Internet and ignorance to blame for religious extremism in the Maldives, says Dr Bari

Religious extremism in the Maldives is the long-term result of the previous government’s repression of religious debate and learning, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has said.

“As Muslims, Maldivians were keen to learn about Islam”, Dr Bari told Minivan News. The country’s education system as well as certain government policies, however, shut the door to such knowledge.

Dr Bari said many Maldivians were forced to travel abroad to seek religious enlightenment, and several ended up at the “wrong type” of institutions.

Some Maldivians attended the religious schools or ‘madhrasaas’ of Pakistan, targeted in the US-led War on Terror as ‘breeding grounds’ for terrorists. In addition to those indoctrinated at the madhrasaas, Dr Bari said, several Maldivian extremists were radicalised over the internet.

Dr Bari’s conclusion that some Maldivian extremists were radicalised online is in line with emerging Western literature on the subject as well as new anti-radicalisation laws in the West.

The Violent Radicalisation and Homegrown Terrorism Act 2007 passed by the United States House of Representatives, for example, identifies the internet as one of the main tools through which extremists spread their ideology.

The export of Dr Bari’s approach to rehabilitation was recently discussed on the popular American news blog, The Huffington Post.

Although Dr Bari was quoted in the article as having said his programme was successful in rehabilitating “hard-core terrorists”, he clarified that it was aimed at extremists.

“There are no hard-core terrorists in the Maldives. There are extremists, but no terrorists”, Dr Bari said.

The line between terrorists and extremists are too often blurred in both Western media and its policies, he added, as could be seen in the US-led military invasion of Afghanistan.

Dr Bari’s own definition of a ‘terrorist’ is “someone who commits violence against innocent people in the pursuit of a certain goal”. Harming innocent people, be it during peacetime or war, Dr Bari said, “is against the teachings of Islam.”

“If an American in the Maldives was harmed by someone who is angry with the policies of its government, that would be wrong”, he said. As practising Muslims, Maldivians should welcome and protect visiting Americans as they cannot be blamed for their government’s policies, he said.

The only known incident where extremists had crossed the line into terrorism in the Maldives was the bombings at Sultan Park in September 2007.

The confrontation between extremists and police in Himandhoo in October 2007, he said, may have been officially categorised as ‘terrorism’ but it was not a terrorist inciden t:”It was a violent confrontation that could have been avoided had there been discussion and dialogue.”

How to deradicalise

Dialogue is key to Dr Bari’s approach to the rehabilitation or de-radicalisation of extremists.

“We approach known extremists on friendly terms. Ministry-appointed scholars make the initial contact with known fundamentalists, meet them on their own terms and establish a rapport. This is followed by discussion and dialogue through which they come to realise that, in many cases, they have been misinformed about the teachings of Islam”, Dr Bari said.

All the people who were involved in the confrontation at Himnadhoo have now “fully reintegrated” into the community as a result of the programme, he said.

Dr Bari was unable to determine how many people in the Maldives have been categorised as ‘extremists’ in the Maldives. Neither was he able to provide the criteria used to define a person as an extremist: “It can be seen from a person’s behaviour. What they say and what they do”.

Dr Bari earned his doctorate at the University in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic University of Al-Madinah, focusing his research on a critical analysis of Fath al-Bari’s commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari.

Asked if religious discussion and debate should now be allowed more freely given the consequences of repression in the past, Dr Bari replied that any such debate “should be within Islam.”

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38 thoughts on “Internet and ignorance to blame for religious extremism in the Maldives, says Dr Bari”

  1. True. All these are factors... ignorance and hunger for knowldge channelled in the wrong direction.

    There must be other factors to consider. Otherwise, why is is that for example, even the liberal bloggers in Maldives whom I have read (who are against Islamic extremism) have quoted extremist material in their blogs... they have read extremism and yet have not converted to extremism.

    I believe that some of the other major factors behind why a person becomes an extremist include a deep sense of powerlesness, frustration, and a hunger for the power of a strong identity. The lost embrace extremism to escape what Durkheim refers to as anomie, ie. normlessness.

