Communication among Muslims a key challenge: Farah Pandith

Extremism is the ‘front and centre’ of concerns shared by Muslims all over the world, at least according to Farah Pandith, the US State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, who is paying a four day visit to the Maldives.

Pandith, who reports directly to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is using the visit to meet with government and political figures, as well as NGOs and local people, to look at the possible social challenges facing the Maldives as an emerging Islamic democracy, as well as how best to respond to such difficulties.

Speaking on Sunday at the American Centre in the National Library in Male’ to an audience of local people and foreigners from across the private and public sector, Pandith said that even in the current Facebook age, communication among Muslims was seen as a major challenge facing Islamic communities.

According to Pandith, a large proportion of the world’s Muslims are believed to be under 30 years of age, yet the US Representative claimed that amidst a divide between followers of the faith and non-Islamic people, many young Muslims were not part of the “conversation” relating to differing faiths and viewpoints.

The representative said that this lack of communication about Islam in some cultures has further added to a global culture of ‘us and them’ between Muslims and other faith and belief groups.

In such a climate, the US State Department claims to now be looking to work with NGOs and local enterprise to better directly address discontent in Islamic societies all over the world.

In considering this more hands on approach by the US government, Pandith acknowledged that some US foreign policy during the last deacde, particularly in the Arab world, had been “unpopular” – not just amongst Muslims but large swathes of the world’s population. However, she claimed the country was moving beyond a so-called “freedom agenda” of pushing democracy, by trying instead to promote initiatives and activities designed to directly address prominent social concerns.

In addressing local audience members at the talk, Pandith asked the 20 or so people in attendance what it meant to them to be Maldivian and Islamic.

The response, according to some in the audience, was confusion and possible consideration of leaving the country amidst concerns over what they perceive as issues of free speech in relation to the role of faith.

Having met Pandith during her visit, State Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, told Minivan News that principles such as free speech and human rights were an important part of the Maldives constitution and the influence of Islam in the country.

“The Maldives is very unique as we are both 100 percent Muslim and democratic,” he said.

Pointing specifically to Article 27 of the constitution, Shaheem stressed that there was freedom of speech within the Maldives, though this right to speak was bound by the principles of the Islamic faith.

Ultimately, the State Minister for Islamic Affairs claimed that Islam has formed the backbone of Maldives society for hundreds of years and was central to national ideas of human rights and free speech.

“In war for example, Islam forbids the killing of woman and children,” said Shaheem as an example of the religion’s impact on the notion of human rights.

In relation to the potential challenges of establishing more debate over Islam in the country, Shaheem said he believed the major concerns the ministry faced in the country were more related to drugs and the emergence of extremist ideas, both religious and non-religious in nature.

Although stressing his belief that the country has no Al Qaeda-style organisations, the State Minister said it was important to counter and not give any opportunity for more radical, extreme forms of Islam to take root in the country.

To try and meet this aim, Shaheem claimed that education and academic pursuits formed a major part of efforts to retain the country’s status as a moderate nation.

The Islamic Ministry says that greater links it has with many western nations like the UK reflects a more collaborative relationship with Muslim communities across the world.


26 thoughts on “Communication among Muslims a key challenge: Farah Pandith”

  1. "Shaheem stressed that there was freedom of speech within the Maldives, though this right to speak was bound by the principles of the Islamic faith."

    Shaheem should have further stressed that these 'principles of Islamic faith' were further bound by the principles of Adhaalathu party.

    In a country that carefully picks and chooses which Islamic principles to enforce, I must say Freedom of Speech is simply not one of them.

  2. @Neil & MInivan News editor!!

