Government employee, Adam Ghafoor*, was attacked on Sunday in a Malé cafe by a group of eight men accusing him and his friends of homosexuality and atheism.
‘You homosexual atheists are destroying our country – we will not stand back and watch you do it,’ Adam reported the group as saying.
After being accused of being atheists, Adam asked the men to leave, prompting his interrogators to launch an attack – raining blows on him as onlookers watched without offering assistance.
Details of this attack follow further reports received by Minivan News today of abductions made by a vigilante mob attempting to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism.
While drinking coffee with friends after a gym session, Adam and his friends were approached by a man in arabic dress, whom Adam believed may have been prompted by the arrival of his “effeminate” friend.
“You are wearing shorts that don’t cover your awra [intimate parts], you cannot wear such short shorts in this country,” said the arabic dressed man, after requesting that Adam recite the Shahadha, or Islamic creed.
After a heated exchange, three or four members of the group attacked Adam, before threatening to slaughter him in the street should they see them again.
Similarly to Adam’s confrontation, those abducted in recent days have been interrogated on their Islamic faith as well as being accused of homosexuality and atheism.
Minivan News understands the incidents were related to the hijacking of a Facebook group called ‘Colorless’ on Sunday which, after having its content replaced with Islamic symbols, has subsequently been deleted.
Both the police and the President’s Office have again declined to comment today on the growing number of incidents.
The takedown of ‘Colorless’ followed a campaign by the Shariah4Maldives group calling for the removal of anti-Islamic content, although the group has distanced itself from any vigilante activity.
The group today suggested that Minivan News should be the next to be removed, suggesting that the site has allowed the publication of anti-Islamic comments on its articles.
This weekend’s incidents followed local media reports of a meeting between Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali and youth groups who expressed concern over the harassment of Islam and the promotion of homosexuality.
Minivan news has learned that individuals photographed in this meeting – and in a separate meeting with Home Minister Umar Naseer – formed part of the vigilante group that carried out the recent abductions.
Umar Naseer is currently out of the country, and officials at the Home Ministry were unable to provide details of the photographed meeting. Sheikh Shaheem was not responding to calls or texts at the time of publication.
The meeting came just days after the New Zealand media published a story about a Maldivian asylum seeker who has become a prize winning drag artist in Wellington.
Abraham Naim told the Dominion Post that he had claimed asylum for fear of persecution in the Maldives – prompting the President’s Office to assure that any Maldivians seeking asylum abroad on grounds of religion or sexuality could be assured of prosecution upon their return.
Self-exiled blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed – a campaigner for freedom of religion and openly gay – left the Maldives in 2012 after narrowly surviving having his throat slashed.
In 2010, air-traffic controller Ismail Mohamed Didi was found hanged from the control tower at Malé international airport. It was later revealed that Didi was in the process of seeking asylum in the UK after receiving threats.
Minivan News understands that there are currently two Maldivians claiming asylum in the UK, both believed to be on religious grounds – with one having already completed the process.
The latest reports come as Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon released a statement praising the successful consolidation of a liberal democracy in the country and the safeguarding of human rights and individual freedoms.
Marking a decade of democratic reforms, Dunya described that country’s democracy as “vibrant”, and human rights as “blossoming”.
“The Minister called on all Maldivians to never let up the fight for democracy and human rights promotion in the country,” read the statement.
Commenting on the current climate in the country, Adam expressed his opinion that full democratic freedoms could not be realised without religious freedom in the one hundred percent Islamic nation.
“The definition of freedom and democracy has been skewed in this country,” said Adam. “Acceptance and freedom of religion – that is true democracy. In this country it’s a farce.”
Individuals involved in the ‘Colorless’ group, formed in the wake of February 2012’s transfer of power, have suggested that democratic progression has stalled.
“Why is the Secular camp not invited to participate in the political process? If you think your numbers are more, then why not let us join the political discussion without reprisals?” asked an administrator for the ‘Secular Democratic Maldives Movement’.
As well as the more controversial ‘Maldivian Atheists’ page on Facebook, those abducted in recent days have been asked to name administrators behind the ‘Secular Democratic Maldives Movement’ Facebook page.
Police announced an investigation into the ‘Maldivian Atheists’ earlier this year which, in contrast to the more moderate debate commonly featured on ‘Secular Maldives’, has published pictures of the prophet Mohammed as well as images of people defiling the Quran.
*Name changes to protect indivudual’s identity