Religious unity regulations contain “ambiguities, policy issues”, says press secretary

The new regulations under the Religious Unity Act of 1994 drafted by the Islamic Ministry contain “ambiguities” and provisions that could be in conflict with the government’s stated policies, said the President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.

The President of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives, religious scholars, people from the entertainment industry and NGOs have expressed concern with the regulations, he said.

“The attorney general only looked at legal aspects before he approved it,” he said. “He did not have to consider the implications for policy or conflicts with stated government policy, mainly on freedom of expression.”

He added that Attorney General Husnu Suood had “reservations” about some provisions and favoured a cabinet meeting before publication of the regulations in the government’s gazette.

Zuhair said the “points of contention” included provisions that deal with Islamic codes of conduct and ambiguities in the terminology of some provisions.

“Codes of behaviour are not codified in Islam,” he said. “[People] have suggested that the phrase should be changed to tenets of Islam.”

There were also fears that the advisory board to be constituted under the regulations could become “the moral police” and exercise excessive powers.

Some religious scholars have also “personally called and asked for a wider discussion.”

“The president has three main concerns,” he said. “First, social implications of the regulations, second policy implications and whether there could be legal obstacles [to enforcement].”

Moreover, some of the provisions could be “extraneous” as laws already existed to tackle the problems the regulations target.

Meanwhile, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed urged the president’s office to resolve possible policy conflicts and publish the regulations.

As well as “all respected religious scholars in the country”, other government authorities were consulted in the formulation of the regulations Shaheem said.

Shaheem stressed that the attorney general’s office, the legal department at the president’s office and the Maldives Police Service have all cleared the regulations.

The state minister downplayed fears that the regulations would give coercive powers to the ministry.

“It is not our intention to put people in jail,” he said. “[For example], if someone writes an article mocking Islam, we will only advise that person and offer counselling.”

He added that the ministry did not want to discourage criticism and the regulations were necessary “for democracy and to build a stable society”.

The regulations were important to deal with social problems caused by disputes over religious issues, he explained.

Shaheem noted that he has received complaints this week from two islands with independent or breakaway prayer congregations.

“The islanders told me they [the breakaway group] threatened to attack foreigners if the islanders tried to stop them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the HRCM has denied Zuhair’s claim to local daily Haveeru yesterday that the commission raised concern with the regulations.

The commission’s statement denies that “any complaints” were made by any HRCM official.

It adds that the report in the media was “regrettable” and that the commission was not officially consulted in the process of drafting the regulations.

The Haveeru story quoted Zuhair as saying that the Tourism Ministry and Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation have also expressed concern.

However, the press secretary said today that Ahmed Saleem, president of the HRCM, had called “a senior official” of the government and voiced his concerns.

Saleem told the official he has not had time to review the regulations as he had to fly abroad soon, he said.

The HRCM statement could therefore mean “one of two things,” Zuhair said.

“They have either reviewed it and decided to endorse it or this is miscommunication inside the commission,” he said.

Ahmed Saleem could not be reached for comment at time of press.

Tourism Minister Dr Ahmed Sawad said he has not read the regulations yet.

“We’d like to go through it and see if there are any issues,” he said. “We will attend to it in the next two days.”

Ibrahim Khaleel, managing director of MNBC, said he has not officially complained or expressed concern.


33 thoughts on “Religious unity regulations contain “ambiguities, policy issues”, says press secretary”

  1. Zuhair (joker) is a confused man who think he is a secularist! He is biggest joker!

  2. Yes! This regulation will officially make Maldives a Wahhabi only country!

  3. Does Islam need the protection by Maldivain, of all people? Have Allah entrusted this job to us.

    Are Maldivians the great saviors of Islam or its gravest threat?

  4. Didnt I say that Juhaa the translator may have a different version?

  5. Maybe a regulation should be passed dictating the how to pass regulations.

    That might be a better path towards “for democracy and to build a stable society”.

    So basically none of the higher authorities had there say in this?

    None of the public was asked either?

    About something that affects everyone?

    This is not democracy.

  6. The proposed "board" would, in my opinion, definitely constitute a policing of morals, invasion of privacy and curtailing of basic rights and freedoms set out in the constitution - but then again the drafting of the constitution leaves a loophole for an established religious authority to insert itself into the void created by statements regarding "shari'a".