    I quote from the article: "Ultimately, the State Minister for Islamic Affairs claimed that Islam has formed the backbone of Maldives society for hundreds of years and was central to national ideas of human rights and free speech" WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "CLAIMED"??? We all know minivan news have become the minaret of spreading hatred to ISLAM and its values!! We know Minivan news promotes its own secular version of Islam which is disorient Muslims in Maldives from the increasing awarness of true Islamic princples and make them into deviant forms of Islam that USA and its close allies wants to promote that has no immediate threat to American "sick" dream of Gay rights..and alcohol freedom and also American dream!! I wonder why Minivan does this! What few dollars are u guys earning? Minivan very conviently promotes deviant scolars and deviant such as Hilath! I wonder where this rabbit hole leads to! I wonder!

  3. who the He.. is this pandhidh ? A special representative to Muslim community.doesn't know anything about Islam and talking rubbish about Islam.Ey kaafiru - there no such thing call "Islamic democracy" Islam is Islam nothing to be added to it and nothing to be taken from it. I think one day Dith will say that " we must talk about The Islamic freedom of religion,The Islamic gay wrights,The Islamic Lesbians wrights,The Islamic alcoholic wrights and so on". shame on you kaafiru. "Indeed,the best speech is Allah's book and the best guidance is Muhummad's guidance. The worst affairs(of religion) are those innovated(by people), for every such innovation is an act of misguidance leading to the fair"
    we no this Kaafir people like Didh are trying to spoil our harts by way of mockery.
    "Democracy"Say no to this democracy religion

  4. Yeah right. We saw that clearly when Nazim voiced his opinions on religion, as a question and asking for guidance. And he was not in any way arrogant. DZN was more arrogant and pompous even when giving advice.

  5. Incredible that Shaheem is still trying to sell the "100% Muslim" label - what is democratic about it? What an oxymoron!

  6. Yaamyn, can you prove your point that principles of Islamic faith is bound by principles of Adhaalathu Party? From what I've learned, MDP has their religious scholars embedded in MOIA and so far there has not been a clash of principles between them. There are NGOs like Salaf and Islamic foundation. There have been few disagreements on minor issues but so far there are no clash of "principles of Islamic faith" with MOIA or Adhaalath party. And not only freedom of speech but everything else is too bound by limits of Islamic faith as stated in the constitution of Maldives. And if one believes that the constitution is flawed because of that, then its their own problem since the constitution is approved by the people of Maldives. Mind you, its the common people who want Islam as the basis of life. Not few liberals like you or sheiks. Its from the common man you find on the streets. And if you have a problem with the people, its you liberals who should leave this country.

  7. Maldives is neither islamic nor democratic. it is BOTH devoid of values and an intolerant wahhabi state. extreme in both being religious and irreligious.intolerance and self-righteousness are the key words here.

    FunFact of the Day: Did you know State Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem openly called for an Islamic (Wahhabi) Caliphate and declared that all muslim states should establish Emirates and join them?

  8. “Shaheem stressed that there was freedom of speech within the Maldives, though this right to speak was bound by the principles of the Islamic faith.”

    this line never seize to baffle me. it comes up again and again and no one seems to care how contradictory the statement it.
    Freedom bound by anything is not a freedom. i don't know if it even fits the defenition of an oxymoron.

  9. @ Moyameeha

    As usual u r a stupid value less, clue less human who could be worse than others in the animal kingdom! Anybody who reads ur blog would know u are a confused man! What do we call humans who has no values or moral standards? guess what? we call them animals!

  10. Al,

    " And if you have a problem with the people, its you liberals who should leave this country."

    That line right there.

    Why do liberals or indeed anyone have to leave the country? This, in a nutshell, forms the whole basis of my argument against intolerant wahhabism.

    Islamic Foundation, J Salaf, Adhaalathu might as well be hydra heads of the same monster, as far as variations of ideology is concerned.

    They're simply three shades of black - whereas around the world, there is a vibrant spectrum of Islamic beliefs.

    Far from acknowledging the diversity of beliefs among religions, or plurality of thought, you cannot even acknowledge the pluralism within Islam.

    The present crop of mullahs are all products of the same intolerant ideology.They are churned out of the same madrassas in Saudi Arabia, or Saudi Funded madrassas in Pakistan. Same product, same packaging, different brands.

