Death threats calling for the beheading of controversial Maldivian journalist and blogger Ismail Khilath ‘Hilath’ Rasheed have been published on Muraasil.com, a popular publishing platform that allows anyone to publish content in Dhivehi.
Rasheed, a journalist of 10 years experience, is known for being highly critical of Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives.
The threats, which Rasheed translated from Dhivehi on his blog, called the journalist an “animal who has blasphemed” and said he “had no right to live”.
“Let it be made known to this guy that Maldivians are an Islam-loving and Islamic Sharia law-loving people. Become a terrorist in the name of religion,” demanded the author, identified only as ‘Jihad’.
“I am of the opinion that even if you kill him, you are all innocent. Cut off his head,” said the article’s author, identified only as ‘Jihad’.
The piece was quickly removed from Muraasil following complaints.
Muraasil’s founder Nasrulla Adnan explained that while anyone is able to create an account and publish articles on the site, new authors had to abided by a code of conduct and were carefully moderated. Only regular and approved contributors were able to post content without it being reviewed, he explained.
“Obviously that [content] was posted by someone who has published for a long time,” Nasrulla said. “We took it down and revoked their [publishing] rights.”
Rasheed said he felt the threats were “quite awful” and he was “now afraid some fanatic is going to attack me.”
“The situation with free speech in the country is very precarious,” he said. “We have all these institutions and laws, but extremists are using the umbrella of Islam to to incite violence against women, children and bloggers. I don’t think that Maldivan people should be silent about this.”
President of the Maldivian Journalists’ Association (MJA) Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir said such threats against the media were not common but were occasionally made by “some fanatical people, particularly when [a journalist] reports on religious matters.”
“One of my colleagues has had threats made against them before by certain groups,” he noted, observing that “much of the media is silent about fundamentalism and religious extremism – even the president is very silent on religious issues.”
“I think most journalists are aware that according to the Constitution there are certain limitations on press freedom, such as not being able to write anything against the basic principles of Islam,” Hiriga explained.
“I think the media needs to be much more open towards covering these issues and not be silent, [even] if they face threats. We are a moderate country and we can’t tolerate this kind of fundamentalism. It does not reflect the views of most people and I don’t think many people in this country are fanatics.”