Mind the gap: is lack of education the main reason for extremism in the Maldives?

“Extremism spreads because extremism is being taught, not because of inadequacies in the education system,” Minister of Education Dr Musthafa Luthfy told Minivan News.

“Extremism is a form of teaching in itself, and it is being taught by some people,” Dr Luthfy said. “It is not in the schools that it is taught, but outside of them.”

He said Islamic Affairs Minister Dr Abdul Majyd Abdul Bari was right in saying yesterday that extremism might be spreading because proper religious education is missing from the curriculum.

“Proper religious education,” Dr Luthfy said, “is very difficult to define. It means different things to different people.”

The subject of Islam is taught, he noted, according to an approved formal national curriculum in Maldivian schools from primary right through secondary school.

The education system is not the reason for extremism but extremism does affect the education system, Dr Luthfy said.

“Some people don’t want students to play; some don’t want them to do art; some don’t want them to do music – some say those are activities are haraam (forbidden) in Islam.”

He also added that there have been instances where some people advocated making it a regulation for male students to wear their trousers folded up a few inches above the ankle or to make beards compulsory.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Bari told Minivan in an interview yesterday that a large share of the blame for the religious extremism in the Maldives lies with the education system.

Many Maldivians who turned to extremism were those seeking religious enlightenment that the education system could not provide. They sought such knowledge abroad, and ended up in unregulated institutions such as the madhrasaas in Pakistan, Dr Bari said.

Dr Luthfy agreed that there were inadequacies in the education system that contributed to contemporary social problems.

Between leaving school and reaching adulthood most Maldivian youth spend two years without a job, a sense of direction or purpose. A large number of contemporary social problems take root during these two ‘gap years’.

Latest Education Ministry figures show that an overwhelming majority – close to seventy percent of students who sit O’level exams – fail them. Of all the students who take the exams, only a small minority go on to take A’levels.

The rest, still legally children, fall outside of the school system and remain unemployed. Minister of Education Dr Luthfy said these two years were crucial.

Keeping the children within a formal education system until they are legally adults, at the age of 18, he said, is necessary for changing the current status quo. A polytechnic will soon open in Male’ that will address the problem, Dr Luthfy said.

Plans are also underway to setup vocational training centres on several islands using resources that already exist or by establishing new ones. The training centres would be subsidised by the government, and run by private organisations, Dr Luthfy said.

While the government’s plans remain in the pipeline, Salaam School, a social project launched under her own initiative by Aminath Arif, is attempting to plug the holes. It offers the children in an educational limbo an opportunity for personal development and trains them for the job market.

“There is very little help, direction or guidance given to such children,” Arif said. “They arrive at Salaam with very little language skills, and with almost no prior career guidance. For many, it is the last hope finding a way into gainful employment.”

“It is very easy to point fingers,” she said. “We can blame the internet, or we can blame something else.”

The problem, she said, is the very ethos of the education system: “It rarely encourages children to develop their creativity, to grow into their own individuality.”

Education Ministry figures show that compared to the ‘Enlightenment disciplines’ of the West such as the social and natural sciences, almost all school leavers sat the exam in Islam. In comparison, only a quarter of the students sat exams in any of the natural science subjects.

Humanities received even less attention from students with most subjects in its disciplines getting less than one percent of the total student population of the country. And, there were more students taking the Arabic language exam than the O’Level English language.

A 2004 survey of members of extremist Islamist groups found that over 60 percent had some higher or further-level education. The survey, by Marc Sageman, also found that about three quarters of extremists came from upper- or middle-class backgrounds.

Many extremists, research has also shown, were in professional occupations such as teaching, medicine or in skilled or semi-skilled employment such as the police or the civil service when they became radicalised or joined a group with extremist ideologies.

Such recent research, as was discussed in the European Journal of Criminology, undermines the previously accepted view that “Islamic extremism can be attributed to ignorance or lack of education.”

Social identity, group loyalties, social marginalisation, discrimination against particular groups, status and personal rewards as well as perceived injustices, research has found, contribute to the radicalisation and the creation of extremists in a society.

