The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has claimed it will be taking action against religious scholars who spread ‘false information’ about Islam, in a bid to tackle rising concerns over fundamentalism in the country.
State Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said this action would extend to revoking the licenses of these scholars once the requisite regulation in the Religious Unity Act was returned from the Attorney General’s office this week.
“We will investigate these matters and in the future an advisory board will be appointed to make these decisions,” Shaheem explained.
The first scholar to likely have his license cancelled under the new regulations will be Sheikh Nasrulla, Shaheem said, after the Islamic Ministry received complaints about the Sheikh from the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM).
In a letter to the ministry dated last October, HRCM reported that during a Ramadan sermon to teachers in Gaafu Alifu Villingili, Sheikh Nasrulla encouraged people “to get their daughters married when they are nine years old.”
“We have information that he said ‘my daughter was also married when she was 9 years old’,” HRCM said in the letter, stating that this practice conflicted with human rights.
The commission also noted that “while it is not prohibited to get married at such a young age in Islam, when scholars speak and spread information like this, children’s studies are ruined and they are forced to marry when they are psychologically and physically unprepared for it.”
“We respectfully request [the Islamic Ministry] stop these acts as it confuses people about the Islamic religion and brings intense hatred towards it.”
President of HRCM Ahmed Saleem said today that the Islamic Ministry’s decision to take concrete action against scholars preaching such practices was “very encouraging.”
“I think the ministry has been quietly trying to do things in the background, but it hasn’t been working and they seem to have decided to go public,” Saleem said. “A lot of people have been shifting blame on the Ministry.”
HRCM sent the letter to the Islamic Ministry last year following complaints from the community that young girls were being married, and asked the ministry to investigate the matter.
“I don’t think Nasrulla is the only one preaching it; just taking action against Nasrulla is not enough,” Saleem said.
He agreed that there was “to some extent” conflict between human rights and certain interpretations of Islam present in the Maldives.
“My sense is that people understand human rights as a western concept, but that is not the case,” Saleem said.
“If you talk to some scholars human rights is very much part of Islam – Islam itself preaches human rights.”