A protest march took place in Malé yesterday with participants bearing the militant organisation Islamic State’s (IS) flag calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.
‘We want the laws of the Quran, not the green book [Maldivian constitution]’, ‘Islam will eradicate secularism’, ‘No democracy, we want just Islam’, and ‘Shariah will dominate the world’, read some of the placards, which were all written in English.
‘To hell with democracy’, ‘Democracy is a failed system’, ‘Shariah gave you the rights, not democracy”, ‘Shariah is the only solution’, and ‘No Shariah = no peace’, read others.
Some 200 people, including about 30 women in black niqab and 10 children, took part in the march across the capital.
Shortly after the march began near the social centre on the western end of Majeedheemagu – the main thoroughfare of the capital – police reportedly stopped the protesters near the Nalahiya Hotel and demanded they stop using the black IS flag.
Police told the protesters they have been previously informed that the flag of a particular organisation could not be used.
“The call has been made, the flags have been raised,” read one of the placards.
However, the protesters reportedly insisted that the flag did not represent IS but was the seal of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and contained the phrase of the Shahadha (the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and Mohamed as the messenger).
After a brief exchange, police allowed the march to continue, which made its way down Majeedhee Magu to the tsunami memorial area.
On their way, participants reportedly handed out sweets to children with spectators on the street.
The march ended with a special communal prayer wishing success for Islamic ‘mujahidheen’ (holy warriors) fighting in conflicts across the world.
In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
The ISIS or IS jihadist militant group – which has declared an Islamic caliphate in territory held across Iraq and Syria – has been accused by the UN of committing mass murders against prisoners, enemy combatants, and civilians.
“IS is using the veil of religion as a pretext for inflicting terror, and committing violations of human rights,” said Dunya, daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of current President Abdulla Yameen.
Dunya’s remarks followed Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.
“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.
“We note with concern that neither the Islamic minister nor the government has taken any action while activities related to terrorism in different forms as well as extremism are carried out in the Maldives, religious strife and hatred is incited widely, and death threats are being made against various people over religious matters,” the main opposition party said.
The party noted that the ISIS flag was used in recent protests in Malé calling for a boycott of Israeli tourists.
While the protesters had gathered outside the residence of the Islamic minister in violation of freedom of assembly laws, the MDP noted that the government had not taken any action.
The Islamic ministry has also provided a meeting hall of the Islamic centre for a religious sermon which was advertised with the ISIS logo, the MDP claimed.
The party claimed to have learned that police and army officers were involved in putting up the banners across the capital.
Opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reported last month that a Facebook group called Islamic State in Maldives was promoting IS in the country.
The group has shared photos of the protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists.