so she wanted to see one from the African Continent and not a Black man in that respect. No racism was involved in this case, as far as i see it.
    I remember one day when i was in a Srilankan village ,in Moratuwa, when two old ladies nearby came to the house where i was staying and they wanted to see me because they had never seen a Maldivian before.They came and touched me and were happy to see a Maldivian . Now, was that racism! No, not at all! Because the skin complexion of the people our two countries are of the same with no difference which was something all Srilankans knew. So Dr. Zulu's talk of nonsense is of his concerns and not that of ours.

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