The mother of a 22 year-old girl from Addu City who publicly declared her apostasy has launched an appeal in the local Maldivian media seeking the help of religious scholars to make her daughter repent.
“She’s been a bit odd ever since she was in the seventh grade, but at the time she did not say the things that she says now,” the 49 year-old mother told Minivan News.
“Every time I try to advise her she shouts at me and asks me what I was trying to make her believe, and says that she cannot believe the existence of Allah,” the mother said.
The mother said her daughter was currently being held under house arrest while being investigated for allegedly giving birth to a child out of wedlock.
“She has misbehaved since she was young, and is saying things that should not be said in front of the children. She has even been calling me balhu (dog).”
The mother said that whenever she tried to inform her daughter about death, the afterlife and the punishments for apostasy, her daughter would reply that it was “not a problem for her, and not to worry.”
“I admit that it was our negligence as well that allowed her to come this far. We knew about this a while ago and we could have been more careful then,’’ the mother said. “I have been asking around my neighbors and everyone about what to do, but all I can do is remain in this grief thinking about her.”
The mother said she “had no solution” to her grief.
“There’s still some good inside her. I know that because she has been advising her younger sisters not to be like her,’’ she said. ‘’It’s because she can believe that she is not going the right way.’’
The mother said there “was a reason why this had happened to [her daughter],” but said it was “a long story”.
President of Islamic Foundation of the Maldives, Ibrahim Fauzee said the organisation had heard of the appeal and that its local branch was looking into the matter.
“For sure, we will provide her assistance,’’ Fauzee said.
The Islamic Ministry said it had not received official notice of the matter.
The Maldivian Constitution states that the Maldives is a “100 percent” Sunni Muslim country, and the country maintains a reservation to article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of religion.
The last Maldivian to publicly declare apostasy, Mohamed Nazim, did so in front of an 11,000-strong audience attending a lecture in May 2010 by well-known Islamic speaker Dr Zakir Naik.
Nazim was escorted from the venue by police for his own protection after members of the audience attempted to attack him, and was held in police custody. The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives subsequently issued a statement calling for Nazim to be stripped of his citizenship and sentenced to death if he failed to repent and return to Islam.
After two days of religious counseling in police custody, Nazim declared that his misconceptions had been clarified and gave Shahada – the Muslim testimony of belief – on national television during a press conference held at the Islamic Ministry.
In a later interview with Minivan News, Nazim said that he did not regret his actions.
“Somebody had to do it, it needed to be spoken about. The repression of thought, the lack of debate and a lack of a proper public sphere in which such discussion can take place, is dangerous,” he said.
The reaction, he said, was mixed – angry and supportive, superficial and profound. He lost 65 friends on Facebook, the social networking site to which almost every computer literate Maldivian subscribes. He did, however, gain 246 new ‘friends’.
His own friends and colleagues, he said, were uneasy talking about it, and very few actually discussed it with him. However, he told Minivan News he could feel the presence of the issue, “unspoken yet potent”, in every social interaction he had with another person.
In July 2010, 25 year-old air traffic controller Ismail Mohamed Didi hanged himself from the control tower of Male’ International Airport after seeking asylum in the UK for fear of persecution over his lack of religious belief.
Over two emails sent to an international humanitarian organisation on June 23 and 25, obtained by Minivan News, Ismail confessed he was an atheist and requested assistance for his asylum application, after claiming to have received several anonymous threats on June 22.
In the emails, he said he “foolishly admitted my stance on religion” to work colleagues, word of which had “spread like wildfire.”
“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 said, in one of his letters.
“I cannot bring myself to pretend to be 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.”
A colleague of Ismail’s told Minivan News that it appeared the 25 year-old had sought the early 3:00am shift and “came to work fully prepared to die.”
“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.”