Comment: Silence is not always golden

Silence is not always golden, and never so under compulsion.

The Maldives is travelling on a road not just less travelled but abandoned by most other nations – the road of regression.

Reading the headlines of a Maldivian newspaper is like travelling back in time. Female genital mutilation (FGM), concubines, under-age brides, calls to bring back capital punishment, deportation of ‘suspect’ foreigners, increasing acceptance of man’s alleged superiority over women… concerned about this state of affairs?

The key, apparently, is to say nothing, because whatever you say is certain to be used against you as evidence of your apostasy.

This is the most common and invariably pejorative accusation against any critic of the current Maldivian condition. This emotive allegation is akin to Godwin’s Law, which states that the longer an Internet discussion grows, the higher the probability that a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler will arise, shutting off further discussion.

Similarly, criticise practices negating people’s human rights, obliterating traditions and marauding national identities in the name of ‘Islam’, and the probability of being called an apostate hits the roof, ending any further discourse.

Jürgen Habermas’ initial description of the public sphere may have been utopian, but a democracy cannot function without such a space for rational debate about subjects of societal concern.

Saying Maldivians are being robbed of their identity and culture by those importing a certain brand of Islam into the country is not a criticism of Islam itself. Nor is it a declaration of intent to follow in the footsteps of hate-mongering apostate Muslims who came pouring out of the woodworks following 11 September 2001 such as Dr Mark Gabriel, a doctoral graduate of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, Brigitte Gabriel and Walid Shoebat (to name but a few).

Gender regression

To point out that it is wrong for Maldivian women to be pushed back from a position of relative equality with men to being nothing but obedient child-bearing vessels, and to single out such thinking for criticism represents neither the perusal of a hidden political agenda nor a criticism of Islam per se.

Indeed, Quran 3:195 states: ‘…be you male or female, you are equal to one another…’

It is those who ignore this spiritual equality between men and women that 3:195 makes so clear, and preach contrary messages, that are being put in the dock for thorough and thoroughly required cross-examinations.

When criticism is leveled against the practice of butchering the genitalia of young girls, again, it is not Islam that is being criticized but those who are forcing the Maldives to regress into ancient cruelties its people have virtually abandoned. There is absolutely no mention of ‘female circumcision’ (as some who prefer to package this cruelty refer to it as) made in the Quran either directly or indirectly.

Neither is there a Hadheeth stating the act is required in Islam. While Prophet Mohamed did not explicitly ban the practice neither did he condone it, advising that if it were to be practiced, it should not be needlessly cruel. Criticism of FGM is a criticism of those who, under the name of Islam, are taking the most vulnerable Maldivians back to the times before people knew better.


Nor is it a criticism of Islam to decry policies of intolerance against people of other faiths – the most recent example being the imminent deportation of an American family because they are ‘suspected’ of being missionaries. It is to point out that ‘Islam’ is being manipulated to achieve certain aims and to pursue particular agendas.

Quran 49:13 states: ‘O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another’ [own emphasis].

Recognition of differences, pluralism – not a false dichotomy between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – that is what Islam asks of its followers. For Muslims to do otherwise is ‘un-Islamic’ and for Maldivians to do so is, additionally, ‘un-Maldivian’.

Maldivians, until recently, were renowned for their openness and friendliness. The suspicions with which Maldivians now treat foreigners are consequences of this audacious robbery of Maldivian traditions and nature.

It is this loss that is being lamented by critics, the loss of the friendly Maldivian. The friendly Muslim Maldivian who welcomed foreigners with warmth and endearing curiosity. The Maldivians who have been indoctrinated into treating ‘the other’ with suspicion rather than with recognition as they once did – or as their religion tells them to do – it is they, and the practices that have made them so, that are the cause for concern and criticism.

No clash of civilisations

Islam is not monolithic. Nor is ‘the West’. Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilisations theory is a dangerous and vacuous idea based on Orientalism, colonialism and imaginary lines drawn across civilizations that he conjured up. Read the late Palestinian American intellectual and cultural critic Edward Said for a robust critique of the theory.

