Visiting Islamic speaker Dr Zakir Naik clarified during a question and answer session this morning that profits generated from the sale of alcohol are haram (prohibited), and urged the Maldives to encourage investment in halal (permitted) tourism.
“In Islamic finance, you cannot involve in any business as the owner of that business if it is even one percent a haram activity,” Dr Naik said.
“As a main partner you cannot be involved. If you are investing as a pool and you are a small partner, then a little bit is permitted, but as a 100% owner I cannot say ‘fine, I will have a hotel that will allow alcohol, and that money I will give to charity.’ You cannot say that. Because you are involved in haram activity.”
It was permitted, Dr Naik explained, to invest in part in a mutual fund where a haram activity might be a small percentage of the investment, as “then I can give the small amount to charity, because I have no major say in the business. But if I am a bigger shareholder, I cannot allow even 0.1% of haram activity to take place.”
Under Islam the use, handling and sale of alcohol are considered haram to Muslims, a tenet that led to vigorous opposition against the government’s attempt in February to legalise the sale of alcohol to non-Muslims on inhabited islands. Critics of the regulations claimed they were unconstitutional, as Article 10(b) of the Maldives’ Constitution states that ‘no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives..
However the country depends heavily on tourism for its economy, particularly resorts which profit from the sale of alcohol, many of which are owned by local businessmen.
Dr Naik, who is speaking tonight and tomorrow at Maafaanu Stadium, after being invited by the Ministry for Islamic Affairs, questioned why the Maldives had no resorts that were “100 percent halal.”
“Your country is so beautiful. I have visited many countries in the world and I have to profess, the islands in Maldives are par excellence. I’ve been to many parts of the world, been to many top resorts in the world, but the one where I am staying in the Maldives is par excellence. Allah has blessed you with such beauty, scenery and natural resources,” he said.
“I put forward the proposal that why don’t we have an Islamic resort? I’m aware the Maldives prohibits alcohol for citizens, but those people who come from outside the Maldives can have access to these things which are haram for Muslims.”
Such resorts, he suggested, should be “exclusively halal, free of pork and alcohol, and with proper segregation and dress code – it will be a benefit.”
Similar segregated, alcohol and pork free hotels in other parts of the world had proven very successful, he explained, “with revenue far more than other hotels. The same thing can be done here.”
“The income for people investing in such Islamic resorts will be much higher,” he suggested. “I have spoken to government officials about it, and they say Inshallah, they look forward to it. Believe me it will attract more tourists very soon, in the next couple of years, with better revenue and a better profit.”
State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has similarly argued for promotion of Islamic “cultural tourism” within the Maldives, noting that “a lot of hotels, such as the Intercontinental in Medina, are without alcohol. What about developing alcohol-free resorts; Islamic tourism, just like Islamic banking?”
Dr Zakir Naik is speaking at an event at Maafannu stadium tonight and tomorrow, at 8:45pm.