This article originally appeared on the website of the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives. Republished with permission.
Many westerners and human rights campaigners have the false notion that Maldives is a country ruled according to sharia (Islamic law). However, the truth is that apart from some aspects of marriage, divorce and legal issues involving inheritance, the courts in the Maldives do not decide matters according to Islamic sharia and this dreaded word sharia has nothing to do with most practices of the Maldivian people. There never was a time that sharia with all its principles was applied in the lives of Maldivians.
Just seeing burqa clad women and a few bushy bearded men on the streets is no proof to accuse Maldives becoming a safe haven for Islamic extremists or al-Qaeda terrorists. According to non-Muslim westerners, the hallmarks of an extremist or terrorist Islamic society is that adulterers are stoned to death, murderers are executed, hands of the thieves are chopped off, rapists, apostates and dealers in narcotics are beheaded, women are forced to wear burqa in public, men or women involved in immorality are openly flogged.
Apart from some few public lashings in the past none of the above mentioned methods of punishments continue to be used to punish criminals in the Maldives.
Nevertheless, the non-Muslim westerners fear that soon or later the Maldives will fall ‘victim’ to Islamic sharia and this country would cease to be a tolerant Muslim nation towards non-Muslims. They are disappointed to find that with the introduction of democracy the opportunity to obtain Maldivian citizenship for non-Muslims has failed to materialise.
The Article 9 (d) of the Maldives Constitution states, “..a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives.” Moreover, the law no. 6/94 prohibits both Muslims and non-Muslims alike of carrying out Christian missionary work in the Maldives, and also of acting in a manner that may endanger the religious harmony of the people of this country.
Another appalling thing for the non-Muslim westerners is a clause in Article 142 of the Constitution of Maldives, which states, “..when deciding matters on which the Constitution or the law is silent, Judges must consider Islamic sharia.”
This sharia is something which makes the evangelists, the hypocrites, the LGBT’s, the agnostics and the irreligious tremble with fear. The hardcore democrats in this country believe that if sharia begins to take effect on people’s lives, the Maldives would lose its currently dignified place among the community of nations.
According to them, sharia means the husband taking three more wives to humiliate his first wife, the absolute enslavement of women folk in the society and the country becoming an enemy of the West and the United States in particular.
There are people who think otherwise by citing the example of Saudia Arabia which implements most aspects of sharia but remains a close friend of the United States and the European Union. Non-Muslims visiting Saudi Arabia and other gulf states are more secure than those visiting South Africa and Latin American countries. The high crime rates in those countries send a chill down the spine of anyone thinking of visiting those countries. ]
The Islamic Republic of Iran, a country accused of all sorts of intolerance towards non-Muslims by the West, attracted 2.3 million tourists in 2009, whereas the number of tourists visiting Maldives only reached 500,000 for the same period. Out of the 2.3 million tourists visiting Iran, a significant number come from the West and the European Union.
Muslim countries are often singled out for criticism for not allowing drinking in public, setting a guideline for women to dress up in public and harsh penalty for heinous crimes such as child molestation, rape, murder, homosexuality, arson and robbery, etc.
The Westerners and the so called human rights activists fail to realise that many non-Muslim countries have the death penalty embodied in their constitution. In the United States, many criminals are sentenced to be executed by lethal injection or sending them to electric chair. In 2009 alone, the United States executed 52 criminals; out of this number, 51 were put to death by lethal injection.
The official method of execution in China is by firing squad. Currently there are 68 crimes that are eligible for capital punishment in China. Singapore and Vietnam are among the countries with the highest per capita execution rate in the world. No state is willing to tolerate people involved in committing brutal and callous crimes and acts of high treason or subversion. Take the case of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber who was executed by lethal injection in June 2001.
Another embarrassment for the evangelists, atheists and islamophobiacs is the Article 10 (a) and (b) of the Maldives Constitution which states, “The religion of the State of Maldives is Islam. Islam shall be one of the bases of all the laws of the Maldives.” “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”
A complication arises when a native Muslim Maldivian renounces his faith and becomes a non-Muslim. The Article 9 (a) (1.2.3) of the Maldives Constitution states the ground rules to qualify for the citizenship of this country. Though the Constitution states that no citizen of the Maldives may be deprived of citizenship, conversion from Islam to other faiths automatically invalidates a person’s citizenship as the act nullifies the condition for receiving or retaining citizenship.
Most law experts in Maldives are of the view that an apostate (renegade) who refuses to repent and continues in the state of unbelief, then the State is under obligation to annul his citizenship.