    Extremism strikes me as a religious vehicle with which to express anger towards a real or perceived injustice. As Nietzche said in reference to Christian Priests, religious piety and self righteous religious zeal are often the jealousy of an emotionally little man, a man made little by repression or frustration.

    When I studied, I took some units in psychology and saw some studies on anger which indicated that the very angry are normally those who have hoped and have had that hope crushed. It is not the ambitious who are successful who are angry. It is not the ones who have never had ambition (the very poor are normally placid slaves - not angry at all just content...) it is those with thwarted ambition. I feel, if such can find religious piety, a tool with which to religiously sanction their anger toards others as expressed through self-righteous piety (looking down on others because they are not religious) they are more likely to embrace it.

    Male' has gone from very poor to relatively rich very quickly, a lot of hope and ambition was generated very suddenly, and a lot of frustration.

    I spoke to extremists in your Mosques, the one near ADK Hospital off centre of Majeedi Magu and the Toyba Mosque. Many were from families from islands and belonged to fishing families or their families had roles defined on their island. They came to Male' looking to make it big and yet couldn't (although for some reason those from Addu seemed to do very very well financially...)

    Others were educated, highly educated yet felt they could never put their education to use due to repressed opportunity.

    I think, as development continues and more opportunities are created, extremism will dwindle little by little.

    Only a theory. Have no means to really test it thoroughly.

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  2. Did Bari just say with a straight face that there are no terrorists in the Maldives..?

    What about dear "Brother Sayyed" whose proud tapes on an al-qaeda forum?

    What about the dozens of scores of Maldivian mass-murderers who have killed innocents in Pakistan/Afghanistan in the last decade?

    I'm sure Bari enjoys his 'friendly approach' with willing murderer, but I strongly disagree with him on every single point.

    It is a bit of stretch to blame 'the Internet' for the radicalization of the country, when just a few hours ago, reports emerged that his party has thrown its latest tantrum regarding co-ed schools.

    Adhaalath/Jammiyathul Salaf/Islamic Foundation/ +90 odd other organizations are responsible for radicalization and the consequential rise of terrorism.

    You cannot plant the seeds of hatred and water them - but blame the fruits of it on 'the Internet'.

    That's the cowards way out.

    Finally, the closing statement. This discussion should be 'within Islam' - as defined by him.

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  3. thats why adhaalath party is promoting homosexuality by takin a stand against co ed schooling. lol

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  4. Me thinks that Bari himself is on the wrong side what he describes as extremism.

    Why else would he defend the face veil ...

    Until Bari realises the enemy within (him and co and adhaalath and salaf) extremism will continue in Maldives

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  5. The biggest mistake Maumoon did was create Mauhad and Arabiya and allowing young Maldivians go to Salafiyaa in Parkistan and Dhaabil in India. In these places children are forced memorize Quran and are beaten if they fail. After Mauhad or Salafiya these Maldivians went to some Arab country and enroll themselves in various village schools. Some went to universities. These students had their minds indoctrinated with hatred towards any person who do not follow their strict interpretation of Quran. In the late 1980's some of these students started to return home bringing along the culture of these arab villages. Now there are so many so called religious "scholars" from these Arab countries freely spreading their beliefs. For a country of 300,000 people there will be more than 3000 or so Mullahs. This is too much and we need to stop them soon.

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  6. Bari himself is an extremist. Extremism breeds terrorism and an extremist by default is a terrorist. Bari is simply creaming his extremism to cover up his terrorist mentality for the sake of remaining in the position with MDP like civilized party. Bari is radicalized Salaf. Extremist’s main desire is recognition. Since Bari is recognized and got the job in the government he is trying to cover up his true nature in order to remain in the position.

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  7. Ah now it is the Internet that is to be blamed. I thought sooner or later this mullah would hit the nail on the head and, here we are, he has done just that. The internet has long become the bane of the Religion of Peace™ and anyone with half a brain knows that the mullahs would sooner or later ban it. Azra, I feel this is just the first hint of that.

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  8. Ben Plewrites, "..ignorance and hunger for knowldge channelled in the wrong directiont"

    BAARF!