    If indeed the President of the HRCM had not seen or made comment regarding the controversial regulations, he should have. The reservations regarding passing the regulations into law is mainly a human rights issue and one of major concern. Once again, Adhaalath has played its hand in its ultimate goal to shift the Maldives towards a theocracy.

    Strengthening the education system and tearing down walls built on the basis of poor English education and rampant xenophobia would aid the MDP in its policies to create a more secular and pluralist society. Simply making policy statements will not do. Adhaalath is making headway by employing its so-called Sheikhs and their grip on the public conscience.

    Professed religious conservatives are on the rise. Exposure to foreign cultures - especially metropolitan cities in liberal democracies - as well as a well-rounded education that imparts the values of the rights-based global village is reserved for the Maldivian elite. Grassroots support for conservatism stems from this very fact. I urge the government to take a more aggressive stance on promoting training the functional use of English for Divehi citizens across all age groups. This might elicit a chuckle from a lot of people but in truth the major block to making the Maldives a tolerant and liberal society lies in this very deficit in the education system. The ministry of education need not focus only on schoolgoers. This is a false belief confirmed over ages of neglect for those above 18 years of age. Policymakers should seriously consider changing these attitudes at policy level. Funding issues will of course complicate the picture. My hope is that the Maldives does not become another Afghanistan or Iran.

  7. Shaheem's latest attempt to crown himself Grand Mufti.

    Maldivians need to learn to stop bending over every time some politicians sings the religion tune.

    If they want to preserve any of their rights, that is.

  8. Congratulations Zuhair for being brave enough to comment. It looks to me as though everyone else is shying away from the responsibility. HRCM Saleem, Tourism Sawaadh and MNBC Khaleel etc etc

  9. The fact that the HRCM has failed to condemn this 'regulation' that strips ordinary dhivehin of their basic rights to express themselves (among other things) speaks volumes about the HRCM.

    Whether or not this regulation was 'sent' to the HRCM is irrelevant.

    Such gross abuse of rights should be proactively dealt with.

  10. Today Sheikh Shaheem will say very tolerently that this is about protecting us from Islamic extremism and whatnot but tomorrow there will be more blatent Sheikh who'll use HIS WILL to enforce these regulations on Maldivians even above the Qur'an itself. This is where it'll all go really really wrong.

  11. Zuhair this the greatest thing you ve done in the past days. you just failed the attempt by extremists to conquer Maldives. Thankyou

  12. yaamyn: That's a really interesting (and scary), point you raise.

    So if some draconian laws were suddenly passed, clearly in violation of our rights, we'd still suffer and just have to deal with it? All because the HRC weren't asked to look into it?

    Yeah because the Human Rights Commission is who you'd ask before trying something like that.

    This explains a lot actually.

  13. oh cut the crap Shaheem. and shame on all the authorities who wants to save their image from being labeled as anti-islam (which is not true).
    You know why ibn batuta was kicked out of this country? he was "appointed chief judge and marrying into the royal family of Omar I, he became embroiled in local politics and ended up leaving after wearing out his welcome by imposing strict judgments in the laissez-faire island kingdom" wiki

  14. The Religious Act of 1994 was passed in the Majlis in an environment far from a people-representative nature. Also, I think that a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution cannot be modified by a regulation that goes against civil liberties.

    Clerics in the current Islamic Ministry came into the picture 16 years after the Unity Act came into operation. Sixteen years of political and social transformations. I suspect, the mindset of those who pushed the Unity Bill through the then Parliament would have envisioned a day when ordinary believers in these islands start to ask fundamental questions -- such as the issues raised by the Regulation under Cabinet review.
    In this 100% Islamic nation such as Maldives, the majority are law abiding peaceful dwellers continuing an island culture, whose tenets have never been written or codified. We Maldivians I believe represent the 21st Century generation of an ancient civilization. Written records prove that apart from Islam there existed many different belief systems in these islands for centuries. Since no research has been carried out, most of us are not fully aware of traditional management systems, belief systems and cultural practices that evolved from those ancient times. We need to be very careful when writing down regulations and laws and procedures. The more we write into any law, the narrower becomes the path for freedom and development. The more trust we build through our common beliefs and heritage, the less need for legislation that can ultimately entrap us in ideological warfare.