Some people mistakenly believe that sharia only deals with crimes and punishments. Though the prescribed punishments are included within the framework of sharia, punishments are just a small portion of sharia.
Islam insists on blocking all the roads leading to evil and crime before imposing sharia punishments on the people. Therefore, the poor and the destitute have to be provided for by means of zakath, state assistance, various forms of charity or employment, etc. It would be a total injustice to chop off the hands of poor people for stealing food whose children are dying of hunger. It would certainly be a ridiculous thing to allow brothels to be run and implement sharia punishments for fornication or adultery.
Also allowing women folk to appear semi-naked and drunk in public and beheading rapists is nonsensical. Most rapists in the West are repeated offenders. You allow rapists to come out of the prison after a year or so for him to come and rape you , your mother or your sister again. Which way of life is barbaric? A way of life which allows notorious criminals to move freely around and create more mischief and corruption in the land, or a way of life that eliminates the dangerous criminals once and for all?
Some religions, including Christianity, insist that married couples are joined in holy matrimony until death does them apart. No matter what the problems that arises between the spouses, men and women of totally different temperaments have to remain married to live a miserable life together. The result is desertion or separation or what they call ‘domestic violence’ which is very common in the West.
Many people with problems in marriage fall victim to drugs and say they do it to find consolation or free themselves from anxiety. Islamic sharia provides a solution for ending such misery by divorce. However, divorce has to be carried out only after all possible ways to reconcile the couples have failed. If the couple has got children and if they stay with the mother, the husband has to provide enough money for their proper upbringing and also meet them occasionally to make sure they do not miss their father’s love. Divorced women can remarry after their waiting period is over. Which of these ways of life are better?
It is a misconception that prescribed sharia punishments are carried out on individuals on the grounds of suspicion and the sharia courts are more like kangaroo courts or military tribunals. Islam too insists that all are innocent until proven guilty. It is a false notion to believe that the ruler of a Muslim state has the power to condemn people to death on the grounds of suspicion for trying to seize power or commit crimes against the state. If we look at the past, we find that sharia courts in Muslim lands were independent and the rulers had no power to impose judgements. There were instances in the history that Muslim judges passed sentences against the ruler of the state. The sentences passed in sharia courts are not based on hearsay or suspicion but on proofs.
When sharia as a whole is implemented in a Muslim society, people’s lives become much easier and they begin to feel a sense of security. Muslim societies will not attain the desired stability, calmness or tranquility unless sharia is implemented. There are many reasons for this, the first and foremost is, a Muslim society without sharia is devoid of the blessings of Almighty Allah (God). There will always be some Muslims who continuously keep building pressure by one way or the other in trying to persuade people to accept sharia as a sole guide.
It is totally absurd that President Mohamed Nasheed openly criticised sharia punishments saying that an executed person cannot be brought back to life from the dead after it has been found that he was innocent. If that is so, is it a fair thing for a person to spend 25 years behind bars and die in prison to be proven innocent later?
It is absolutely stunning that President Nasheed sought assistance from German government to amend or rewrite the little of the remaining sharia law enforced in the Maldives. He did this on the grounds of consolidating the young democracy in the Maldives. After a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Earth Times quotes him saying that he would welcome German assistance in building up a new version of sharia law in the Maldives. The proposed new version of sharia certainly is not going to be the sharia derived from the revealed Scripture because a new version of any book, law or legal document always negates the old version of it.
Seeking German assistance in matters of sharia is a ridiculous thing while there is Al-Azhar University and the Islamic University of Medina, both of which can offer a more sound judgement on sharia related issues. It is better for President Nasheed to stop trying to mess with what remains of sharia in this country and leave it to the legislature and the judiciary.
In Feburuary 2008, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued that adopting parts of Islamic sharia law would help maintain social cohesion in Britain. He said Muslims should be allowed to choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a sharia court. Not long after Dr Williams said sharia law in UK seemed unavoidable, Islamic law was officially adopted in Britain. In September 2008, sharia courts were given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases and their verdict is binding under Arbitration Act 1996. However, Muslims in Britain still have a long way to go for them to be able to enforce prescribed punishments in Islamic sharia.
The parliament in Somalia, a country with an ongoing civil war, unanimously approved to implement sharia (Islamic law) with the aim of diffusing tension between the shaky government in Mogadishu and al-shabab rebels. Also Sudan, a country with a long history of civil war seems to have become more stable after sharia was adopted.
If prescribed sharia punishments begin to be enforced in a Muslim society, its instant favourable effects starts to take shape on people’s lives. Heinous crimes such as banditry, gang rape, drug trafficking, fraud, murder, etc begin to decrease drastically throughout the country.
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