Hanged air traffic controller sought asylum for fear of religious persecution

Ismail Mohamed Didi, the 25 year-old air traffic controller who was found hanged from the control tower of Male International Airport at 4:00am on Tuesday morning in an apparent suicide, was seeking asylum in the UK for fear of persecution over his lack of religious belief.

Islamic website Raajjeislam reported yesterday that Ismail “was a person inclined to atheism” and had “declared his atheism to his friends.”

The website alleged that Ismail had refused to follow religious sermons.

“This is an issue that a Muslim government should consider,” the website said. “Because when these types of people die, they are buried in the same [cemetery] where Muslims are buried. Their funeral prayers and body washing are also conducted as for Muslims. It is questionable as to whether this is allowed according to Islam.”

Over two emails sent to an international humanitarian organisation on June 23 and 25, obtained by Minivan News, Ismail admits he is an atheist and desperately requests assistance for his asylum application, after claiming to have received several anonymous threats on June  22.

In the emails, he says he “foolishly admitted my stance on religion” to work colleagues, word of which had “spread like wildfire.”

“A lot of my close friends and girlfriend have been prohibited from seeing me by their parents. I have even received a couple of anonymous phone calls threatening violence if I do not repent and start practising Islam,” he said.

“Maldivians are proud of their religious homogeneity and I am learning the hard way that there is no place for non-Muslim Maldivians in this society.”

Ismail claimed he had been “trying for some time to seek employment abroad, but have not yet succeeded. I would already have left the country if I was sure I could meet the required burden of proof in an asylum claim.”

“I cannot bring myself to pretend to be I am something I am not, as I am a staunch believer in human rights. I am afraid for my life here and know no one inside the country who can help me.”

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: ismail mohamed <[email protected]>
Date: 25 June 2010 09:30
Subject: a plea for help

Dear sir,

I’m a 25 year-old Maldivian living in Male’. I have been working as an Air Traffic Controller at Male’ International Airport for almost 7 years now.

I started becoming disenchanted with Islam around 5 years ago and am now an atheist. During my transformation, and even now, I am quite the idealist, and when i was confronted about two years back by a couple of my colleagues about my aversion from the daily practices of Islam, i somewhat foolishly admitted my stance on religion.

I had asked them to keep it a secret from the rest of our workforce at ATC, although i now realize i should have known better. It did not take long for everybody at work to find out and since then, i have faced constant harassment in my work environment.

An atheist is not a common feature at all among Maldivians and the word has spread like wildfire since then. It has now come to the point where everyone I know, including my family, have become aware of my lack of belief.

In a society that has always been proud of their religious homogeneity, you can imagine what i am being put through. I have been subjected to numerous consultations with religious scholars and even my closest friends are not allowed to see me.

My company has already begun investigating a complaint regarding me, collecting testimony from fellow workers about my apostasy.

Just 3 days ago, i received two anonymous phone calls threatening violence if i do not start openly practicing Islam.

I am at my wit’s end now. I have been trying for sometime to secure employment abroad, but have not yet succeeded.

The only other alternative i can think of is to flee the country to seek asylum elsewhere. I have already written an e-mail to your organization, and am anxiously waiting for a reply. I found your e-mail address on facebook. I am in dire need of assistance and know of no one inside the country who can guide me.

I would have already left the country if i was sure i could meet the required burden of proof in an asylum claim. I would like to know if you would be able to help me in anyway should i travel to the U.K to seek asylum and what my chances are of making a successful claim.

Thank you for your consideration
Ismail Mohamed Didi

Mohamed Ibrahim, Managing Director of the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL), confirmed that Ismail was  the subject of an internal investigation last month regarding his professed apostasy.

“I believe his family were also concerned, and tried to give him counselling through religious leaders,” Ibrahim said.

“Management decided it was outside our mandate and referred the matter to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs – we haven’t got a reply. Professionally we took no action – he was a good worker.”

A colleague of Ismail’s told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that his colleagues had learned he was an atheist “more than a year ago”, and while they did not care whether or not he believed in God, “some became irritated at the way he openly insulted God.”

