Additional reporting by Mariyath Mohamed.
MP of the government-aligned Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), Dr Afrasheem Ali, was brutally stabbed to death outside his home on Monday night.
The member for Ungoofaaru constituency in Raa Atoll was murdered after returning home from appearing on the TVM show “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Life) with Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Qubad Aboobakuru.
The show finished around 11:00pm, and Afrasheem’s body was discovered by his wife at the bottom of the stairs of their apartment building shortly after midnight.
The MP had been stabbed four times in the back of the head and a chunk of his skull was missing, according to reports on VTV. He also suffered stab wounds to the chest and neck.
The MP was rushed to ADK hospital where he was pronounced dead. The hospital was placed under heavy security.
Others present at the hospital in addition to police officers and citizens included former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, his daughter and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dhunya Maumoon, his half-brother and People’s Alliance (PA) leader Abdulla Yameen, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, Deputy of the PPM Umar Naseer, Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb, Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP) Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, Police Commissioner Abdulla Riyaz, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Reeko Moosa Manik, and a large number of MPs.
Much of the opposition’s senior contingent left for campaigning in the southern atolls yesterday, however the murder was widely condemned on twitter by its officials including Moosa, MP Sameer and the party’s UK Spokesperson Dr Farah Faizal.
In a live press conference shortly after 3:00am, Police Commissioner Riyaz called for restraint.
“I call on all to show restraint. I further call on all to not blame anyone at this time, and to not incite further acts in relation to this,” Riyaz stated.
Speaker Shahid – a DRP member – spoke from the hospital, announcing that parliament would be postponed until Wednesday.
“This will be observed as a national sorrow. I extend sincere condolences to Afrasheem’s family. I hope we can all act in unity in these sad times. I call on the investigative forces to solve this case and find those responsible for this heinous crime at the earliest possible time,” Shahid said.
“Dr Afrasheem Ali was very sincere in his work at the Majlis, and was honest and assertive. We always received his cooperation in the work of Majlis. We have lost a valuable son of the Maldives. May god bless his soul and grant him paradise.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs noted Dr Afrasheem’s “valuable services”.
“The Ministry sends condolences to the family and prays the deceased is granted paradise. Minister Sheik Shaheem Mohamed Ali Saeed calls on the authorities to give the harshest possible punishment to those who have committed this brutal crime.”
President of the Human Rights Commission, Mariyam Azra, said she was “in complete shock”.
“I only heard of this when VTV called. I am in complete shock… I condemn this act. This should not at all occur in a society like ours. I pray that God blesses his soul and grants him paradise,” Azra told local media.
President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has declared that the National Flag be flown at half-mast, from 2 October 2012 till the end of 4 October 2012.
There were unconfirmed reports that police had arrested a suspect in connection with the murder. Minivan News is trying to confirm this.
President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad meanwhile forwarded an SMS to foreign media declaring that “Nasheed’s strongest critic Dr Afrasheem has been brutally murdered.”
Dr Afrasheem was elected to parliament in 2009 as a member of the then-opposition Dhivehi Rayithunge Party (DRP). Following the opposition’s split, Afrasheem sided with the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and faded into the political background.
Widely considered an Islamic moderate, Dr Afrasheem took outspoken and controversial positions on issues such as the permissibility of playing music, and praying next to the deceased.
Newspaper Haveeru reported on September 10 that Afrasheem had participated in a ‘scholar’s dialogue’ with Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed, who had remarked on his conflicting positions on many issues compared to the majority of Maldivian scholars.
During his final television appearance last night, Dr Afrasheem spoke of there being no other God than Allah, and how he disagreed with some people who he claimed used different objects as a mediator.
Afrasheem insisted that he had never ever spoken of anything regarding religion which was not stated in the Quran or sayings of the Prophet (PBUH). He acknowledged that some people had raised questions about his stands, and said this could be due to misunderstandings.
As an example, he said he had been told recently by a local TV host that people were made kafir (non-believer) through certain acts, saying he had immediately responded that a believing Muslim could not be labelled a kafir just because he would not grow his beard or shorten his trousers, as long as he believed in the one God and the tenets of Islam.
Afrasheem also said that people in the Maldives and abroad who loved Islam sometimes made such statements, but said they did not really possess the knowledge of a scholar and that this position was wrong. Afrasheem stated that he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception in their minds due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.
He was attacked several times in 2008, including being hit in the head with a stone on May 27 on his way home from work, and was assaulted after he finished Friday prayers as an Imam in the Ibrahim Mosque in January. His car window was smashed while he was driving through Male’ on March 18, 2012.
The murdered MP was also formerly Parliament’s member of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), until he was replaced in mid-2011 by Jumhoree Party (JP) Leader, resort tycoon Gasim Ibrahim.
The MDP had campaigned for Afrasheem’s removal from the judicial watchdog, after he dismissed Article 285 of the Constitution – demanding that all judges who do not meet its newly stipulated qualifications be dismissed after two years of it coming into force – as “symbolic”.
Afrasheem is the second member of the JSC to be stabbed in the street, following an attack on former President’s member on the commission, Aishath Velezinee, in early 2011.
Dr Afrasheem is to receive a State funeral and will be buried after Asr Prayers.
Dr Afrasheem’s final TV appearance prior to his murder: