The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said draft regulations under the Religious Unity Act will incorporate recommendations by Jamiyathul Salaf to “protect and defend Islam in an Islamic state like the Maldives”.
In a letter sent to the Islamic association yesterday, the ministry said recommendations made by Salaf earlier this month were already included in the regulations currently being reviewed by the attorney general’s office.
“The purpose of the regulations that have been drafted is to protect the country and Maldivian society from brutal and harsh practices, divisions and antagonism in the name of Islam and from practices that contradict Islam and Islamic culture,” it reads.
The 11 recommendations made by Salaf included removing anything that conflicts with Islam from the education curriculum or subject syllabuses, making it an offence to spread other religions and openly sell or possess any items that symbolise religious holidays of other religions, and specifying measures to be taken against expatriate teachers found to be promoting other religions or inciting hatred of Islam among students.
Moreover, the proposed regulations should empower the authorities to check printing presses and bookshops for material in conflict with Islam, and make it an offence to publish such opinions or views in the media.
Salaf also recommended obligating non-Muslim visitors to inhabited islands to adhere to a code of dress and conduct appropriate to an Islamic environment.
Furthermore, the regulations should ensure that photos and videos used in advertisements do not clash with Islamic codes of behaviour and make it illegal to introduce elements of foreign cultures that conflict with Islam.
Salaf’s recommendations further call for specifying penalties for those who openly “challenge or defy” God, his Prophet or Islamic shariah, and make it an offence to disrespect the Prophet or his companions.
Lastly, Salaf recommends the creation of a council to take measures against people who issue religious fatwas (edicts or decrees) without the requisite education or learning.
Unless these recommendations are incorporated in the regulations, Salaf’s letter states, it would be “meaningless” and could “open doors” to other religions and cultures.
Salaf claimed action was not taken against Christian missionaries under the old regulations, and were instead used to “punish, jail and torture” Maldivians who “loved Islam and tried to find the right path”.
The letter goes on to recommend that the proposed rules are put up for a public discussion among religious scholars.
In response the letter from the Islamic Ministry, signed by State Minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, states that the president’s office, Maldives Police Service and experienced religious scholars were consulted during the drafting process, which spanned six months.
The letter goes on to say the ministry regrets that Salaf has been criticising the ministry and attempting to “mislead the public” about its policies instead of offering either assistance or constructive help.
Moreover, it reads, the ministry regrets that Salaf’s president Abdullah bin Ibrahim Mohamed refused an invitation to join the Fiqh academy or help draft Friday sermons.
“But ultimately, even if you do it from afar, we believe sharing such counsel is a good step for the future and we are grateful for it,” it reads.
Salaf responded to the letter today, thanking the ministry for assuring the association that its recommendations were already in the regulations.
“What remains now is the wait for the regulations to become enforced,” Salaf replied.