Comment: Playing God’s Advocate

‘Ambiguities’ are stalling the speedy passage of The Regulations to Protect Maldivian Religious Unity. If this document does not get on the government gazette ASAP, this country will degenerate into religious chaos.

Evidence clearly shows Maldivian religious unity to be a perilous façade, having managed to endure without legal enforcement (apart from the small matter of the constitutional stipulation that every citizen be a Muslim for only 800 years).

As citizens who are so closely consulted in the open and democratic lawmaking process of the country, it is our duty to highlight the problem areas so the Ministry can move rapidly to pass The Regulations and pre-empt the imminent religious war.

What is unambiguous about The Regulations is that The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is The Supreme Entity. Omniscient, but not omnipresent, it will choose a learned group to act as its eyes and ears in society. This select group, or The Board, will report to The Ministry any utterances, actions and opinions expressed or held by unlicensed-scholars, citizens and/or visiting aliens/infidels deemed to possess the potential for creating religious disunity.

Recognising the gravity of The Board’s responsibility, The Ministry has set the appointment criteria very high indeed. Members must: (1) be at least 25 years old; (2) possess at least a first degree in Islamic Studies or law; and (3) should not have committed an act defined as a punishable crime in Islam.

Given how difficult it would be to find a 25-year-old graduate who has not fornicated, The Board has the potential to become one of the most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in the world.

The Regulations states as its raison d’être ever-increasing disputes between religious scholars that threaten to tear the country apart (Article 1.2). The Mullah to Mere-mortal ratio has not yet been tallied in the Maldives, but evidence suggests it could easily be 1:2.

In such a situation, The Regulations will prove invaluable in helping us distinguish the ersatz scholar from the genuine Sheikh. Besides, ‘the liberals’ have long agitated for the government to muzzle over-zealous Mullahs, so it is now time to make a gracious retreat on the issue, happy in the knowledge that your local Mullah is not just any Mullah, but a bona fide Mullah With a License to Preach.

Chapter 4 states that it is a requirement of every Maldivian citizen to actively protect Islam (Article 4.21). Is this a legal requirement? And what does the duty entail? What exactly is it that we need to peel our eyes and cock our ears for? And how do we go about reporting our suspicions and findings? Would there be a 24-hour Infidel Alert hotline manned by a Licensed Mullah?

The Regulations bans any religion other than Islam from all public discourse. Being citizens active in protecting Islam, should we from now on categorically deny other religions exist, or is it sufficient to regard Them with condescension and/or loathing whence acknowledgement is required? Article 6.32 bans any utterance or action that is insulting to Islam in any way. What is the definition of the term ‘insulting to Islam’? Would, say, leaving out the PBUH after Prophet Mohamed be deemed an insult? Or does it have to be material such as those published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 before it is found to be insulting? What is an utterance that constitutes an insult against a mosque? Would criticism of its architecture – say the suggestion that its dome would have looked better if elevated five inches more – amount to an insult, or would the criticism have to take in the state of its badly landscaped garden, too, before it is deemed an Offence Against a Mosque?

Non-Muslim expatriates in the Maldives – best wean yourselves off the habit of holding garage sales to sell religious memorabilia at discount prices like you invariably do every Sunday ‘back home where you come from’. Any such sale in the Maldives would flout The Regulations (Article 34.a), so resist the temptation to make a quick buck, and firmly turn away the Maldivians queuing outside, desperate to get their grubby apostate hands on your old rosary beads or your Krishna statue for a Bai Rufiyaa.

You should also be aware that even though religion is most likely to have been your favourite conversation starter and probably the source of your best pick-up lines back home, it will not aid your hectic social life on this island paradise in a similar manner. In fact, Article 34.b makes it safer to drop religion from your vocabulary altogether. As a precautionary measure, before The Regulations are passed, you should try and remove any reflexive exclamations that may have embedded themselves in your oral register over the years such as ‘Oh my God!, ‘Jesus!’, ‘Harey Raam!’, etc. If you are more accustomed to saying ‘Jesus [insert expletive] Christ!’, however, it might help your plea of mitigation. Remember, though, a precedent is yet to be set, so proceed with caution.

Article 6.35 is a veritable quagmire of ambiguity. What constitutes a television programme or a written publication that is offensive or insulting to Islam? Where do we look to for guidance? The Taliban? The Emirates? Saudi Arabia? Insulting to whose version of Islam? Can a woman be shown wearing a bikini, or should a burqa be superimposed on her image before she appears on our airwaves? Does every shot of a church, temple and/or synagogue have to be removed from any film that a Maldivian watches? What does it mean that all advertisements should be ‘respectful of the beautiful customs of Islam’ (6.35c)? Apart from beauty being an entirely subjective concept, does this mean that only veiled women can appear in advertisements now? What if she is selling shampoo? Will all Gillette advertisements have to be axed? Books, too, are to be screened by The Board before it is available for Maldivian consumption (Article 31). If this gives us some reprieve from ‘literature’ such as The DaVinci Code, such a regulation might not be entirely without merit, but hardly justifies a group of 25-year-old male graduate virgins deciding our choice of reading matter.