    I do not care if others look upon intolerance and fanaticism favorably, it doesn't make intolerance any more 'right' in my eyes.

    By that argument, we were overwhelmingly Buddhists at some point of history. But I don't see you crying foul over the conversion to Islam.

    If you think your ideology is so awesome that anybody who disagrees must 'leave' the country.. then perhaps you need to reevaluate things.

  11. safari,

    "What do we call humans who has no values or moral standards?"

    I call them wahhabis. But I take no credit for it. 😉

  12. Yaamyn,
    Pointing fingers at me doesn't save you of your intolerance either.

    "If you think your ideology is so awesome that anybody who disagrees must ‘leave’ the country"

    where was I talking of my own ideology. I was only trying to prove that what Shaheem and MOIA says is checked by NGOs and other sources. Since so far there has been no clash of the very principles of Islamic faith within these parties the people can take them as true.

    And the part where I asked the liberals to leave this country, is a common phrase used by liberals against Muslims in this country on this website. It wasn't on just you.

    You guys are intolerant of accepting Islam in its true form. You want to accept it within your own terms. That is just ridiculous.

  13. al,

    There's no religious believer on this planet who thinks he's following Islam /any other religion in its false sense.

    That's a stupid, banal comment to make.

    Liberals are often criticized for being far too tolerant, to the point of allowing the cancers of fundamentalism thrive among civilized people. (Ref. the criticism of post-war liberals in UK for letting London become 'multicultural')

    I do not have any problems with Shaheem or that Islamic Foundation guy holding any personal beliefs. The last thing I'd demand is for them to be thrown out of the country for having personal beliefs.

    But return the sentiment damnit! How many liberal leaders have you actually heard demanding the death/destruction of religious neocons?

    I've seen front page Haveeru headlines declaring secularist Maldivians to be 'laadheenee'. I've lost count of the death threats, intimidation and other forms of violence against secular Maldivians - and this is done openly and publicly.

    So if you're really saying that us "lesser" Muslims/secularists/liberals who are clearly following 'false beliefs' must make room for his holiness future Caliph Al-Usthaz Shaheem and his approved 'true Forms' of wickedness, then you have another thing coming.

    I haven't bothered to bow down to the constant pressure from intolerant fanatics and suffered through an(admittedly inventive) variety of threats for over 4 years, and I do not plan to start now.

    And to respond to your point. No. The Adhaalath ideology is NOT kept in check by anyone.

    "Islamic" Foundation and Jamaliyyathul Salaf exist only to bolster that ideology, and perhaps a shade darker than the face Adhaalath puts on.

    There are NO liberal scholars preaching in the Maldives. There is NO sufi/secular cleric.

    A few wannabe liberal clerics like Afrasheem get thrown stones at INSIDE of mosque compounds.

    There simply is no liberal secular counterpart to the Adhaalath ideology, and if you think otherwise, I'd like you to point them out.

  14. @Yammyn.

    As any civilised person to live with these so called Wahhabies and also as the same person to live with Values less Secularist (Alcohol drinkers, fornicators, gays..etc)..I am sure an objectives assessment would come to conclusion that the so called Wahhabies are much more respectful of humanrights, do honor women and children and are honest and god fearing people who have some moral standard! While you secularist are money money money worshipers and opportunist who would wann make money and fame even after killing millions and leaving humanity to its lowest end! I would advice those who are serious on this subject to live and learn these two growing segements of our society and a personal judgement rather than depend on western or Saudi/Egypt dictators propanda machines such as Minivan News, CNN, Aljazeera, FOX..etc! Go for a holiday to these two kinds of people me u will see vast would live for love of this world and other group loves this world for the sake of god!! Yammyn u are a lost soul! find a life!

  15. @yaamyn

    "There is NO sufi/secular cleric."

    Another typical atheist/secular strategy against Muslims - "Try to promote Sufism in Muslims societies and encourage them as much as possible because they are not interested in politics"

    How does this Sufi poetry meaning sound like?