    Hunger for knowledge? LOL! And this hunger should be directed at somewhere else? Look man, these people don't want knowledge. It is not like you wanting to learn about physics or biology, they don't want to know anything.

    Where do you pull these things out of, Ben?

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  9. Many minivan secularized or atheist (like winelovers, salim waheed,etc,,,) commentors are cowards and shameless B******s!! who are selling this countries years of fundamental national pillar ISLAM for a small prize which is their desire for same sex, open sexual relationship outside marriage, boozing, drinking alcohol openly in cafes and much more!! Tell me if USA or Western or Saudi Arabia is not connect to all the terror??? Tell me the human rights record of USA? I am not advocating for Afgan or Iraq or Palestinians! But these Munafiq commentors seems to conviently ignore these facts while the very US or europen citizens who are expose to these alarming facts of their governments are opening calling for transparency of their government policies!! I have one message for the open rejecters of GOD! You shall and I and We shall all die..lets then test who is right..let us live in this world with respect and tolerence! Nor could you force us to shave our beards and take off our Islamic veils and nor could we convert you to Islam or the truth! BUT to you is ur religion and for us is our religion! learn to respect the majority values in Maldives and wait for your (MDP, DRP, GIP, QP and other political prostitues who traded Maldivian identity (Islam) for Vodka and girls for their grand plan of secularizing Maldives! We shall see who wins!! Your democracy or your iron fist to change our way of life!! Merry as much as possible till u reach your grave!

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  10. There are Grand Secular Imams or Fathers who are in DRP, MDP, and all other parties! They are united with a common objective! They hate Islam! Maumoon, Nasir, Ameen, Anni and many other rulers to come are from the same branch of Knighthood!! Lets see these cowards roll their plans one after another in failure! Maumoon is to expire like Nasir..but we are sure Insha Allah not to be successful in his evil plan! And next in line would be similar!

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  11. Also a message to those buddies who are monitoring the commentors back ground within the intelligence who is at the core of these secularised plan..we dont care if we are revealed..we shall always Insha Allah fight with our pen, hands and heart till we die for Islam and this nation! May Allah Sw protect this nation from these munafiqs!!

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  12. "Religious extremism in the Maldives is the long-term result of the previous government’s repression of religious debate and learning, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has said."

    Which has continued unchanged in the present government's policies of repression of religious debate and learning.Only a Sunni Shafi Mazhab follower can be a Maldivian citizen.I presume that leaves a lot of room for religious debate!?

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  13. Just as there is good information on the internet, there is the bad. Just as there are those who engage in healthy dialogue, there are those seeking to engage in unhealthy activities, be it paedophilia or 'religious' indoctrination. People who do have questions will turn to whatever source of information they can get. If there is information that makes sense to them available through established channels at home, and they feel safe to question and debate about their points of view, they will be more likely to stay within peaceful and respectful boundaries.

    Along with this, if people's other frustrations start getting addressed as well (as Ben has pointed out), and they have opportunities to live with dignity, I too think they will be more likely to concentrate on being productive citizens who engage in religion more for its spiritual value.

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  14. I wonder how can a Maldivian who never know the basics of ISLAM comment on the Islamic Matters.
    We cannot eradicate extremism if some "roanu edhuru(s)" believe that they are real scholars,where only they got an IT Diploma form INDIA.
    Zakir Naik is a Medical Doctor, and one who comment on his religious agenda is a IT Diploma holder. ammmmmmzzzzing

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  15. i blame internet users or those who read so powerful extremist stuff. i cannot blame the internet for the article. I blame the audience for listening to sermon from sheik Fareed or Ilyas. I cannot blame mic for the sound. Get it

    free debate...those debated in public got punch his face and had stay in dhoonidhoo for 3 to 4 days and another young youth got hanged himself

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  16. Internet allows people to share their thoughts without revealing who they are to others. Religious Extremism would have been there even if there weren't internet. I blame all religious extremism on those from Adhaalath and salaaf.

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  17. Yeah right. It's Nasir's Latin initiatives, Maumoon's asaasee thauleem, and now Internet are the problems.