  15. "there is no compulsion in religion" quran 2:256
    is this verse still in the book? lol...
    maybe we should start a 2:256 the name of Islam 😉

  16. For starters we should either abolish the Human Rights Commission or fire the President and his commissioners.
    What they are doing is the reverse of what they should be doing.

  17. Stranger!
    You only read half. This could mean you leave your woman only half done!

    Yes, "there is no compulsion in religion.TRUE GUIDANCE IS NOW DISTINCT FROM ERROR. " 2:256

    And 2:256 is a verse longer than you thought! And what you did not mention is in caps..True guidance here means ISLAM, not atheism or agnosticism.

    So I think, Islamic ministry is trying here to show you the true guidance and if this job is left to atheists they will teach us something else. For your information there is NO freedom of speech in the Maldivian constitution if 'speech' is contrary to Islam! Hope you and all agnostics and atheists do their home work before commenting.

  18. Hamza, you moron or what?
    Towards a secular Maldives? Do you even know what the heck you are talking?

    Maldivians did not vote in for a coalition government to make Maldives a secular place! When you get the presidency in your dream you can have a whack at it!

    Snap out of the dream world for now!

  19. Marina!

    MDP crooks, and activists originally started serving Fugu for dinner!

    Now we have regular buffet of fried ovaries, and chilled mad-cows' brains from evolutionists, when the people are drowning in socio-economic chaos clutching at straws!

    Islamic ministry is only offering the antidote, for this mess - anything wrong with that?

  20. i don't get what the big deal is? O_o

    i see nothing wrong with the new regulation on "religious unity". This is an apt demonstration of true democracy in action. A democracy in which the majority, irrespective of IQ or english medium televized global-village 'education', decide on a common fate for themselves.

    Having said this, i also feel, the commentaries here and those inside the Islamic Ministry are of the same species.

    And if Hitler or Darwin has anything to say about it, I'd say, the fittest brute will survive this 'authoritarian' wonderland that is Maale, irrespective of education or versatility of Rights-jargon.

    Peoples rights, last i checked, are not defined according to their intelligence, education or that of others, so if the majority in this country wish it to remain non-secular and codified according to the Shari'a, Hadhith & Qur'an, who am i to stand in the way of this democracy?

    Now, it maybe that i am not educated enough to know what is best for me, in which case i must find out what the British Constitution or the United Nations Charter says.

    The Islamic Ministry like any other ministry is writing just 'cities' after all, ink on paper thats all; what can they really do stop us from living our lives the way we want to. What or who is the law to say how i should be or how i should shape my life, or what rules i should follow etc?

    There is a democratically elected government in place. There has ushered in a new democracy into Maldives. We boast some of the most beautiful beaches and waters in the world. We rank the most developed in the SAARC region.We are are also among the most literate, the most healthy.We are famous the world over for being at the vanguard of the fight on climate change.we are also seated alongside major world powers in international institutions of import. i mean, we are there! the only thing that's missing is our human rights. i mean where or where is our human rights.(seriously has anyone seen my rights, i dunno where i left it?). i need my rights. i have to have it. its the only thing i don't have! Where are my rights..does anyone know what my rights are? will somebody call the united nations and ask them for my rights? else its the end of the beginning i tell you. mark my words, the end of maldives in near. we are choking here without our rights

    we need it so badly, please give us our rights. islamic ministry is big dictator, they are trying to rob me of my rights. jolly good that i heard there was something called rights. it sounds like its worth having. tell me what all can i do with it? can i also eat it?

    take a breather y'all. Optimize oxygen consumption- save some energy for extra-columnist activities also .

    Adhalat is like your parents, live with it.

  21. @heck
    "There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing." quran 2:256
    there it is.....does it make any difference.....unless the ending of the verse abrogates the begining......are you saying that god changed his mind right after the first part of the verse?...which is very clear(NO COMPULSION)...or you just don't know the meaning of the words.. NO and COMPULSION.
    what the heck.....just go back to school

  22. Why are we quoting around verses here?
    Can't we accept that we're living in 2010 now, not 1400 years ago?

    Where was the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) 1400 years ago?