“A complaint was made to the airport company’s human resources department. Based on their report – I saw a copy of the final version a month ago – they found that although he was an atheist, he was not propagating his belief in the workplace and so no action would be taken.”

The source insisted that Ismail was never mistreated by his colleagues about his religious position, “although they were sometimes irritated by the way he addressed God. He was treated as a normal controller and suffered no discrimination,” the source said, explaining that the air traffic controllers were a close-knit bunch who “lived and played together. Everybody was crying and misses him.”

Ismail was part of a large family from the island of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, the source explained.

“The family is very humble and religious. His mother tried sending him to religious classes and a couple of months back he said he went to see Sheikh Illyas, but just argued with him about religion and stormed out. That’s what he said – I don’t know what was said in person. But it is possible his friends may have distanced themselves.”

Minivan News was unable to confirm whether Ismail visited Sheikh Illyas prior to his death, as the Sheikh was not responding to calls. However Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari said he was aware that Ismail’s parents had sought religious counselling for their son “because of some problems he was facing in his religious beliefs.”

“They asked for counselling but I think they met a scholar while they were in our office. I was not at the Ministry – this was during the period of [Cabinet’s] resignation. I heard he was not a ministry scholar – I don’t think it was Sheikh Illyas this time. I think he saw [Sheikh Hassan] Moosa Fikry,” Dr Bari said.

Sheikh Fikry, who is the Vice-President of religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, was not responding to calls at time of press. Salaf’s President, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohamed Ibrahim, also could not be contacted.

Last moments

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said Ismail’s body showed no sign of physical injuries.

“Police have taken samples for forensic investigation, we are seeking more information about him to try and determine how this happened,” Shiyam said.

Ismail’s colleague said the 25-year-old had returned from leave shortly before the day he died.

“It seemed like he came to work fully prepared to die,” he said. “Ismail normally took the 6:00am-8:00am shift, but on this day he requested the supervisor give him the 3:00am-5:00am shift.”

“During this time there are no air traffic movements and the tower can be staffed by one person, before operations begin at 5:30am. It seems he wanted the quiet time alone,” he said.

“His mother said she called him in the morning at 5:30am to tell him to pray, but there was no answer. They found his cigarette lighter on the balcony.”


287 thoughts on “Hanged air traffic controller sought asylum for fear of religious persecution”

  1. Europeans are Barbarians with technology ... war loads....history tells that with clear proofs ..sniffing and poking their pig noses on everything. Man we will never get peace as long as this bunch of lunatics are around..Sinking sunfish ……..we better do something with these out of control monkeys before they divide us and weakens us.


  3. Dear Bismuth,
    Why do you think I don't know about those facts?
    My comment was on the present situation, so I didn't feel the need to put it in a broader historical context.
    Is that arrogant?

    You are right to point at the shedding of blood caused by Europeans, but unfortunately you omit the atrocities committed by others. That is called "using a double standard".
    It is a fact that powerful cultures have the tendency to -to say the least- suppress people, but don't act as if only Europeans are guilty.

    However, as I said, I was commenting on the present situation in which I was appalled by the trouble someone encounters when he sets himself free from his religion.
    This was even reinforced when reading quite some of the comments on this page.

    So instead of referring to Google, I would have appreciated it if you'd have given an explanation why there is nothing wrong with bullying and ostracizing an apostate.
    That is the issue here.

    Buy a lottery ticket!

  4. @Prakash

    What is your definition of extremism? Does it go hand in hand with the "correct" perception of choosing any religious practice?

  5. @Theo Mastema, Rotterdam, Netherland on Fri, 23rd Jul 2010 6:17 AM

    Well said, but don't you think your argument just fits to our point of view as well? This is the beauty of our mind and our reasoning. We will stick to our points no matter what and agree with others in a feeble way only in the next sentence to reject it beautifully.

    The issue my friend is not known to you at correctly at all. We are living here and you are just referring to some comments of contentment on this tragic event that I myself totally reject and most of us as well.