    "Demolish the Temple!
    Demolish the Mosque!
    But don't demolish anyone's Heart
    Because God resides there"

    So with the spread of Sufism, Islam could be erased from the face of the earth?

    Very smart!

  16. @yaamyn

    “What do we call humans who has no values or moral standards?”

    Moral : means accepted standard of behaviour.

    Now lets looks at some UNACCEPTABLE behaviour.

    fornicate/get drunk/take usury/gamble/demand for gay rights/commit sodomy/commit adultery

    Would a Wahhabi accept these behaviour? No.

    Would an atheist/secularist accept these behaviour? YES, YES and YES.

    So humans who have no moral standards are..

    *drums rolling*

    ..Atheists and Secularists!

  17. heck,

    How about baseless slander?

    You have some courage trying to point fingers at Sufism.

    Sufis are one of the most accomplished Muslims in history, with unrivaled achievements in all spheres - whether religion, philosophy, math or science.

    Wahhabism, what you call "true Islam", was invented much recently. Came in handy to help Arab bedouins to bring down the caliphate. And to this day, it has no absolutely no achievements to its credit. It is just a violence loving, terrorist breeding failure of an ideology trying to pass it off as a religion. "true Islam" sheesh.

    “Demolish the Temple!
    Demolish the Mosque!
    But don’t demolish anyone’s Heart
    Because God resides there”

    That's very beautiful. Bulleh Shah, I presume?

    See those words by Sufis transcend your narrow views of religions and hollow rites and rigid rituals.

    It might be hard, if not impossible, for you to believe there are Muslims who choose to value morals, values and kindness and tolerance over the length of their trousers, or the color of the hijab, or the bushiness of the beard.

    That's precisely what Rabia Basri (of Basra), a sufi ascetic is credited to have said "I love God: I have no time left
    In which to hate the devil."

    No time to hate! That's how great Muslims of the past viewed God. An intensely personal relationship with God that goes beyond petty hatred for 'Zionists' and 'EVIL AMERICA! USA! USA!'

    Also attributed to Rabia:

    "I carry a torch in one hand
    And a bucket of water in the other:
    With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
    And put out the flames of Hell
    So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
    And see the real goal."

    Unfortunately, such a beautiful philosophy is completely lost on literalists. On the other hand, Inevitable - because wahhabism has one and only one pillar. Hatred.

  18. safari,

    I find your sentences painful to read.

    "Secularist (Alcohol drinkers, fornicators, gays..etc)"

    I've always thought wahhabis are excellent at abusing brackets - especially creatively used in their translations of the Koran.

    You know how easy it is for me to play this game?

    Wahhabis (pedophiles, terrorists, mass-murderers, polygamists, misogynists, opium-growing, hygiene-impaired, underachievers..)

    Yes. It was that easy.

    What does secularism have to do with alcohol? Or sexual preferences? or money?

    Do you even know what secularism is? Have you ever bothered to google the term before going on your ill-informed, baseless slanderous posts?

    Finally, yes. BBC, CNN, Minivan, the Post, Times, Jazeera, Mirror, Mail, etc. etc. are ALL in a giant web of conspiracy targeted specifically at you.

    It's sometimes cute the way wahhabis think the rest of the world revolves around them - and how everything is a conspiracy targeted at them.

    When I hear your folk talk, I instantly recall the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. Only, you have made an entire religion out of it.

  19. Just my curiosity.

    Why is that secularist is always equated to gays, rapists? Is it by doing so, you want to convince any who might have secularistic ideas that the country will have to take the brunt of gods wrath, if they entertain those thoughts?

    Gays, rapists what have u are rampant across globe. A certain percentage are always be gay, a %age do have sadistic tendencies, a %age will suffer from cancer, a%age will be colorblind etc.

    It's not the religion or the belief. I can't believe in the age of information, intelligent people think otherwise.

  20. Some of these Islamists are real selfish.

    Islamists want to go heaven, marry 4 women, do all that they desire.