Can The Ministry please clarify why it is necessary to burn the house down to roast the pig?

It has been a surprisingly risky business highlighting the ‘ambiguities’ in The Regulations. This article contains the p-word; names someone whom over a billion non-Muslims regard as the Son of God; allows Lord Krishna a cameo appearance; speaks of women in bikinis; discusses an instrument of shaving for men; and mentions places of worship other than a mosque.

Would The Regulations be applied retrospectively? If Sheikh Shaheem of The Ministry is to be taken at his word, the consequences may not be too dire. Even if found guilty of the Offence of Mockery, he has assured, the author will not be imprisoned, but will receive ‘counselling’. Whether ‘counselling’ involves a psychiatrist’s couch, one-on-one preaching sessions with a Licensed Mullah, or water-boarding, remains undefined and open to interpretation. As is much of The Regulations.

Criminalising (dis)belief will never be free of ambiguities.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


19 thoughts on “Comment: Playing God’s Advocate”

  1. It seems to me there is error in the first paragraph: "for only 800 years" is supposed to be outside the bracket, no?

  2. A welcome read in more ways than one. The author has emphasized and mirrored the ludicrous nature of Shaheem et. al.'s persistent efforts to theocratize the Maldives.

    Although satire is, as demonstrated above, one of the best vehicles to drive academic discourse on important issues, I hope it does not take away from the seriousness of the issue at hand.

    The growing fundamentalism at home is part of a transnational movement and thereby reduces the effectiveness of state-led state-based action to address the issue.

    Although the status quo and academia might manage to thwart Adhaalath and co.'s efforts this time around, they have effectively rendered our borders porous, by the penetrative commentary of Zakir Naik and the lure of simplicity and ideological purity, to one of the issues that take center stage in international politics today.

    Peace TV is such a delightful oxymoron for the most hateful dogmatism on the airwaves today is it not?

  3. I, for one, choose any length of a prison sentence over a one-on-one indoctrination session with 'sheikh' shaheem.

    (And seriously, what is with the ridiculous arabic titles?)'

    Love, Al-Mere-Mortal yaamyn.

  4. Obviously this new regulation will do the Iranian regime proud. It's ironic that a government that came to power on a platform of ensuring civic liberties is the same one ignoring those liberties when such matters inconvenience greater political considerations. Any fool (or even virgin?) can tell you that curbing extremism does not have to be at the cost of individual freedoms and civic liberties. What gurantee is there that a new set of laws will stop those of a fundamentalist bent from carrying on their work? We already have regulations that ban the full hijab on security grounds. Non-compliance remains rife. What makes one think the new regulations can be effectively enforced. I personally think a new law on protecting the sanctity and beauty of the human face (clearly outlawing long beards and similar facial embellishments) would go a long way in curbing the rise of the Mullahs. Equally, we should also have a regulation that bans the sale of black cloth (lets see who can wear burqas then)in the Maldives.

    Pandering to the demands of the Adhaalath party for purposes of political expediency defeat the whole spirit of democracy in Maldives. There is something incredibly fishy going on in the Kingdom the day when Reeko Moosa (pedagogue extraordinaire) is forced to eat humble pie and apologise to the Adhaalath party. Civic liberties are the least of your worries when you are hemmorhaging political support. The Government's secret weapon in this dragedy (drama+tragedy) is some misguided hope that those who count themselves among the ranks of civil soceity will "do something about it". That way, the Mullahs and the Hippies will fight it out with each other and the Government can just sit around and act pretty. While civil soceity does have a role to play in this, it is the GOvernment's duty to refrain from nonsensical behaviour and stand up for its foundational values.

  5. Funny. Very funny. I hope this regulation will institute book burnings. The whole canon of L. Ron hubbard's sitting on top of a blazing bonfire clearly warms the cockles of my heart.

  6. I fear what might go on in a private 'conselling' session with a 25 year old Male virgin.

    I mean, there must be a reason why they haven't slept with a woman???

    And with the Islamic Society's near obsession with homosexuality in the Maldives, it does make one wonder.

  7. Kudos for that audacious bastard Juha. He is being singled out by Fankaa Khaleel and Achcheedi Saleem for halting their diabolical plan to bulldoze the regulations into the Gazette.Bravo for taking the nuisance of outrageous blame single handed, and for standing fast in underlining ambiguities. The regulations beg these questions: Shall we imprision offender Mullahs for life, and risk them going underground and indoors-thereby turning more mysterious and dangerous? Or shall we allow them to play out in public, stand up to scrutiny and be seen for who they are?

  8. FYI: only the Constitution ratified in August 2008 stipulates that every Maldivian be a Muslim, the previous one did not, and merely stated that Islam was the state religion of the Maldives.

  9. Satire and religion, what a delicious mix! Kudos to the author, that really was a refreshing read. Almost made me forget that this wasn't fiction, but happening right now. With the ratio of Mullahs to Mere Mortals increasing by the day (by the hour?), I just wonder when or if this circus will leave town!