    In any community there will be tragic and unethical events that the whole community as a whole doesn't agree with. It's even the same at West and other parts of the world. The killings, corruption, prostitution, deceptions, and God knows all other evils that are taking place, are wide spread.You yourself will not condone such things even at your community. But you can't stop them. You can voice your view and correct yourself and people around you. It's not in your hands to rehabilitate the entire community. It has to come from the grass root level of individual responsibilities and end up in a collective effort of the community as a whole. Then, are we to blame you for the ills of your community? No! AND that is my point.

    Don't you think that is "DOUBLE STANDARD" in pointing finger in a generalized way towards ISLAM and MUSLIMS due to some acts that most doesn't agree with. THAT IS THE ISSUE HERE. Obviously you pointed out the comments that you do not agree (BTW we too do not agree with those), and you chose to be silent and in agreement with the comments that you like out of your limited knowledge on ISLAM and it's core principles. I don't blame you for that. I will explain why?

    That was the point made by my clues for you to refer (I'm glad you agree with those). We MUSLIMS (True Muslims) do not find any happiness in anyone's death or suffering. That is the misconception that the West is having towards us due to continues media frenzy of "ISLAMOPHOBIA" spread for ages.

    May Almighty GOD give you and all Humans the right guidance and truth.

  6. atheists, christian, Hindus and jews. we all have the right to live. not all muslims believe that everyone should bend to islam and force people into the religion. there are however extremists in the muslim religion who bend the core principles of islam and have stereotyped muslims as terrorists. these extremists are self-proclaimed messengers of god who manipulate religion and brainwash people into thinking that their way of living is the true path to heaven. islam does not support suicide or war. no suicide can be committed in the name of god as it is strictly forbidden in islam. the maldivian extremists mullah's have successfully managed to brainwash the whole community into thinking that the only muslims deserve the right to live. maldivians have got to stop beleiving what the so called muslim scholars preach about islam and for jsut one second stop for a second a use your god given brain to think about what is right and wrong. it is known for a fact that during the life of Muhammadh (pbuh), the christians and the muslims lived harmoniously in one land. doesnt this tell you enough about how you should respect others beleifs and nt reject it just because its not the same as your beleifs. if you maldivians are so intimidated by other beleifs i suggest that you take a good look at your ageeda first. for someone who cannot tolerate or accept other beliefs in my opinion are insecure about their very own belief.
    quit blaming others (the west and their culture) for causing so much hate towards islam, and take a good look at your own actions. suicide bombing, threatening and tormenting non muslims is not the true islam. islam is the religion of peace and the life of Muhammadh(pbuh) shows this very clearly.

  7. @Bismuth on Fri, 23rd Jul 2010 3:11 PM

    You are right when you say I didn't mention the comments rejecting the bullying of this young man.
    However, I was commenting because I was shocked about the reason he hung himself, but also by the virulent comments by quite some of the people on this page and they all refer to their religion.
    And even though I know there are wise and peaceful sayings in the Koran, I also know what it says about apostacy and atheists.

    Concerning my mentioning of the term "double standard": I don't see where I applied this concept to Islam or muslims in general.

    I told heck he did, because he was promoting his religion while he told atheists to shut up.
    I agree that he has the right to promote his religion, but I also agree with atheists promoting their point of view. That is fair and balanced and not using a double standard.

    I told you you did, because you named the European atrocities while omitting those by other powers e.g. those committed by muslim rulers, but as you've already noticed, I have no problem admitting the wrongdoings of my ancestors (or of the Dutch football team) and that is just because I don't like to apply a double standard myself.

    One little thing about my knowledge of Islam. I started informing myself about it already in the 1990's, so I think it's a little simple to conclude that I got my ideas just from the media frenzy.

    The best to you and all readers and don't forget: Sapere aude!