The substantial number of Maldivian youth on their enforced ‘gap years’ are broadly perceived as a negative force within society, Aminath Arif said.

“The marginalisation of youth on most islands is endemic throughout the country,” Arif told Minivan.

She travels to islands and identifies the most needy of such youth and provide them with the opportunity to enrol at Salaam.

Such initiatives, however, are few and far between, if not non-existent. Disaffected, marginalised and with no institutional support, a vast majority of Maldivian school leavers stray in a variety of directions.

Attending the ‘schools’ of extremism, or listening to the extremism being ‘taught’, as Dr Luthfy said, might be one of them.


35 thoughts on “Mind the gap: is lack of education the main reason for extremism in the Maldives?”

  1. 1. People turn to extremism due to lack of economic opportunity. Better teach job skills to people.
    2. Extremism is a control instrument used by non-extremist politicians. If extremist have any political power they will win votes. They don't. not even in Pakistan.

  2. Extremism exists because it's a lucrative business.

    It fetches a constant stream of funds for our 100 or so "religious NGOs".

    It keeps politicians in power without ever having to do a days worth of honest job. This is especially true in the Maldives. Just harp on the keyword of religion, and you'll sail through anything. People really ARE that dim witted.

    Extremist ideologies of hatred keeps people like Fareed entertaining and influential among his clique.

    Violent Islamism ensures a steady flow of willing idiots ready to obey, kill and die for petty political wars in the middle East and Pakistan.

    Rigid Literalist interpretations of the Koran kills the heart and soul of the Islamic faith and strips it of any meaning or principle - but hey, they at least generate a revenue source for our Mullahs, and keep them relevant in world that has otherwise passed them by.

  3. Shall we define extremism?
    - praying five times a day
    - Objecting to drink alcohol or sit with some one who does it
    - Objecting to fornicate or adulterate or commit sexual intercourse outside marriage
    - Object young, old, middle age women to be used as sex symbols
    - Some one who have a beard or wears veil
    - Someone who wears cloths fashioned according to pakistan or Middle east

    IF above things done by some one then he is termed as so called Extremist or fundamentalist!! Its so wired!!!
    While these very people who call other extremist have small 15 to 25 year old maid at home as sex slaves, drinks heavy vodka or alcohol! Active in same sex! And more..which is totally against the very nature of Human existence! I then wonder who are the extremist!! These deviants shamelessly mock Heaven and hell ..as though they will never die!! Many previous Ministers, deputies and current ministers and deputies are heavy drinkers! What can we call these people!! Its soooo weird that I dont know how the world operates today..we call the very people who should be respected as extremist and those who should be outcasted as honourable!! And then these deviants would bring the argument of Afgan, Iraq war..PEOPLE please dig into these countries history you will find who were the inhumand and extremists!! We also find Israel's current and past history in blood!

  4. @yaamyn on Thu, 30th Sep 2010 9:13 PM

    Why are you so obsessed in parroting all said and done by the haters of Islam. For GOD sake, why not you try to see the bigger picture.

    Just a little taste of your favorite "west" is about to blow up a hole in your ideas and "wisdom". (http://minivannewsarchive.com/politics/maldives-takes-on-uk-in-high-seas-legal-drama-11750) visit the article, where you have not commented yet and try to make your case there.

    While I agree there are radicals within Muslim communities, I also know the root causes of those. How do you explain the radicalism in so called modern politics and systematic deprivation of powerless people's rights by the "might" of the powerful nations?

    & one of the root cause is injustice, so as incorrect information or knowledge (education).. and many more reasons... perhaps as you have said a lucrative business for the outlaws as well...

    Be truthful when you speak... otherwise you are not fair in expressing your views... you have your right... but all others too has their right to read the truth... not a biased bashing of the one party while giving a soft corner for your favorites "the west"... btw I like the west too but I denounce their wrongs as much as I do same for my own people.

    In Allah Almighty We Trust

  5. There is only one reason for Islamic extremism. It has nothing to do with America, Israel or the Crusades. Get rid of the cause and voila, there will be no extremism.

