Religious unity regulations contradict freedom of expression: Islamic Foundation

Religious NGO Foundation of the Maldives has called on the government to amend the new Religious Unity regulations, saying it opposes several articles that are contrary to the ”freedom of expression” given under the article 27 of the constitution.

Other articles could potentially be used as a political tool, the NGO warned in a press release issued today.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair has similarly expressed concern over the new regulations, claiming they contain ambiguities and policy issues.

The Islamic Foundation NGO highlighted several articles in the regulations  it believed should be amended prior to publication of the regulations in the government’s gazette, such as the criteria for issuance of preaching licenses.

The Islamic Foundation noted that under the regulations, the preaching license requirement that a person be older than 25 years of age was not a criteria required under the tenets of Islam, and furthermore claimed it was contrary to article 27 of the constitution guaranteeing freedom of expression.

The NGO also raised concern over Article(16)(b)(4), which claims preachers must not have been found guilty in a Sharia Court of having violated any clause of Law 6/94 of Religious Unity Act.

It condemned the articles as ”many religious scholars have been given several punishments under the religious unity Act in recent years for political purposes,” and added that that article 27 of the constitution did not restrict a person’s right to express their opinion even though he had been found guilty in a court of law.

The NGO also expressed concern over Article(19) requiring foreign preachers to respect local norms, claiming it was not necessary for all foreign preachers to understand the traditions and culture of the Maldives.

Article(27), which governs illegal actions while preaching or giving sermons, was also concerning, the Foundation claimed. In particular point (2), which prohibits encouraging violence; inciting people to disputes, hatred and resentment; and any talk that aims to degrade a certain sex and gender in violation of Islamic tenets, and the telecasting and broadcasting of such speeches, could be interpreted in different ways and “used for political purposes”, it said.

The Foundation also criticised Article(27)(4), which bans the promotion of any opinion contrary to religious ruling as unanimously agreed upon by the Fiqh Academy of Maldives, claiming that the Fiqh Academy “was not a committee based on independent scholars.”

”We believe that there should be the freedom for a scholar to express how he thinks on a specific doubtful issue,” the press release said.

On Article(38), concerning punishment as prescribed in Law 6/94 of the existing Religious Unity Act, the Foundation claimed the law narrowed freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution and said was “not acceptable.”

Moreover, it referred to the constitutions article number 63, article 64 and article 268 and called on the government to amend the mentioned articles of the new religious unity act.

State Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed however stated that while the Ministry respected opinions and comments on the new regulations, it had been drafted with the assistance of 11 reputable scholars and widely approved by both government and police.


9 thoughts on “Religious unity regulations contradict freedom of expression: Islamic Foundation”

  1. hypocrites! The truth of the matter is that Islamic Foundation is more extreme than Adhaalath Party or even Jamiyattul Salaf. They are saying all this to save their Imam (leader) Sheikh Fareed:

    Article(16)(b)(4) claims preachers must not have been found guilty in a Sharia Court of having violated any clause of Law 6/94 of Religious Unity Act.

    But Adhaalath has cleverly put it there to silence the Sheikh. And theyve succeeded in silencing the Saudi/Super Salafi Sheikh Nasrullah. more proof that Theocracy is a failure and secularism is the way to go! Let them fight each other and vanish.

  2. Well, I can't say I'm really happy that the Ultra-Conservatives are up in arms about this. It only gives weight to the idea that inorder to curb radical conservatism, we should sacrifice some basic freedoms (like speech).

    Are the liberal's allies to be found in boarderline psychotic conservatives? Should we form a most unholy of alliances (and I'm sure they'd consider it "unholy" too) in order to protect freedom of speech?!

    I believe they are limits, but only when it threatens another's fundamental human rights! The right to education, to live as one chooses (as long as it does not affect another), the right to health, and the right to prosperity.

    If the conservatives did not go against this by keeping girls out of schools, by refusing vaccines, and by insisting they live in the stone ages - well then i wouldn't have a problem joining with them to fight for the right to Free Speech.

    Is silencing them worth losing ourself over though? I will not trade freedom for another eternity of repression.

  3. rayyithukalo,

    You are right - from the other perspective: This "Regulations" is an excuse by Grand "Sheikh" Shaheem to silence his arch enemy, "Sheikh" Fareed, because the latter is the more eloquent, and therefore with the more DEVOTEES. Politics in Maldives ultimately boils down to petty personal bickering...

  4. It all boils down to this:

    The "Religious Unity" regulations are nothing but an instrument designed by the Adhaalathu party/Salaf to silence all dissent and crush any threat against their party - whether is Fareed, Nasrullah or ordinary citizens and liberal bloggers.

  5. Also, I agree with rayyithukalo.

    More than one provision of the 'regulation' are hilariously tailored to corner Fareed.

    " point (2).. prohibits encouraging violence; inciting people to disputes, hatred and resentment; and any talk that aims to degrade a certain sex and gender in violation of Islamic tenets, and the telecasting and broadcasting of such speeches"

    Sounds familiar?

    While I'm all for harsher laws to crush the scourge of fundamentalism from our country, I must say it is rather rich that we entrust the making and implementation of this law to an extremist political party.

    Grand-Mufti-in-waiting Shaheem has not hidden his intentions to employ this tools against 'extreme irreligious' bloggers.

    Which, I presume, is every Maldivian blogger who is not Adhaalathu certified.

  6. These attitudes are dumbfounding!

    I eagerly listen and cherish the translation of the sermon Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) gave on mount Arafath being read in the SIYARATH program!

    Though not being a SHEIKH, I very much doubt that there could be or would be a more comprehensive, perfect and binding speech/sermon anyone ever can give or will be able to give!

    It is doubtful these sheikhs care to hear it out (perhaps because it is not their translation or maybe otherwise!!!).

    In my opinion, Islam can never be made perfect by non other than The Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) whom Allah (SWA) chose to deliver!

    To my belief, it is the sheikhs who are paving way for secularism and or what ever it is! It is their differences that is promoting difference of opinion amongst the peoples who are under pressure from non Muslims!

    The roll of the scholars; the way I it, is to show and teach peoples the right way!

    If a person who do not want to listen to what a Sheikh is saying, puts his hands over his ears, is he given authority to take the person's hands away from his ears and make him listen?

    No! Implementation, is not the Sheikh's authority! Sorry!

  7. "Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety," - Benjamin Franklin


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