Protests erupted across Male’ over the weekend that saw the burning of Israeli flags and calls to “ban all Israeli medical teams” from practicing in the Maldives, alongside a “silent-sit together” against so-called “religious extremism”.
Protesters burned several Israeli flags in Republican Square and demanded the deportation of seven visiting Israeli eye surgeons, who are holding free eye camps in Male’ and the island hospitals.
Protesters gathered near the tsunami monument on International Human Rights Day, claiming that “Jews would not provide any form of assistance, unless there is a hidden agenda”, according to the website of the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives.
The religious NGO has previously called on the government to “shun all medical aid from the Zionist regime”, alleging the Israeli surgeons “have become notorious for illegally harvesting organs from non-Jews around the world.”
Religious NGO Jamiyyathusalaf has also called on the government to provide citizens with military training “before Jews take over the country”.
President Mohamed Nasheed today met with the doctors the Israeli ‘Eye from Zion’ NGO and said “a vast majority of Maldivians” appreciated the humanitarian work of the doctors.
The doctors “expressed their appreciation for the warm hospitality they received in the Maldives”, according to a statement from the President’s Office, and “also noted that there was a great demand for their services in the Maldives.”
Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Didi, said there had been “no discussions” in the Ministry regarding the anti-Israel protests.
“We are not saying anything for or against the protest action taken this week,” he said.
Didi added that the Foreign Ministry was “more involved in state humanitarian projects and inter-faith charity work than the Islamic Ministry.”
“The major roles of the ministry are to raise Islamic awareness and bring scholars from different countries to visit,” he said.
Coinciding with protests opposing the visit of Israeli doctors, the Islamic Foundation published allegations on its website that only two of the seven visiting surgeons from Eye from Zion had at the time been granted licenses by the Maldives Medical Council (MMC).
An MMC spokesperson was reported as claiming that certificates produced by the seven-member Eye from Zion medical staff were not carrying official stamps. However, the spokesperson added that all the surgeons would be able to receive licenses to operate upon clarification of their legitimacy by the Israeli government.
Meanwhile, a group of 30 Maldivians gathered near the artificial beach on Friday, up the road from the anti-Israel protest occurring at the tsunami monument, holding what they called a “silent sit-together” on International Human Rights Day.
Members at the gathering said they were attempting to oppose wider concerns over growing “religious extremism” in the country.
“Displaying a stark contrast to the loud truck and motorcycle cavalcade of religious conservatives who were protesting against Israeli doctors around the same time by announcing anti-Semitic messages through loud speakers, the youth that participated in the sit-down took a decidedly fresh approach towards protest,” a press release from the sit-together’s members claimed.
“The silent sit-together, conspicuous by the absence of any banners, megaphones, or sloganeering, aimed to send the message that youth are against religious extremism and supported Human Rights, Tolerance and Dignity for all humans.”
People participating in the protest said they were trying to start a “grassroots” movement against religious extremism, but did not wish to give their identities.