Unfortunately, it is a theory that many saw as proven with the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. Criticism of what is happening in the Maldives in the name of Islam does not mean the critics are in favour of the so-called ‘War on Terror’, or are swooning fans of George W Bush who initially used the word ‘crusade’ to describe this seemingly endless ‘war’.

Nor does it mean being in favour of the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that turned international law on its head and established the so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes. Neither does it automatically imply these critics are cheering at the inhuman treatment of ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib; the ‘extraordinary renditions’; or the continuing surveillance and monitoring of Muslim communities in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’ and prevention of ‘radicalisation’.

Interpretations of Islam

It means none of those things because it is possible to be a Muslim and disagree with regressive and draconian policies that are being implemented in the name of Islam; and because it is possible for a Muslim to agree with certain ‘Western’ ideas and practices without abandoning their own faith.

Just as it is possible to be from the West and/or be a non-Muslim and disagree with inhumane and illegal policies implemented in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, or those that create the undeniably unjust North/South divisions of today’s world.

Such agreement and disagreement are possible precisely because, as quoted from the Quran before, human beings are ‘distinct peoples and tribes’ that should ‘recognise one another’ as such. It is wrong to try and erase these distinctions through violence and/or other means in order to establish a false homogeneity or hegemony of one group/religion/region over another.

In this disturbed world, the Maldives – had it been allowed to be itself and practice Islam the way it had done for centuries – could have stood as an example to the rest of the world that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, that it is diverse, and among its many followers are people of distinctive cultures.

Sadly, that Maldives is being taken away, its people being cookie-cutter-molded to fit the appearance and behaviours of a particular sect of Islam. A vast majority have allowed themselves to be led down this path, like rats by Pied Piper. Those that refused to be lured have been forced into silence, gagged by the implicit threat of being branded apostates, non-believers, Infidels.

Loss of identity

There still is time, yet, to fight the complete loss of Maldivian identity, to stand against the enforcement of this imported alien uniformity. It cannot be done if the first response to rational criticism is irrational accusations of apostasy.

Differences are inevitable and should be not just tolerated, but welcomed. Muslims are not the same world over. It may surprise some of those re-making themselves, willingly or otherwise, in the image of a particular sect of Islam to learn that the biggest concentrations of Muslim populations can be found in non-Arabic countries.

Not every Muslim is an Arab or every Arab a Muslim; nor does every Arab Muslim practice their faith in the same way. Seven percent of the world’s Muslims (over 50 million) live in Europe; two percent (over 7 million) in North America. Muslims today do not live in a world divided between an ‘Islamic civilization’ and a ‘Western civilisation’ nor do they conform to one look, one appearance, one set of customs – just the one God.

To sit and say nothing while Maldivian identity is taken away, while individuals are systematically turned into copies of a non-existent ideal with the argument that the right to individuality and to individual rights is but a covert tactic of ‘Western neo-colonialism’ – all in the name of Islam – now that would be a sin.

Accusations – of having been rendered brain-dead by the seemingly all-powerful silver bullets of Western media; political bias; and, above all, apostasy – should not, and will not, be allowed to silence the voices of reasoned criticism.

In the words, not of a lowly mortal critic, but the Quran itself: ‘there shall be no compulsion in religion’ (2:256).

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

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


24 thoughts on “Comment: Silence is not always golden”

  1. Very good. Please think of delivering these essays you are writing as series of live lectures in Dhivehi in Male ( perhaps at the Islamic center). And we can have a live translation by a Maldivian (wearing a safari suit for effect). Or would the irony be lost?

    Thanks again for a very interesting read.

  2. By the way, I see nothing wrong with criticizing religion itself – per se. 😉

  3. Munira should understand consequences allowing other religions in Maldives in the name of so called freedom “Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalization’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.” This title is good I believe! However your not up to that standard, it’s the reason why your misleading the readers, your maybe good writer so that you can twist the facts and would make people blind to see the reality..
    I just point out some facts which is already happening in some neighboring courtiers in the name of religion , They are banned in Islamic countries, including Pakistan, and strictly monitored in China, which has its own nationalist Catholic Church apart from Rome. Even Russia under Putin has recently come out against Christian missionaries as causing mischief in the country and often being agents of the American government. Christians are under direct attack in Indonesia where thousands of Christians have been killed in recent years. Neighboring Pakistan does not allow the missionaries the freedom they have in India and routinely oppresses its Christians. A few years ago a Catholic Bishop committed suicide in a Pakistan court to protest the issue.
    Now see what happens when they become minority religion in a country, in the name of freedom they are allowed to practice and build churches.. but what happens next is horrific and undesirable , Today Christians in India are highlighting minor attacks on Christians done by unidentified groups as a concerted Hindu campaign against them, while they themselves are actively working to change Hindu India into a Christian nation by all available means. While Christians have a long history of aggression against other faiths that certainly has not come to an end, they are quite offended if their religion faces minor obstructions or even criticism from the groups they have long maligned and, not long ago, actively oppressed. In all this they assume an aggrieved posture and claim to be victims of the very type of persecution that they themselves have historically practiced.
    Christians in India exaggerate such minor incidents into a national and even an international anti-Hindu propaganda campaign. More churches have been burnt in America in recent years than in India. Several dozen black American churches were burnt to the ground, not merely slightly damaged like the few Indian churches that have been attacked. Christian priests and ministers are also robbed, assaulted and sometimes killed in all Western countries in numbers not unlike what occurs in India. We should also note that many more priests in America have been arrested for sexual molestation of children than have priests been assaulted in India. Should we use that to make conclusions about the nature of Christianity?
    Europe had to reject the church and Christian dogma in order to become democratic over the past several centuries. So Christian churches are the last people on earth who should be talking about 'democratic rights'. It is merely a smokescreen for promoting their own agendas, spreading their authoritarian and exclusivist beliefs, recklessly eliminating other cultures and religions along the way… so Munirah Moosa: you want to us to suffer the same fate that other neighboring countries are now in the name of religion , by giving freedom in this 100% peaceful Islamic nation .. what actually are you researching ?

  4. Democracy and freedom is a double edged sword.

    Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion argues that the founding fathers of America never intended it to be a conservative nation. They meant it to be a secular nation, with religion removed from every aspect of politics and public policy making. The religious lobby in the states found the democratic and secular constitution well suited for their advances, and adapted their policies to make use of the increasing freedom given in the constitution. It is in fact the freedom given in this secular constitution which led to the growth of the religious lobby in the country.

    A similarity is pretty evident in the Maldivian context. With freedom of speech, the freedom to dissent the conservative religious order found enough room to cultivate there beliefs and to preach there "1400 year old Arabic culture" in the country more freely and without a challenge.

  5. Maldivians' openness and friendliness have also been taken advantage of, much like it has happened elsewhere including in post-colonial societies like India and Sri lanka.

    Some expatriates including development and NGO workers act as if they know what is good for the country without properly consulting local communities. But we have to understand this is also an industry like any other. When there are not enough jobs in their home countries, or when they feel like spending some time in an exotic tropical island, they take up a job as a volunteer or development worker. And of course, its the easiest to become a missionary.

  6. @ do better reseach not one sided?
    why compare Christianity with Islam, when the real danger is from the ultra-conservative elements in the country? its certainly not Christians promoting female genital mutilation, the subjugation of women in the country.

  7. It is convenient to explain the Maldives politics and identity under one grand theory of radical Islam but doing so is ignoring the root causes of poverty, income disparity, social class and the history of discrimination against islanders. How did a small island community end up with so many discriminatory levels of speech and social hierarchy. Surely it is not the work of Islamic radicals.

    If Fazeed Zakariyaa (GPS) is right, radicalization is a consequence of marginalization of poor due to widening economic disparities in the society. The Pakistani boy who was captured in the Mumbai attack confessed that his family is so poor, and as a boy he had no choice but to join the radical movement as the only way to support his poor family and get his many young sisters married. He was convenient instrument for the radicals, due to his poverty and the breakdown of rule of law.

    True academics should explore all angles without letting them down the ‘path like rats by Pied Piper’ when it comes to the subject of radicalization.

  8. This is a very good article based on real facts. As a Maldivian I appreciate very much the work of Munira. Please keep writing such articles in the future and do not go away. This is our fight against terror; we must fight these Mullahs who are trying to import their kind of Islam in Maldives. Please do not get offended by the Mullahs. It is not apostate who are talking against Mullahs. For many years we were Muslims and we were parcticing our religion in peace and harmony in Maldives.

    Those Mullahs are thinking that promoting Islam is just shouting West and America. But have they ever realised that how many Muslims are living in West and America and practice Islam? Today in Maldives and some of Islamic dominated countries you cannot even practice Islam, but you must believe only Mullahs. Few days ago I heard a Mullah shouting about the bane of minarets in Switzerland. However, stupidly he did not recognize Switzerland is a country dominated by Christians and for many years Muslims were allowed to practice their religion freely in that country and also Muslims were allowed to built their Mosques. Can one build a Church in Jeddah or elsewhere in a community dominated by Muslims?

    Please keep up your good work. As I said before this is our fight against terror and we must defeat these Mullahs.

  9. Dear editor,
    A very interesting article.I do accept some points mentioned in the article but I am afraid that most of the article is a baseless research made not clearly going through the Quran and the most authentic Hadheeth books the Buhari and Muslim.
    The Female genital mutilation (FGM), concubines, under-age brides, calls to bring back capital punishment, deportation of ‘suspect’ foreigners, increasing acceptance of man’s alleged superiority over women.These are some areas you need to do more research.
    To really research or study the Quran and the Hadheeth you need to learn arabic cause Quran and hadheeth cannot be fully understood without learning arabic. The Quran is not the normal Arabic that we know today.The Quran is Allah's(SWA)words and are pure Arabic.Even then and today some words in Quran are a mystery to the Arabs who had been in the peak of their literature.Hence proving it was a not normal.
    In light of science how many things we did not believe in the first place been proven which are mentioned in Quran fourteen hundred years ago.For example:PAIRS IN CREATION,THE ROUNDNESS OF THE EARTH,THE LAYERS OF THE ATMOSPHERE,THE MOVEMENT OF MOUNTAINS,THE FECUNDATING WINDS and MOTHER'S MILK are some of the miracles of Quran.Who knows that science might prove that circumcision is beneficial to female children.As far as i know there is authentic Hadheeth which proves it was practiced by companions of Prophet Muhammad(SAW).
    Under age bride is another issue we should look into.Islam is religion of decency and good discipline. No civilization nor religion mention that illegal sexual acts are good.As we all know that in everywhere in the world teenage pregnancy and sex trade are big issues.Islam doesn't force any young teenager to get married.It only mentions that if you think you cannot abstain from illegal sexual acts you should get married.So i don't see any thing weird in this.yes unless you want your child to perish in unlawful and illegal sexual acts.I don't think any rational parent will want this.
    Is the crime in the world decreasing or increasing?For sure its increasing.People might claim that's because the population is increasing.But when you compare the population and crime the crimes had increased.The governments in the world are failing to provide witnesses and evidence to the cases because of the justice system they have. Hence failing to apprehend and punish those who are involved in hideous crimes.Go to the Maldivians courts to see how many cases are pending.Before and now also in the Maldives child abusers,drug offenders ,thief's and even killers had been banished to local Islands.The result of this had been significant.Even after several child abuse incidents the parliament was reluctant to pass a severe law to punish this people.If you look and search internet which country has the lowest crime rate i think it wont be shocking to see Saudi Arabia on the top of the list.
    The deportation was carried out when he was caught spreading Christianity and he was caught with evidence as far as i know.If he is innocent prove it or take the case to the court.
    As far as i know Islam established the first womens right.In Islam a women is like a pearl.she gets the protection from father when young and protection from husband when married.The women who cover their body is doing it with their own will.Look at our society how many women are harassed in work places,streets and in public places.Even now their is an article about a stalker.I wonder if he is stalking women fully covered in hijab or women who are half naked running around to impress men.When the wealth is distributed the men get more cause now the responsibility of looking after the sister falls in his head so he gets more cause the man needs to spend on her as well.If a sister looks after the children and the house and then again if she goes to work she is actually getting double burden on her head.
    About our culture and ethics being lost due to introduction of Orthodox Islam is a baseless comment.Even fifty years ago their were people who practiced Orthodox Islam in the Maldives.
    I wonder if all these women started wearing makeup and dressing up half naked due to spread of spread of Islam.Or all the women started going to work due to spread of Orthodox Islam.Or the young community got drowned in drugs due to spread of Orthodox Islam.
    Or the child abuse cases,murders,gang fights,corruption,theft and more was spread due to spread of Orthodox Islam.What we are today is due to leaving Quran and Sunnah on the side line.Nobody can argue about this.
    Islam is much more straight and upright than a monolithic.It had proven it 1400 years ago it is proving it now.Its the most practiced and the fastest growing religion in the world.The west is on the knees of Islam.
    Every community,religion,country will have black sheep's.That doesn't mean what they do will fall on everyone's head.There is no remove for terrorism and extremism in Islam.Allah(SWA) and the prophet Muhammad(SAW) had ordered to treat non muslims justly.Muhammad(SAW)had jew neighbour he used to put thorns the path the Muhammad(SAW)used to walk.But when Muhammad(SAW)heard that the Jews son was sick he rushed to see him.This is the characters he had shown the muslims in treatment of non muslims.Even Ali(RAHU)went to court when an amour belonging to him was stolen by a jew.He was the caliph that time.But he took the case to the court and he lost the case cause he couldn't provide evidence.He was the leader of whole Arab peninsula but see his justice.This what Islam is all about.So please look carefully into the aspects of Islam and see why this law had been set down.
    May Allah guide all the Maldivians to right path.
    Thank you.

  10. This article brings nothing. This guy does not have knowledge about Turkey occupation in Cyprus and their genocide in Armenia. She does not know what we hear on our radio and Tv everyday. She must be a sick guy.

  11. 30 years we were in hell,,due Golhabo regime, our country wasted ,but now its different.we are not going to be silent, wat ever it take to, save dis country and the world, President naseedh is implementing the right techniques and formulars to develop dis country..
    hope 4 a great future
    <All youths of dis country are following the foot of president Naseedh(Global President)
    Best of Luck MR.Naseedh

  12. Munira... please come to Maldives to research a topic so dear to the Maldivian psyche... you don't seem to have been "around"... and BTW; research the accusation that "the Maldives (has been) hijacked by religous and political fanatics/fascists"...

  13. @ do better reseach not one sided?

    This is not about religion. It's about women's health and the acceptance by society of women's right to sexual pleasure.I don't care what Hadith you dig up from where ever. This is unacceptable.

  14. After reading the comments here I came to the conclusion that we Maldivians are really ignorant of their religion Islam. To understand Islam one has to read the Koran from beginning to the end (with translation) and also read all the Hadiths collected and written down by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim. Having knowledge of few Koranic verses and few Hadiths will not be enough. Pity that we comment without really knowing what we are talking about. Why do we think that so called fundamentalists or extremists are doing what they are doing? Are they really ignorant of Islam? If so why are they not shown the truth by our muslim scholars. These are questions I have been asking myself.

  15. Dear Nadya,
    This is just what you guys are doing without even reading something you are coming to a conclusion.
    Thank you.

  16. Deep thinking read. Enjoyed much:)

    Interesting points raised by Rilwan. While accepting some, I am compelled to argue against some few points though. I urge Rilwan to research more on female genital cutting/mutilation and why the term "circumcision" has been duly replaced with "cutting" or "mutilation" in the case of females.. and what the health experts and WHO's stand is on this barbaric cultural practice (btw, when you research more on this it becomes clear that this practice has nothing to do with Islam).

    Please excuse me for elaborating a little bit. In males, the procedure is non-mutilating in which the foreskin is cut off from the tip of the penis without damaging the organ itself. However, in females, all types of "circumcision" procedures results in partial or total removal of the clitoris, which is the main organ for stimulating sexual pleasure for women, causing severe nerve damaging and worse unable to feel or experience orgasm ever in a woman's life, partially robbing her of her womanhood. Other harmful procedures to the female genitalia in the name of circumcision includes pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization - a diverse range of practices, such as pricking the clitoris with needles, burning or scarring the genitals as well as ripping or tearing of the vagina.

    This is why your statement "Who knows that science might prove that circumcision is beneficial to female children" is inhuman and outright ignorant and against children's rights, women's rights and women's health and well being, and above all against humanity! I am sure the outcry from you would be different if the male circumcision procedure adopts the removal of the glans (head of the penis) rather than just a piece of foreskin!

    Your reference to so called authentic hadiths books is a baseless claim. I advice you to again research on these "authentic" hadiths books to realize how these books have been produced at the first place, some 200 years after Prophets Muhammad(SAW) death, slowly and eventually replacing the Koran, the word of god, its hududs and penalties by the abusers of religion just like as it happened in other sister faiths of Islam; the original Torah with Talmud and the original Bible with New Testament. There are many hadiths that either contradict the Quran or don't make any sense at all. While there may be some genuine hadiths that don't contradict the Quran, there is no way to prove their authenticity even if the collectors of hadiths may claim so. Only God knows what the truth is. If you have faith in god, I'm sure you believe that God knows what will happen in the future. He is never short in sharing his wisdom with mankind, and thus has warned us before hand about these man-made fabricated "Hadiths".

    "Shall I seek OTHER THAN GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed THIS BOOK FULLY DETAILED? ....The word of your Lord is COMPLETE, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words; He is the hearer, the omniscient. Yet, if you obey the majority of people, they will take you away from the path of God. That is because they follow CONJECTURE, and they fail to think." (6:114-116)

    "They insist upon following conjecture, when the guidance is given to them herein from their Lord." (53:23)

    "God has revealed the best 'Hadith'; a book that is consistent, and describes both ways (to heaven and Hell). The skins of those who reverence their Lord shudder therefrom, then their skins and hearts soften up and receive God's message. Such is God's guidance; He guides whomever He wills. As for those sent astray by Him, no one can guide them." (39:23)

    "There are those who advocate vain 'Hadith' causing diversion from the path of God, without knowledge, and fail to take such actions seriously; these have deserved humiliating retribution. And when our verses are recited to him, he turns away arrogantly, as if he never heard them; as if his ears are deaf; promise him painful retribution." (31:67)

    "And the messenger will say, 'My Lord, my people have deserted THIS QURAN.' We thus set up against every prophet enemies who are wicked. YOUR LORD SUFFICES AS A GUIDE AND SUPPORTER (i.e., Quran is enough)." (25:30-31)

    Are you satisfied with the Quran? Do you believe God? Or, do you feel that Quran is not complete; that you need additional sources of religious guidance?

  17. Haveeru online, the propaganda machine of the old pseudo-Arab Baatist Regime, just now ran a mistranslated article quoting OPEC giving the impression that OPEC was attacking us.

    It took off the article quickly and now is running an article with Dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom saying COPenhangen was a failure.

    Miserable fools in the old Dictator's camp.

    What did we ever get out of Kyoto or Rio?

  18. I wonder why some people get so desperate about Maldives. Cool it, it's not so easy to impose foreign will on us..i have been listening to these Christian apologetics or article 18 promoters for so many's really sickly sentimental. Not interested. Yawn!


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