The Islamic Ministry and the Adhaalath party have expressed concern over certain amendments proposed in the religious unity act by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.
The Islamic Ministry on its website said that while the amendment bill was useful, it was concerned about an article stating that the Shafi sect should be enshrined as the basis of Islam in the Maldives.
The Islamic Ministry described the article as “unIslamic”, and that it was against the constitution of the Maldives.
Furthermore, the ministry called on parliament to gather more information and to cite that information when amending the proposed bill during the committee stage.
The ministry said that “many scholars” were concerned over the amendment proposed to make the Shafi sect the main basis of Islam in the Maldives.
Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, President of the Adhaalath Party, refuted the article which making the Shafi sect the official sect of the Maldives.
”People should have the freedom to pray according to any sect [of Islam] they wish,” said Sheikh Hussein. ”There are many people in the Maldives who follows different sects when worshiping.”
Sheikh Hussein said that although the bill was passed, ”nobody will follow it.”
”Until 1997, on the island where Dr Afrasheem comes from, they did not perform the Friday prayers because according to the Shafi sect there should be a minimum of 40 people in order to conduct them,” he said. ”So if it becomes a law to follow the Shafi sect, again we are going back to those days.”
He said that Dr Afrasheem’s comment in parliament that in Malaysia people followed the Shafi sect was “a big lie.”
”In Malaysia people perform prayers according other sects as well,” Sheikh Hussein said.
He said that in many other Islamic countries there were no laws that specified which sect to follow.
”Laws can’t force people to follow a specific sect – people should be rather trained to follow a specific sect,” he said. ”I strongly refuse that part of the amendment bill.”
On May 21, Dr Afrasheem Ali presented a bill to amend the religious unity act.
Dr Afrasheem said that social unity among Maldivians was weaker than it had been in the past.
”One reason for this [disruption] is issues of religion, particularly disputes over worship and [scholars] criticising each other,” said Dr Afrasheem.
He proposed that the Shafi sect be chosen as the basis of Islam in the Maldives.
”I selected the Shafi sect because it is the sect most friendly, most accepted and most widely followed sect in Islam,” he said.