  6. Extremism is intolerance to different ideas, and firmly believe that what extremist’s belief is right without solid reason just because he thinks he is right.
    Praying is not extremism but to condemn no praying person to hell is extremism
    Objecting to drink or not associating with alcohol is not extremism, but condemning the users of alcohol to hell and regard them as some sinful people is extremism.
    Objecting sex out of marriage is not extremism, but lashing and stoning people for having sex out of marriage is extremism.
    Objecting to use woman as sex symbol is not extremism. But treat woman differently than men is extremism.
    Having beard or wearing veil is not extremisms. But preaching to grow beard and veiling woman as part of religious act and condemns no abiders to hell is extremism.

  7. Lack of education is the key for all sorts of issues, including extremism. Islam encourages everyone to be educated – I mean “educated” not minds full of facts or other useless garbage. Educated thinkers are needed in Maldives not compliant followers. In the past decade or more Maldivian Education system has created more follows for people

    Maldivian education system is not getting any better. Every political group’s number one priority is to be in power for as long as they can. The group in power has done and will do nearly anything to be the ruling power. The people of Maldives need to seek ways to improve the education rather than finger pointing. Finger pointing and blaming do not help with improvement but further add to the problem.

    In a country as dispersed as Maldives, it is the islands that are remote and with small population that suffers. After 2004 Tsunami, still there are families who cannot have a decent place to live, sleep and cook. Some fundamental needs are not met. The irony is some Maldivians will think that “every Maldivian has access to internet, gas cooking and proper toilets and bathrooms”. Two years after, in 2007 in one of the Southern island there were families without a proper place live and an open fire under a canvas to cook. They were not able to have 2 meals a day.

    There are schools in some island are for namesake. Poorly trained teachers, near to non resources and with no way to find any assistance to improve or talk about the issues faced to improve the education based on what little they know. It is a helpless situation unless people take an initiative do something.

    I do not think if education system encourage students to study humanities, history, languages it is going to cause “the forbidden” situation. I am speechless, reading the above article.

    The 70% +++ student failing O’levels!!! Dr Luthfy, it is a failure of the education system. Anbar has expressed crucial views that need to be addressed. May Allah bless Maldivians.

  8. @yaamyn says: extremism exists because it is a lucrative business...

    Woh... the truer a saying is the deepr it stabs, and one suspects those words could sure could cut a few!

    Truth served STRAIGHT! not sweetened, watered down or diluted...

    Hope your ppl have got what it takes to digest it man...

    all the best to you

  9. @Bismuth,

    The difference between you and me is that I do not try to justify criminals/mass murderers when they're of a certain religion.

    There are indeed very many values that I admire in Western civilization - but I do not worship them.

    Contrary to what you think, I do not feel obliged to praise something just because a Western country has done it, nor do I feel the need to dismiss a critic just because the criticism is directed at the west.

    Plainly put, there are several policies and wars that I totally disagree with just as several westerners themselves.

    But westerners, thanks to their civilized ways, can express the same disagreements openly. The largest anti-war demonstrations, for instance, are always in those countries.. led by their citizens.

    The stories of their worst war crimes and atrocities are unfailingly revealed in their free media, by their brave journalists.

    There is a lot of room and freedom for good people do to do good things in their societies.

    There are radicals in their society just as there are in ours.

    But in their societies, the radicals usually remain on the fringe and are KNOWN as radicals. In our country, the radicals are free to dictate their will on us, and poison minds through their hateful radio and TV programs - not to mention even the Friday sermons.

    I base my views on plainly observable, well-documented facts. Living in delusion just isn't a hobby for me.

  10. what about non-religious extremism.. like extreme capitalism, power politics and exploitation of the poor.. Education should address all forms of extremism and excessiveness...