    Maldives has acceded to it, but made a reservation. Has anyone read the statement of special UN rapporteur Asma Jahangir (2006)?
    [...]Since I carried out my visit, the Maldives has acceded to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. I congratulate the Government on this important step but regret that they have entered a reservation to article 18 of the ICCPR on freedom of religion or belief. I do hope that the Government will keep this reservation under review, and take steps to revisit it as soon as possible.

    More generally, it is worthwhile noting that the Vienna Convention on the Law of
    Treaties stipulates that States cannot make reservations that are incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.
    In its General Comment 24, the Human Rights Committee states that reservations that offend peremptory norms would not be compatible with the object and purpose of the Covenant. The General Comment goes on to provide that as such, States may not reserve the right to deny freedom of thought, conscience and religion or to deny to minorities the right to profess their own religion.
    In this regard, I note with satisfaction that very few state parties have entered
    reservations to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    Why can't we separate social and private issues? Let the MoIA govern the ones that want it, and leave the others in peace.
    There must not be compulsion in religion, there must be freedom of speech - with respect. In 2010.

  23. I noticed some Wahhabis and Salafists above are4 very anxious to interpret and translate the Quran's 2:256 according to their fantasies. Here's the translation as it appears on another Maldivian blog (which I'm also pasting below for easy reference from this link:

    "There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient."

    If you read carefully, you suddenly notice that in the Salafist-Wahhabi "interpretation", 'the right way' suddenly transforms into only the 'Islamic way' and the word 'God' suddenly SPECIFICALLY becomes 'Allah'...

    This is how the Wahhabis and Salafists plant the 'virus of doubt' in the minds of your teenage children - by twisting words!

    Extremists always would like you to think that THEIR interpretation is the ONLY one around, and all other views are Kaafir! ha ha ha. The only reason the members of Adhaalath and Salaf are not in "concentration camps" in Maldives are because we rightly recognize their ultimate weakness: mental disease. Why should we engage in pointless argument with the "mad men" of this country like singer-turned-Wahhabi Ali Rameez of Jamiyyathul Salaf?

    If "Sheikh" Shaheem thinks he can 'interrogate' 'infidels' like us and force us to 'convert ourselves to Salafism', he must be more delusional than I would have cared to think...


  24. I find it extremely worrying that neither the HRCM nor MNBC nor Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture have gone through such a crucial and sensitive piece of regulation and raised their concerns publicly or formally to the Ismalic Ministry. These are the bodies entrusted by the people to protect rights of concern in the regulation. And why is the Maldives Journalists Association not raising any issues?

  25. @Hilat
    Your arrogance is clearly being revealed here. Now I am really wondering whether you have studied or know anything about Islam. I dont want to say this, but i am forced to. If you really want to critisize Islam and Muslims you must learn what Islam teachs, otherwise you are no more then a trumpet. Have you looked the Qur'an and checked this verse. It is you who are twisting the words. The way of God is submitting your will to God and in Arabic it means Islam. And the person who submits is called a Muslim. God is the translation of the Arabic word Allah and the word Allah is used in this verse. May Allah guides you to the Truth.

  26. Grand gay advocate Hilath or simply @Hilath,

    YUSUFALI: Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
    PICKTHAL: There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.
    SHAKIR: There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.

    that's the translation from (University of Southern California)

    and for your information that is not by any Maldivian singer or the MoIA but rather 3 different interpretations that hold more water than the crap u talk about all the time.

    now who is trying to twist the real meaning of the Quran. not everyone is as ignorant as u are. so please leave the country and move into some FAIRYland where u can live "happily" ever after.

    "fairy", don't try to mislead people with your twisted logic and mental decease. everyone knows who u are now.


  27. I feel anybody who imagine themselves as a religious leader or aspires to such a role or makes a career out of it must be quite twisted.
    This career by and large consists of telling people off and devising ways to tell people off (this new regulation is a case in point). Think about it, what sort of a twisted mind would make a career out of saying ‘bad boy, bad boy” “bad girl dirty girl, bad girl”, and what sort of a nation are we to allow a ministry and regulations on it.

  28. Stranger!

    As strange you might be you have failed to grasp one thing.

    NO COMPULSION - yes you cannot compel Maldivians to become ATHEISTS!


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