  10. Munirah Moosa does a wonderful job discussing some of the problems brought forth by the new regulations on Religious Unity. Of course her discussion and subsequent questioning of the need for such legislation would automatically make it something that would be banned under the new regime. But she neglects to mention one fact.

    That is that if people don't start coming together to stand up to these kinds of repressive polices, then we should not be surprised when they are enacted. The religious conservative wings of our society have inspired a fervor in their followers which make them both a social and political force the likes of which our nation has never seen before.

    Because they continually say that there is only their form of Islam, youth in our nation are turning away from religion all together, and those of us who would stand against such blatant tyranny are forced to withdraw further and further into the shadows. The only way that we can come out again is if young people realize the danger that is coming. How much our lives will be affected in the future and the kind of threat that this conservative ideology brings.

    It'll soon be too late. And those of you who do not stand up now, will not get a chance again later. Salafi, Hanbali, and Wahhabi based Islamic ideology make up less than 10% of global Islamic doctrine. It is against our culture, our heritage and our Islam. It is against what my grandmother and her grandmother practiced. And I will not let it take precedence over our nation and throw us into the stone ages. I will not allow repression and tyranny into our nation again.

    Will you?

  11. I have something for you wahhabi salafists. You were defeated in general election 2009 and failed to win even a single seat in 77 member parliament. This means majority of the Maldivians are against your version of Islam. So majority of Maldivians will not support this so called Regulation to protect religious unity of OUR country.

    Please wait until you have enough public support to introduce a hideous regulation like this, in which FREEDOM OF SPEECH is deprived.

    Go to Saudi Arabia.. Leave us Maldivians Alone. We want be Maldivians. Dhivehin. Long live DIVEHIRAAJJE.

  12. The regulation, even if approved by the cabinet will not work for the state doesn't have the will to enforce it.

    The whole thing will backfire with Islamic Ministry scoring it an own goal!

  13. very good read as always, hats off to you Munirah.
    agree with hamza and hope any one who enjoyed the article see the seriousness of the issue at hand.
    Our country is headed to very nasty and interesting days ahead. there is no more if the trend continues or if we allow the radicalization,.we already are by and large a very xenophobic, closed, extreme society.
    Religion can if took its rightful place can be a wonder and a blessing but at the same time, do not forget how notoriously deadly it can be if one learns how to use it as a tool of power and oppression.
    our society is just perfect for such a scheme (developing, few educated) and unless we are very careful, it could be the end of a once hopeful country with beautiful and passionate to learn people.

  14. haamudhuru, was it the initial plan? I mean, Anni (rightly) letting Adhaalath take off its own pants, so that the whole Maldives can finally see the truth about the Sala-feeni? Without Anni even having to make much of an effort?

    It must have wrecked many an Adhaalath brain to come up with such notorious regulations! I'm sure Anni would now be laughing his a** off!

  15. This is a classic example of doing things by compulsion as it is done in Arabic culture. In non-arabic cultures this has the exact opposite effect of the intended end result. That is, it alienates and distances people from the religion rather than embracing it. At the end of the day religion will only thrive when spread as propaganda not by law enforcement. These mulla's need to study propaganda theories and mass communication courses.

  16. The regulations can be very dangerous - curbing freedom of expression, and equality (if you do not agree with the virgin Mullahs opinions).
    Why are we allowing our society to slowly let go of whatever bit culture we have, and succumbing to a brand of religion?
    I can just imagine how the religious police will operate...
    I believe, and I believe that Islam is tolerant, and encourages people to follow... but not through fear, and definitely not by telling people what exactly they should think of and believe in.
    Then again, the flipside is that the religious fanatics should also be kept on a leash?
    Eitherway, it's quite a dilemma.
    Why can't we just BE?
    Do we need Mullahs telling us what we ought to do?

  17. Dear Munirah, You forgot to mention that the UN has sunk to a new low by electing the Maldives to the UN Human Rights Council. The Constitution adopted after having ratified the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deny non-Muslims citizenship. This coupled with the new Regulations will give men with a certain length of beard the right to sentence people that they determine as non Muslims to beheading.

  18. Has anyone read the Religious Unity Act, presumably on the authority of which this draconian regulation is being sanctioned. It is a simplistic one-and-a-half page Act. Anything that has the potential to temporarilytake away any fundamental right, it must be by a further Act of Parliament, and not by some regulations dreamt up by a bunch of Talibanites. I question the legality of this regulation.

  19. Giving way for religious freedom in the Maldives is the only way. But I see no light with these Mullahs dominating the society. They nearly have conquered the minds of thousands with fear and grief. Islam may be the best. But never should it be forced. Forcing leads to boredom. Boredom leads to lack of faith. And without any faith is there any point of embracing a religion? I just see nothing bad with us having temples or churches here. Infact, it will be a social progress in evaluating the multiple cultures and compare which one suits you the best. And if it is Islam.. say Hurray for that.


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