The Adhaalath Party and religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf have said they will not support the study of comparative religion in the Maldives until understanding of the basic principles are strengthened.
The introduction of the subject at a tertiary level was proposed last week by State Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, who said it was taught in many Islamic universities across the world and would help Maldivians “learn how to deal with other philosophies, learn about what others believe, the differences between us and them, and what is the right side.”
“It is my belief that by the end of people should know that Islam is the truth,” he said.
In the lead up to the launch of the course, the Islamic Ministry is preparing to legalise the possession of books concerning other religions, such as the bible, “for educational and research purposes”, Shaheem told Minivan News on Thursday.
However President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussein Rasheed said today that the government should not introduce comparative religion to the country “before the people understand the basic principles of Islam.”
Sheikh Hussein said that before introducing comparative religion the government should teach Islam in more advanced manner.
”People today do not know the basic principles of Islam,” Sheikh Hussein said. ”It is not good to introduce comparative religion before people know all the basic principles of Islam.”
He claimed that Maldivians had moved away from religion over the past thirty years.
“As a result, today there is nobody to respect religion, teachers and leaders,” he said.
He said there were many people who doubted some religious matters, and the study of comparative religion would only increase those doubts.
Sheikh Hussein added that it was good to teach comparative religion at a university level, “but only after making the teaching of Islam more advanced.”
He also noted that there were no qualified teachers to teach comparative religion in the country.
”There might be a scholar who has studied it as a subject, but it does not mean he is qualified to teach it,” Sheikh Hussein said. ”I also studied psychology when I studied, but does not mean I am a psychologist.”
He said that in general principle the study of comparative religion at a university level was a good idea.
However he added that he had information that the government was trying to introduce comparative religion at a secondary level, which ”the Adhaalath Party will try to stop from happening by any means necessary.”
Shaheem emphasised on Thursday that the subject should not be taught at a secondary level “because [students’] minds are not [yet] prepared to deal with these philosophies.”
President of Jamiyyathul Salaf Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohamed Ibrahim today agreed with Sheikh Hussein that people should understand Islam comprehensively before comparative religion was introduced.
Sheikh Abdulla said there were some necessary subjects of Islam many people in the Maldives did not yet understand or were not being taught.
”Only a few people understand the ‘Tafsir’ [exegesis] of Quran,” he said, adding that ”knowledge of other religions is already taught in verses of Quran and Hadith.”
He emphasised that people should be taught more about Islamic theology before it was compared with other religions.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the government would introduce the study of comparative religion “in anyway the Islamic Ministry prefers”, and noted the decision over whether to introduce comparative religion at a secondary or university level was yet to be decided.
”There are no disadvantages to teaching comparative religion in the Maldives,” Zuhair said. ”We will discuss everything [in cabinet] and we are looking forward to introducing the subject for next year.”
President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), Ahmed Saleem, said he thought that introducing the subject of comparative religion was “a good idea.”
“I welcome it. I think it’s a good opportunity for people to really understand Islam,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody else has talked about it [before it was raised by Shaheem]. You have a right to know – these books were all sent by God – even those about Christianity and Judaism.”
Saleem noted that it was technically legal for a Maldivian man to marry a Jewish or a Christian woman, as “they are all people of the book.”
However it was illegal for a Maldivian woman to marry a Christian or a Jewish man, he said.