  11. Rxtremism always exists where there are rooms for EXTREMISM my dear brother Dr Luthfy. For example, in our society we spent a long time not utilizing the muslim scholars who came to our country after their education from various universities abroad....Why we still have EXTREMISM is because, our Islam teaching methodology remains the same in schools, for example, Islam taught by teachers who have little knowledge about today's world or environment....If Islam is taught using a concept like The Quran & Science as our Dr Mohamed Ali described recently, there would be always a very small room for EXTREMISM...Also our Islamic scholars could apply the same methodology in their public lectures so that EXTREMISM would have a very room....I don't agree with DR Luthfy that this has any relation with the 2 year gap after O level and so on....

  12. I urge everyone commenting here to watch the excellent BBC series "Generation Jihad".


    The subject matter may be dealing with young muslims in the West but the issues addressed in this series are highly relevant to youth in the Maldives.

  13. Once when I flew in to Maldives I had a translation of the Holy Qoran in German. It was confiscated and I was asked to go to the Islamic Center then before Dhiraagu. I was told I cannot entertain any other translations except only those approved by Islamic Authority then. I was told I should not read or have any other translations in my possession other than what they approve and in a language they understood. They interviewed me to see what my thinking was. Gosh, I was glad that Internet was there so that I did could read and think beyond what was being controlled to limit my right to make my own conclusions on Islam.

    Now what do you call that

  14. this is good. and all those wannabe osmas who say they are called extremist coz they pray 5 times, talk bullshit you are called extremists coz u have extreme ideas like justifying osama bin ladhen is not wrong and he is great and we ll follow him. and also adhaalath by playin devil advocate here is simply creating the right environment for spreading extremism in Maldives that was suppressed and controlled by the 30 year old gayooms regime.

  15. There are terrorist cells operating in the Maldives. This is a face everybody knows. Wahhabis took advantage of the tsunami to transform this country into the next Afghanistan. They are doing this pretty well these days through the media that they control. Listen to Radio Atoll, listen to the programs on MNBC One where Adhaalath "scholars" appear and spread their bs.

    People like Fareed and Ilyas need to be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay, along with the president of the Islamic Foundation who previously spent time there. These people are destroying this country at an unbelievable rate. Remember, the country is totally dependent on tourism. Without it, we all starve. People would eventually stand up against these extremist mullahs, for the rights of people, women, children, and for the continued existence of harmony and peace which we have lost.

  16. If you actually follow and practice a religion its not so difficult to figure extremists in that religion. Dr Mustapha is known by people who have worked with him as someone who isn't keen on whats in our religion. So its understandable of him in saying that "Proper religious education, is very difficult to define. It means different things to different people." He doesn't know Islam.

  17. (correct Version)
    The reason is some MEDICAL DOCTORS and IT DIPLOMA holders are making statements about Islam. They do not have a good foundation of Islam, as a result they can be misguided and they used to misguide others.

  18. IF some one act as a muslim or he perform what in islam it means they are extemists..How ever how iblees musthafa luhtufee knows extremism? is he muslim? if he is a muslim Why he dont pray 5 times a day? Why he is not following foot steps of our be loves prophet (SAW)..We dont care what non beleivers says this is 100% muslim country according to its constitution,.,. Insha allah we will kick iblees musthafaa luthufee away from government...Insha allah we will stand against iblees musthafaa luthufee,,, Just look to the history of the world..when ever someone stand with truth or calling to believe one god that means he is a extremist...if someone follows truth it mean he/she is extremist... STOP you guns to islam..other wise we will stand with bombs ....President nasheed must STOP musthafa...if not it means you have no chance to sit in the chair we will kick you like maumoom...Dont let country to go violence...

  19. @Yaamyn
    “But westerners, thanks to their civilized ways, can express the same disagreements openly. … The stories of their worst war crimes and atrocities are unfailingly revealed in their free media, by their brave journalists.”

    So you are one of those believe all the stories put out by the mainstream media of the so called civilised world as the complete truth?! How then may you explain the apathy and silence in the main stream media about some of the utter injustices that are occurring around you?

    What’s happening to the person who leaked the cover-up of killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan?

