The Maldives missed an opportunity to demonstrate “the nobility of Islamic Sharia” to the world by reacting in “a Jihadi spirit” to controversial statements made by visiting UN human rights chief last month, President Mohamed Nasheed said at a rally Friday night.
A call for a moratorium and public debate on flogging as a punishment for fornication by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in an address to parliament on November 24 was unequivocally condemned by the Islamic Ministry, religious groups and political parties as an unconstitutional challenge to a Quranic precept.
“That the punishments and rulings of Islamic Sharia are not inhumane is very clear to us,” Nasheed said. “We have the opportunity to show the whole world how noble and civilised Sharia is. That is because we are the only Islamic nation with a democratically-elected government.”
“Wasting that opportunity in a Jihadi spirit” with the claim of “defending Islam” was unacceptable, Nasheed told supporters at the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally at Dharubaaruge, which saw the launching of a ‘Plus One’ campaign to double party membership ahead of the 2013 presidential election.
“Opposition parties will always attack us by using religion as a weapon,” he said. “[But] believe that this country is the only Islamic nation where Islamic Sharia has been practiced uninterrupted for 700 years.”
Islamic chief justices and principles of Sharia law had “a sacred place” in the Maldives’ long history, Nasheed observed, which “will not be shaken.”
“Maldivians are not a people who will allow the slightest harm to Islam,” he said. “We know how civilised the religion of Islam is.”
MDP understood that Islam “brought the world out of jahiliyya [ignorance] onto the path of civilisation,” he continued, adding that the party was committed to protecting the culture and traditions of the country.
In the past three years, he noted, the government spent Rf1.2 billion on “the protection of Islamic faith” (page 200 of the MDP manifesto), including the construction of 40 new mosques across the country.
Nasheed said he had been writing about the decay of the Gemmiskiy in Fuvahmulah, an ancient coral stone mosque, since 1990.
Meanwhile in a press conference on Thursday, seven opposition parties announced it would be joining the coalition of NGOs for a nationwide mass protest planned for December 23 “to protect Islam” against the MDP government’s alleged “anti-Islamic agenda.”
Speaking at the Friday night rally, MDP Vice-President and MP for Feydhoo, Alhan Fahmy, strongly criticised opposition parties and religious groups for objecting to the Pakistani SAARC monument, which contained pagan symbols of the Indus Valley civilisation and a bust of the country’s founder Mohamed Ali Jinah topped by the Islamic crescent symbol.
“The time when people worshiped idols, when people worshiped people and the public worshiped rulers in this country is over and done with,” he said.
Alhan accused religious groups and scholars of the Adhaalath Party for employing “religion as a shield” for political purposes.
“Instead of bringing people from Egypt for Ramadan revival programmes, we gave the opportunity for Maldivian scholars to speak and deliver sermons,” he said, in contrast to the former regime “jailing them and shaving their beards with chili sauce.”
Alhan also argued that accusing senior officials of the MDP government as well as the party’s members of kufr (disbelief) went against Islamic principles in a Muslim society.
He urged the Adhaalath Party to cease “sowing discord” with accusations against fellow Muslims and suggested the religious conservative party “talk about something else if you want to come to power.”
President Nasheed meanwhile suggested that “the people today are too aware and enlightened” to believe the charges laid against the government.
“We know what the people of the Maldives want. We don’t have to watch TV stations to find it out,” he said, referring to the opposition-aligned privately-owned broadcasters DhiTV and VTV.
Nasheed observed that the MDP received 53 percent of the total votes cast in the by-elections for vacant council seats in Alif Alif Himandhoo, Faafu Bilehdhoo and Gnaviyani Fuvahmulah on November 19.
“In 2013, I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that we will take 60 percent of the vote in the first round,” he asserted, claiming that there was “no other party in the country yet” that could meaningfully compete with the MDP.