  8. Cut the crap. Facts are
    a) The guys in power do what ever they can, and try to justify it.
    b) Past has had genocides, mass exterminations, racial exodus, etc...Everybody who is anybody has done them.
    c) Maldives is a speck on the map, with NOTHING, other than tourism. Do everything you possibly can to protect it, nurture it and grow it. The only way government/people can survive in this world is a prosperous tourism. And of course government would try to console hapless population with anything, notably "The blue island where fishing is best", "The green island where a few tomatoes grow" etc, "The environment Island for those not smoking.
    d) All religions are farce. A lie about deity to manage population. With a good constitution and rulers, it NO LONGER requires religion. If a god exists, he will guide any human who lives good, regardless of religious fanatics ideologies.
    e) Islam allows a few men to rule, abuse power and control population. It is best suited for managing lazy, arrogant, ignorant arab-like population. It doesn't stand a chance in this age. Islam had golden ages in the 10th century, since then the power, resourcefulness, the creativity, initiatives have declined to NOTHING now. Almost everything in this world now, social habits, gadgets, traveling, internet, medicine, so on... has been created thanks to the hardworking men and women in the west and some selected other countries. NONE of anything of significance has come out of mid-east.
    f) Nobody in their right minds would send any of their kids to mid-east. Even those who speaks out front on western injustice. Statistics show most want their kids to be educated in UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia etc... mostly non-islamic and certainly not religious studies. They want their kids to study and work hard and make a good living. Nothing else matters.
    g) And as the education level increases, what has happened in other countries will happen to Maldives. Religion has to step a side, and let free thinking, social harmony lead the way.

  9. @Theo

    You are an atheist. I hope I am not wrong.

    You are REJECTING double standard. That's good actually, but you must understand, there is really no double standard in Islam. Islam is THE standard, like your REJECTION of God, because you believe there is NO God. That's also good because you are actually REJCTING all kinds of representations, symbols and idols of God, BUT, you are not rejecting GOD ALMIGHTY.

    So if you try just a little bit with an open mind, you will find the Muslim IN you.

    Right now you are in a maze and you don't know how to get OUT of it. That's because you are withholding the WILL to get out. To be a Muslim.

    Be a Muslims and free your self.

  10. @heck
    Indeed you are not wrong, for I am a naturalist humanist.
    I see no valid reasons for believing in fairies, demons, unicorns, angels, gods, telepathy, afterlife, Atlantis, djinns, Yeti, etc.

    Interesting that you recur to "double standard" in Islam, something Í didn't mention yet.
    When you say it doesn't exist in Islam, do you mean that women have the same rights as men?
    Does it also mean that Jews and Christians have the same rights as Muslims?
    Does it mean atheists and polytheists have the same rights? And how about homosexuals?

    You don't need to reply to these questions, because I can make a list of quotations from Koran and Ahadith which will answer them neatly. And they will not confirm your remarks.

    So I thank you for your encouragements, but I'd rather stay free.

  11. Suicide always has a reason, and that is something the perpetrators are desperate to whitewash and remove from the minds of the public. The word, and even the concept of "suicide" becomes meaningless when somebody else forces the victim to kill himself.

    It becomes nothing short of murder.

  12. @Ahmed Aliased

    If suicide is a brave thing then why blame anyone. Cheer and follow him! Be brave!

  13. Is this so important to talk, someone decided to choose his own decision to die. this is not only the guy!>> most of the idiots who talk against Maldivians and islam is so barbaric. leave us we lived here. we advertise and u stupids come over here. your so cruel and atheism is not a religion. you bast turds cannot compare any religion. since there is no religion for u. We respect our fellow human but not this way. who thought u any religion. are u born with it or someone teach u religion or someone on olden days export to u re homeland this. ??? so u all who talk utter nonsense keep out of our home.

  14. @ heck

    "If suicide is a brave thing then why blame anyone. Cheer and follow him! Be brave!"

    I enjoy reading your witty comments.

  15. It's funny how Minivan News deletes my comments whenever I ask if an atheist in question is a homosexual!

    I don't understand why MN is so paranoid!? eheheh!

    Under Maldivian law that's implied defamation - see point 6 of our Commenting Guidelines. Also, rather juvenile. - Minivan News team

  16. @Theo Mastema, Rotterdam, Netherland on Sun, 25th Jul 2010 9:03 AM
    Empty talking points... that's what you have, sorry... but you can't point even one single thing in the Glorious Quran that violates human rights and that goes against humanity as a whole.Islam uplifted women and their rights..., What to you want to prove here, Do you mean to say all those western cultures that degrades women in the name of freedom is better than the highest degree of protection that we give to women. Sorry, we respect our mothers,sisters and daughters and would not want them to be used as just objects of art, advertising... etc, And by the way Islam was the Deen from day 1, man stepped on this earth... every time Sure, Islam rejects all that is wrong...so does any logical and rational mind.. and we Muslims will never hesitate to reject anything that is wrong... we may make mistakes but we will be quick to repent and not to repeat it....