    What about the house demolitions in Palestine? Why is there no outcry from the so called brave journalists of the west? Have you heard of Rachel Cory? Here’s an extract from a letter to her mother dated February 27 2003:

    “When that explosive detonated yesterday it broke all the windows in the family’s house. I was in the process of being served tea and playing with the two small babies. I’m having a hard time right now. Just feel sick to my stomach a lot from being doted on all the time, very sweetly, by people who are facing doom. I know that from the United States, it all sounds like hyperbole. Honestly, a lot of the time the sheer kindness of the people here, coupled with the overwhelming evidence of the willful destruction of their lives, makes it seem unreal to me. I really can’t believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry about it. It really hurts me, again, like it has hurt me in the past, to witness how awful we can allow the world to be. ….. So I think when all means of survival is cut off in a pen (Gaza) which people can’t get out of, I think that qualifies as genocide. Even if they could get out, I think it would still qualify as genocide.”

    I bet you would be surprised to hear about a new Gallup poll which shows that a record-high majority of Americans have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news, wouldn’t you?

    Of course living in a delusion wouldn’t be your hobby if it is your full time occupation.

  20. ya rite mustafa.. do u want to know who the real extremists are..

  21. i think the fact that ‘Enlightenment disciplines’ of the West such as the social and natural sciences and more importantly the humanities studies are lacking in our education system is the key.
    the interest for science is very less. everyone is doing business stream cause and the dream of quick buck eventually destroys them.

  22. @Anbar on Fri, 1st Oct 2010 9:49 AM
    I AGREE WITH YOU HERE.."Extremism is intolerance to different ideas, and firmly believe that what extremist’s belief is right without solid reason just because he thinks he is right." BUT UNFORTUNATELY MUCH OF THESE SECULAR BUNCH CANNOT TOLERATE REAL MUSLIMS PRACTICING ISLAM AND MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS.,
    Praying is not extremism but to condemn no praying person to hell is extremism
    Objecting to drink or not associating with alcohol is not extremism, but condemning the users of alcohol to hell and regard them as some sinful people is extremism. BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO NOT PRAY AND DRINK ALCOHOL ARE TO HELL AND REAL EXTREMIST!! THE ATHESITS GROUP WHO TOOK OVER POWER HAS MADE DRINKING LAWFUL ..DRINKING WAS NEVER ALLOWED IS THE PAST RELIGIONS!!!!OF CAUSE THE SATAN'S RELIGION ALLOWS IT!!
    Objecting sex out of marriage is not extremism, but lashing and stoning people for having sex out of marriage is extremism.
    Objecting to use woman as sex symbol is not extremism. But treat woman differently than men is extremism.
    Having beard or wearing veil is not extremisms. But preaching to grow beard and veiling woman as part of religious act and condemns no abiders to hell is extremism.

  23. @imran
    [...} "STOP you guns to islam..other wise we will stand with bombs ….President nasheed must STOP musthafa [...]"
    bombs? hello? who are you trying to scare with bombs? I think you got a problem, man!

    The reason why only a quarter of students sit in Science exams? Because a student who understands science will sooner or later realize that the real world doesn't match what religious "scholars" such as Fareed, Ilyas or Zakir Naik say about science (e.g. "humans evolved from monkeys? Ha! What bs!"). Those are trying to twist words round to fit into the holy picture. Thus, once a student starts questioning and finds out what is actually behind it (e.g. "humans and great apes share a common ancestor"), he/she's told to shut up and is therefore out of science.
    We got a confused science student here. Yeah, better sit in Arabic or Islam, that's safer.

    Students are taught NOT to question. Why? Because the true answers could be devastating to one's life in this society. As long as the Mullahs control our curriculum, there won't be any advance in our education system.

  24. are you kiddin me?? are you people claiming that you people know better than ALLAH the most high....are you people claiming that our beloved prophet(pbuh) is a "extremist"..SUBHANALLAH....By ALLAH..I challenge you to read the study the quran and study the sunnah and prove that what you are saying is true...Brother Anbar...Are you speaking against the quran..."Remember, the country is totally dependent on tourism"..the barlog, did you forget about ALLAH...Not only this country,But all the creation depend on ALLAH...You say this because you forgot about judgement day...You love this worldly life so much...I ask ALLAH to guide you people to the truth...for He is the MOST MERCIFUL.