    Anything that broadens knowledge, surroundings, using your brain will be a huge problem to these selfish bastards.

    I don't want you, mr minister, telling me what I should read, what I should believe, what my kids should follow, who try befriend, what my family should wear etc.
    You can enforce it on your family. I don't give shit. I don't care if you are a phd, for me, most of what you are spewing is crap.

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  18. I think Maldives would be much better without Adhaalath Party and Salaaf. They create more extremists than the Madrasaas in Pakistan. Bari, Shaheem, and Ilyas promote extremism. They very often translate Islam to serve their own interest. Bari was shouting against alcohol selling before he became a minister and now he finds so many verses supporting it.

    As for Maldivian terrorists, Bari lied there as well. We have so many of them fighting in Pakistan and we have seen many at Sultan Park bombing. Known terrorists like Fareed freely roam around and promote terrorism and insult women and Islamic ministry could not do anything about it.

    It’s funny though to see so many violent gang members convert to Islamic extremists and vise versa as if these 2 are similar kind of workshops

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  19. Really, If you want to blame someone point your finger at you and rest of the half baked so called Islamic scholars who have no clue what on earth they are preaching or talking about, who cannot convince even a moron what a great religion Islam is.

    Somehow its always the Jews who are to blame or westerner or Hollywood movies and lately the internet.

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  20. I hope Bari allows liberal scholars to operate in the Maldives without harassment, that is the test for him.

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  21. 90% of chicks on the streets of Male are more than half naked, and 50% of the Youth are either drunk or on drugs. So who cares about relegios extrism? A few beards here and there and some burugaas floating the streets actually gives a healthy social mix. Baree's a good example of beard n booze sale.

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  22. At a time when the country was desperate, ignorant and needing direction, the Wahaabis came down like vultures taking the opportunity. So what you see was poor families who were totally disillusioned taking on the teachings of these extremists in the desperate hope that God will bestow a better way of life on them They were made to feel guilty and made to believe that they were experiencing God's punishment. So was the Tsunami the ultimate punishment on Earth. Soon after you saw the veils and more beards and shorter trousers.

    It is not the internet. It is what is inside in people like Bari and Shaheem. The wind has changed and suddenly they talk about the position of women. But the truth is when they are vying for the highest political position in the country.

    When they blame others, they are positioning themselves in the right and others in the wrong. Such people will always need a victim - today it is Americans and Christians. Why are they not bothered with other religions and philosophies. In my opinion, anyone who tries so hard to convince someone is not convinced himself.

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  23. @Avatar you conveniently ignored the fact that I then pointed out that hunger for knowledge was only a very minor factor in the reason behind extremism and then i gave my opinion on the real, the larger factors... A bit of information out of context is misinformation, it is reactive... Please try to get into the heart of what I was saying and express criticism of that...

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  24. Since the likes of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Zahir Hussein, Ibrahim Zakariya and Farooq came to Maldvies and started to preach Islam, it was the beginning of the end of our peaceful existence of our nation as we knew it.

    Since they came and started to preach our nation has lost our culture, our soft spoken way of life, kindness and respect for our neighbors ...

    When we had our good old scholars like Sheik Ali Hussein Didi and Mohamed Jameel we never heard or saw anything whats going on in our nation now.

    Present day speakers looks like damn mountain goats from Afghanistan and they are expecting us to live and behave like them.

    Well forget it, we were taught to be clean and smell good and look nice and dress smart, from the way you lot look no one will be convinced about any religion accept the Rastafarian's

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  25. @Yaamyn... You are a very clever writer Yaamyn you could become a professional writer selling your stuff really... It is hilarious as well as very clever, well reasoned and hugely enlightening.... I read your blog as well

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  26. Ban the internet. Ban all methods of modern communication. Lock up all the women. Declare yourself king.

    Heil Bari.

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  27. Yasin Fikry, if you hold a modicum of respect for a pompous, arrogant con artist with a severe case of unwarranted self-importance, you really shouldn't speak of "eliminating extremism."

    Do some research to Laskar e Taiba while you're in there, will you?.