    But, when a non believer wants to have sex outside of marriage( as some want to) they jump at him to kill him. Why? Isn't it easy for Islamists to go to heaven without the rest. Please go, for gods sake go to heaven. Leave me, I do not want to go there with you.

  21. a.a thnx.

    Safari, care to elaborate? when and where did i become so valueless and all?

    wahhabism and religious fundamentalism of all sorts reduce morals and values to a list of things you cannot do because you would be punished if you do so (both in this life and hereafter). for me, morals and values come from within, not just from above. Quran clearly states it is a guide. not the only guide, the heart is a guide too. we are not cut off from god, he inspires us and guides us. i dont kill or rape, because i know it is wrong. not because there is a law against it. not because i would be hung upside down on a tree in hell. so, you see... non-wahhabis too can have values. and even nonmuslims.

    from the wahhabi view point of values... ziney will cover a lot of things and will usually be seen as equally wrong. it will cover; consensual sex between two consenting adults who are life partners but not married,with a prostitute, cheating on one's wife/husband (adultery), rape, gang rape, child abuse (unless with permission from the child's father, which makes it legal)..etc. so in the end people starts to see all these as the same 'sin' in the back of their mind. one might think. "meh, im an adulterer so whats the bigdeal if i go and rape that kid. its not like im not zineying already". THAT is why reducing values in to a list is dangerous.

    ironically the foundations of wahhabism was laid by maumoonism. the result is what we see today; people devoid of values, behaving like animals. ask any one of these gangstas who go around killing and raping...i bet they would be more wahhabi than secular. and weve been muslims for 800+ years, and were doing just fine without wahhabi sheikhs dictating our values.

    so i dont know where you get the idea that all secularists are devoid of values. secular muslims will have muslim values. secular atheists and people of other faiths will have their values. there are secularists with conservative values. i consider myself one.

    you are just repeating what youve been told by the mullahs. uve been told that only wahhabis have values. you have no choice but to nod along, even when it is clearly unjustified and wrong.

    there are people who does more good and those who do more bad. there are people with and without values. and these people live amongst muslims and nonmuslims.

  22. and whats with this leaving the country sh*t. just because one disagrees with what is written in the constitution doesnt mean one should leave the country. it is not illegal to comment on or criticize the constitution. it is only illegal to act against it. i suppose u dont understand the concept of agreeing to disagree. youv chosen a do or die policy.

    secularism is NOT illegal. promoting and supporting secularism is not illegal.we are all staying here. gotz?

  23. @stupid meeha & yaamyn

    Sufis are too lazy to pray five times a day, fast the month, go to Hajj, pay Zakath. That's why they support secularism.

    You can't compare great Muslims of the past who took the mystical meaning of the verses of the Quran to praise Allah and His way of life sent to mankind through Muhammad(SAW) even more than the average Mulslims of their time.

    But why do you support Sufism? Because you support poetry like "Demolish the Mosque" and as far as you have a 'good' heart, there is no need to obey Allah and his Messenger?

    Current day Sufism is not Islam, my dear, that's the whispers of the Devil, in the form of lazy, drunk poetry in your heart!

  24. Lazy drunk poetry from Sufis?

    "When God sitting in Heaven looks down on Earth, He must be wondering who could have created my Sweetheart" !!!

    "Angels descend down here at night and make merry, kissing the footprints left behind by you (Sweetheart)" !!!

    Is it hard to understand these are the words of the Devil?

    Give a secular Sufi a bottle of Sharaab, a piece of paper and a pen.

    They will exhaust the ink and fill the paper with the words of the Devil whispered in his heart!

    Anyone caught in the trap later, in the form of music, will spend his entire day, without ritual purification and without prayer!

    Sufism? Huh! What an evil trap by the Devil to entice Muslims and keep him devoid of remembering his Creator!

    Surah Al-Baqarah 168-169 "And do not follow the footsteps of Satan, indeed he is to you a clear enemy. He only orders you to evil and IMMORALITY, and to SAY ABOUT Allah what you DO NOT KNOW"


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