  25. Extremist foot
    We don’t see free societies ever bothering who you pray and what you do as far as your religious practice is concerned as long as you don’t disrespect others religious view. All problem and these jumbo mumbo talks are due to the fact that Maldives is not a free society. Now you can’t blame free societies for your backwardness.
    By condemning non praying person or alcohol users to hell does not end the world’s misery neither it will convince the whole world that these are evil acts. For those who do not pray or drink alcohol, it is as simple as for you to have four wives. If someone do not pray or drink alcohol despite believing that it is Haram and punishable after life, these people are not normal people, they are psychologically disturbed people with criminal mentalities so punishing them will not help anything
    If you are stoning or lashing adulterers for the sake of a child being neglected is illogical. In your society where the divorce rate is the most high in the world, there are a high percentages of children who may have documented biological father but deprived of the love and even they hate their so called fathers who carry their names. If a Child is born out of wedlock it doesn’t mean that child does not have a biological father. He is no different than you in conceiving and finally reaching the world. Isn’t that more logical to find the father and make him responsible for his child who is his blood and flash and give his name to the child.
    France has banned the veil in the school, as you know schools has their disciplinary guide lines for the sake of school integrity, banning the veil is same as banning the children from wearing bikinis in the school. Expressing some ones view on veils is his freedom. Why you are worried if some says anything about the veils. For him veiling woman is as stupid as for you to wear bikinis.
    Probably Quran has mentioned about you, no one mocking you, you get yourself mocked, by expressing such stupid views. Allah likes wise people who know Allah is with us or with you. Yes. The final day will tell, Allah is with whom.

  26. @extremist my foot!

    IF you are so confused about extremism why don't just look at the mirror, you would also find a pathetic, 2km-mind-span, tunnel visioned fool...because unfortunately,..that's what you are.

    Luthfee is right..education is to blame. But when Dr. Majeed claims that 'proper' education is lacking,..- he means religious education should be increased, enforced and given to his ministry so they have some job do to instead of surfing porn in their ministry offices.

    What people do no realize is sometimes right in front of them,..As long as we have a 'ministry' that represents our religion..we already have a problem of extremism there!

  27. i really honor freedom of expression and i must say i really respect your view and hope you do the same when I have to say this article is the more out of point and stupid speculation of the cases of extremism.

  28. Iam proud to be an extremist and Its growing and you cannot do anything Insha Allah . You guys are bunch of frogs in a well...

  29. @Mr. Karma, @Anbar.

    When you cannot find drinking alcohol wrong and how much damage it does to society and also when u think children born outside wedlock or deprived of their parent because of their lust or desires is NO problem but part of lifestyle we should have..(mind u..i didnt say these children degraded or second citizens..it was ur poor interpretation of what I said)..I rest my case! Coz I dont think any sound person would find logic in it!! Ofcourse u secular bunch/athesit bunch find logic in! YOU GUYS ARE COWARDS!! CAN NEVER OPENLY COME ON MALDIVIAN STREETS FOR YOUR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM..COZ U KNOW THE CONSEQUENCES!! SICK SICK MENTAL CASES!!

  30. @extremist foot
    Free minded people don’t come openly on your street is not because they are sick. You think mentally sound person will go in to a tiger’s cage. If any one goes to a tiger’s cage he is not a brave mentally sound person my friend.

  31. Mr. "proud to follow the sunnah" - are you seriously doubting that our country depends on tourism? Look into other island nations where there is no tourism (and no extremism), see how they live? They still run around half-naked, but are probably quite peaceful small island nations.

    With people like you who think Allah will save us from everything, this country is going to slip into another Afghanistan faster than you can utter "shit"! I'd be really interested, are you educated, or one of the school leavers who were picked up and brainwashed by the local AlQuaeda members? Back into your cave, together with Rilwan and the extremist foot.
    Dream of Maldivistan!

  32. @ rilwan- are you a follower of the taliban sub-culture that has infiltrated into our society?

    @ extremist foot - what are the consequences of freedom of speech regarding religion?


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