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  28. To end extremism, there has to be the promotion and realization of social justice so that people's potentials can be utilized, there needs to be opportunities created through development, there has to be the realization of equality before the law, and most important of all, the promotion of compassion and acceptance of difference. Don't blame the internet, a very MINOR cause, and then ignore the major causes of extremism

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  29. If the Islam taught by the sheiks bring down human dignity in cleanliness, consideration for others, suppression of women, unquestioning obedience of men, fear and confusion in youth, then I cannot accept these preachings. There is more to Islam than this.

    I hate to say it but women...your head veils smell and you are not the clean Maldivians we use to be proud of. Just like Male roads filled up with filth and our shores got littered, Maldivian men and women now belong to scums.

    If you women want to wear your scarfs and hijabs, and men, you want to grow your beards and your middle east clothes, dont immune your children, give women a bucket of water to clean, sleep on mats, marry underage girls violating childhood, then I have trouble to accept your new culture. I want Maldives back.

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  30. Internet is the last frontier for freedom in this world. Don't let politicians take control of it in the name of religion, national security, terrorism etc.

    Statists (ie those who favour to use the force of government to push their own agenda) will use everything they can to control people.

    Look how the US government is pushing for a law to make communication hardware and software to have a backdoor! So that it makes it easy for them to spy on everyone. Ofcourse it is done to thwart terrorists!
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/09/27/privacy/index.html

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  31. I think it is the globalization that is to blame for extremism in the Maldives. it is not only in Maldives that we are having to fight extremism of very sort. Religious extremism, extremism of drug abuse, extremism of politics, extremism of crimes And most significantly extremism of atheism are all evident in our society today. These are attributed to global trends. Whether we like or not we have no choice but to live together in harmony and respect each others view points.

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  32. I find it difficult to accept Dr Bari's position that young people had to go to madhrassas for religious education because the doors to Islamic education was closed to Maldivians in the past government. It is not true that there were no schooling available for our young people wanting Islamic education. Mauhadhu Dhiraasathul Islamiyya and Arabiyya School have played a central role in providing Islamic education to our young people.

    I believe the young people who were sent to these madhrassas were recruited by the agents of the Global Wahhabi and Taliban Movement seeking political and economic dominance on this world.

    What the past government did to contribute to the development of Wahhabi radicalism in the country was allow this to happen and to encourage those students to continue their education in the fascist state of Saudi Arabia. I also believe the policies of the dictatorship and kleptocratic government of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom which created the huge gap betwen rich and poor, Male' and the atolls, and deprived our youth of quality education, freedom of expression and movement, created the rage and frustration that made our youth vulnerable to the Global Wahhabi Movement.

    As I have said before in many comments I have made regarding the issue of extremism in the Maldives, I find the philosophies of the Islamic NGOs and the Adhalath party disturbing, demonstrating as they do, fascist, misogynist and racist beliefs that I believe violates the very essence of Islam.

    The question for all of us Maldivians is to ask how exactly is this government going to deliver on its promise for gender equity, protection of our children, especially our girl children, and equity in education and employment, with the Adhalath Party as its partner in government.

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  33. Adhaalath Parteys are responsible for extremism. They will play the prostitute to ANYONE who will give them power.

    Their newest boy-toy is George Gilder, who the Adhaalath Party on its website has cited as a “scientific authority” against coeducation, is actually an anti-feminist, a Republican, an anti-Evolutionist and Conservative who Time magazine once declared “Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year.”

    Gilder, no doubt catering to Christian evangelists, would obviously oppose coeducation, because ultimately, when it comes to religious fundamentalists (whether you are Muslim or Christian), they think alike when it comes to morality in defending the norms of their “tribe” or cult. So don’t be surprised now to find Adhaalath in bed with Christian evangelists because Islamic fundamentalists have more in common with their Christian fundamentalist counterparts.

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  34. Ahmed Aliased, i do hold a modicum of respect for a pompous, arrogant con artist with a severe case of unwarranted self-importance.

    He goes by the name Yamyn. He and Zakir Naik came from India too.

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