The former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has strongly condemned “irresponsible and misleading” political rhetoric against former President Mohamed Nasheed over his remarks on Islamic radicalism during an address to the Danish parliament.
“Misleading” statements were made in the media by political parties and “those wearing the hat of sheikhs to use religion as a weapon,” the MDP said in a press release yesterday (April 30).
“The party believes that this is done to sow discord, unrest and chaos in this peaceful Maldivian land,” the opposition party said.
The condemnation follows a statement by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) earlier this week accusing the MDP presidential candidate of labeling Muslims as “extremists,” insulting Islam and allegedly portraying himself as “a warrior engaged in a mighty effort against Islam, to please the people of false religions.”
The government-aligned religious party had reiterated its claim that former President Nasheed was pursuing “a secular agenda” with support and encouragement from “missionaries of false religions.”
The self-titled ‘National Movement’ led by the Adhaalath Party meanwhile protested on the streets of Male’ on Monday night (April 29) calling for Nasheed to be “hanged” for apostasy.
The movement was born out of the unofficial December 23, 2011 coalition of eight political parties – now part of the coalition government of President Dr Mohamed Waheed – and an alliance of NGOs that rallied at a mass gathering to “defend Islam” from Nasheed’s allegedly liberal policies.
On the same night as the national movement’s protest, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom contended that Maldivians faced a choice between a secular, anti-national ideology and an Islamic-nationalistic ideology best represented by his Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
In a thinly-veiled reference to the MDP, Gayoom accused the former ruling party of trying to impose Western secularism on the Maldives to “put the country in control of an anti-Islamic organisation.”
The government-aligned PPM also claimed that Nasheed “shamed the nation” with his allegedly anti-Islamic remarks.
“A former president of a 100 percent Islamic nation speaking in such a fashion, insulting the religion of Islam and mocking Prophet Muhammed is a derogatory act that brings disgrace to the country in front of other Islamic nations,” the largest party in the ruling coalition said in a statement.
At a question and answer session following his lecture at the Denmark parliament last month, former President Nasheed said that the spread of radical Islam or Wahhabism throughout the Middle East and East Asia was “very worrying.”
“This is not Islam necessarily but more a Hejaz or Saudi thinking – their culture. And it is an idea to impose that culture upon all Islamic societies. And I’m afraid that the spread of that thinking is very, very rapid, partly because we haven’t stood up and given an alternative narrative,” Nasheed explained in response to a question asking for his viewpoint on the struggle between “progressives and reactionaries” within Islam.
Nasheed added that moderates have not offered “a proper narrative that can counter the radical Islamic viewpoint.”
“Now, what the radicals are doing, they have an answer for everything, anything. You can ring up in the middle of the night and say, ‘Sheikh, I’m not able to sleep.’ And then the Sheikh would give you a hadith (Prophet’s sayings) and a revelation on what the Prophet did and what God has prescribed on sleeping in the middle of the night and then you go back to sleep,” Nasheed had said, prompting the allegations this week that the remarks constituted a mockery of Islam or the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh).
“We don’t a helpline. We don’t have an alternative narrative,” he said, adding that moderate Muslims should propagate “the actual version of Islam.”
Nasheed suggested that Islam needed “a reformation” similar to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
“Because Maldives is a very Islamic country, apparently, it is able to play a very important role in the spread of these religious ideas. And similarly, I believe that with proper democracy in the Maldives we can play a very important role as a counter to the reformation, or rather the Jesuits have to come up quickly,” he said.
Pro-government broadcaster DhiTV however reported the remarks as Nasheed calling for “a Christian missionary-like organisation to come out against the Islamic extremist ideology spreading fast in the Maldives.”
The MDP meanwhile said in its statement that it was “regrettable” that local sheikhs were “providing misleading and false information” to the public for “short-term” political purposes, which was leading to loss of respect for religious scholars in Maldivian society.
Former President Nasheed called on moderate Muslims to stand up against extremism, the press release stressed.
The MDP noted that accusing a fellow Muslim of apostasy was forbidden in Islam.
Former President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, who recently joined the MDP, was quoted in the party’s statement as saying that the sheikhs were more deserving of the “laadheenee” (irreligious or secular) label as the alleged coup d’etat they orchestrated was also haram (prohibited) in Islam.
The MDP statement called on all parties to be more “responsible” while making statements concerning religion.
As Islam was a “moderate” religion based on peace and fraternity, the party appealed for politics to be kept out of religious debates.
Meanwhile, speaking at a campaign rally on the island of Meedhoo in Dhaalu Atoll on Monday night, Nasheed said that the laadheenee (secular) label was used by the then-opposition as a false pretext to topple the government.
The allegation was “saddening” and “worrying” as the members of MDP were also brought up as Muslims and taught Islam just as any other Maldivian, Nasheed said.
The belief that the “only path for salvation in this life” was following the principles of Islam was deeply-rooted “in the bottom of our hearts,” he added.
“God willing, we will remain upon that belief and no policy will be formulated or implemented in the Maldives any other way,” he said.
In a speech the previous night in Faafu Bilehdhoo, Nasheed said Adhaalath Party scholars “sold out Islam” to bring about a coup d’etat on Febraury 7, 2012.
In his lecture in Denmark, Nasheed argued that “the Islamists were never a credible electoral threat.”
“The Islamic extremists also didn’t like the Maldives’ new democracy because they were unpopular. They failed to win the Presidential elections in 2008, they failed to win local government elections – in 2011 they won less that four percent of the vote. But now, after the coup, extremists have been rewarded with three cabinet positions in government, and in many ways set the tone of government communications. They are busy trying to indoctrinate people with a misguided version of Islam,” Nasheed said.
In its statement, the Adhaalath Party objected to Nasheed implying that the party had “no influence or power,” insisting that the former president “feared” the religious conservative party.
The party accused Nasheed of “placing idols” in Maldivian lands – a reference to the SAARC monuments gifted to the country by other South Asian nations during the 2011 SAARC Summit hosted in Addu Atoll – and of “giving our assets to foreigners” – a reference to the concession agreement to manage and upgrade the international airport granted to Indian firm GMR.
Nasheed meanwhile pledged to “remove the Islamist rhetoric from the official discourse” for the Maldives to become a more tolerant, liberal society.
He went on to accuse the former dictatorship of organising the alleged coup d’etat on February 7, 2012 “because they could see the edifice of their economic and political power crumbling.”
“It was crumbling because Maldivians had rejected authoritarianism, rejected feudalism and largely rejected Islamic extremism,” Nasheed said.