    What's your point?
    If you want to challenge Islam and Quran, I welcome that... but Insha Allah, We have all the answers... 😉
    We are cool... 😉

  17. that guy took a short cut to hell,u can say what ever u want but that dude will be getting his puishment even now and forever,whoooooooooooo,yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  18. There is nothing to do with him and he did not do a mistakes!!

    Only thin is parents were not able to improve the children’s behavior and parents are much weak than children....

    Fellow friends ‘he have already gone and let him be where he wants to stay’.

    This is not only the person who do not believe religion in Maldives, there are lots of guys who never ever thing about GOD. So in this case please do not blame to him let’s try to improve our educational Islamic stand in Maldives. And let’s stand for our future children.
    The best is to improve yourself and then try your best to improve others for the right.

  19. Why can't all atheists in maldives be brave like that and hang themselves.............sigh

  20. Why the hell does he have a muslim name?Why can't he change his name since he is an athesit?

  21. Astaghafarallah! This poor boy got brain washed by some western christian idea that there is no God. He was not liberal becoze he could not think by himself and see the marzels of creation all around, certainly could not exist without a superior intelligent creator far beyond our comprehension.So he got waswas (whispering) by Satan and died a Haram death and thats exactly what satan wants leave you in misery before Allah. Too late for him to repent. This is a lesson for everyone who have common sense.

  22. The comments on this article are appalling. So this is the true face of Islam, right? An intolerant murderous ideology.

    Wake up people, you still live in the 7th century.

  23. @Ismail Mohamed

    You sound intolerant of others views.

    Islam is a beautiful religion. Lost people like you try to harm it every day but you won't succeed.

  24. @heck

    Not at all. Islam is the nastiest religion there is. Wherever Islam goes, death follows. After all, isn't this article about the death of Ismail Mohamed Didi (pbuh), caused by Islam? Either he could not resist the pressure you Islamists piled on him because he renounced Islam and so he killed himself, or he was killed by you Islamists, like you have done to so many other so-called "apostates". Islam means death for so many people. Is death "beautiful" in Maldives? Why don't you inform the tourists about that?

    This is a shame for Maldives. Shame!

  25. RIP to a young freethinker who could have contributed to a positive future in the world.

  26. @Ismail Mohamed

    "Either he could not resist the pressure you Islamists piled on him because he renounced Islam and so he killed himself"

    IF resisting pressure would send someone to suicide - it's the Muslims! Not Ismail Mohamed Didi. What pressure did he face?

    He was the one who was pressurizing his friends by talking ill of Allah!

    He was trying to spread his OWN religion ATHEISM.

    That's illegal in Maldives.

  27. To those who think Allah got his vengeance on this guy, and that's what he gets, etc...

    just look at Maldives on the map. It's very obvious the islands are slowly being submerged in water. They look rather pathetic already because you can see that there used to be more island. I guess this is a punishment too for being a bunch of backward barbarians!

  28. @RLR

    Try making some backward poetry!

    You are the barbarian poking your head into tiny dots in the ocean. Scram!

  29. the fact is: without atheïsts maldives would be nothing..cause its the tourism that feeds your children and gives them a chance for education and good life..think about that before judging others..everyone is free to their own belief, whatever it is..as long as we believe to be good to others, but that will never happen it seems reading all these ignorant comments above.

  30. it is not the tourism who feed us and gave us a chance to study. It is Allah who feed us and give us all we need... there are unbelievers in this country but however we don't go and kill them.... what this foolish man did is for him.. it is nothing to with islam... there are fools in this country.. but they don't do such things.... THERE IS NO RIGHT TO ANYONE TO DISBELIEVE ALLAH

  31. when maldives is wiped out in 15-25 years time by rising tides of the indian ocean it wouldn't matter how people were buried


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