Former President Mohamed Nasheed has accused leaders of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party of radicalising and indoctrinating youth to carry out vigilante action in the name of Islam.
“Don’t do this to our youth. Don’t make them do all these vile deeds after picking them out individually and leading them astray,” the opposition leader appealed at a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally in Malé last night.
Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla is believed to have been abducted by a radicalised youth, Nasheed claimed.
“What he did was a crime, a very serious crime. But the person who convinced him to abduct Rilwan committed an even more serious crime,” he added.
A young person would not have been motivated to abduct Rilwan without indoctrination, the MDP president suggested.
“What I have to say to Sheikh Imran [Abdulla] and Sheikh [Mohamed] Shaheem is don’t play the role of satan in the guise of sheikhs,” Nasheed said, referring to the Adhaalath party president and Islamic minister, respectively.
The Islamic minister was not responding to calls at the time of press.
A private investigation commissioned by human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network has implicated radicalised gangs in Rilwan’s disappearance.
The findings of the investigation – conducted by Glasgow-based Athena Intelligence and Security – made public yesterday suggested that Rilwan was most likely to have been abducted.
Citing the abduction of several young men in June by a vigilante group in a push to identify online activists advocating secularism or professing atheism, the investigation report found gang activity in Rilwan’s abduction to be a “strong possibility.”
The abductions in June followed local media reports of a meeting between Islamic Minister Shaheem and youth groups who expressed concern over the harassment of Islam and the promotion of homosexuality.
Minivan News learned that individuals photographed in the meeting – and in a separate meeting with Home Minister Umar Naseer – formed part of the vigilante group that carried out the abductions.
Nasheed meanwhile warned of the rise of Islamic extremism in the Maldives.
“It’s difficult to say ‘extreme’ Islamic principles. They are not Islamic principles. Islamic principles are not hard or soft. They are moderate. Islam is always moderate,” he said.
Islam was being misused for “undue advantage and political gain,” he continued, and youth were being made to commit “many vile deeds.”
“Harming people in the name of Islam, abducting people in the name of Islam, and killing people, I know for certain that – and you don’t have to be a religious scholar – that is not how it is in Islam, that we all know Islam is not a violent religion,” he said.
Earlier this month, Nasheed told the Independent newspaper in the UK that the vast majority of Maldivians fighting in Syria and Iraq were ex-military.
“Radical Islam is getting very, very strong in the Maldives. Their strength in the military and in the police is very significant. They have people in strategic positions within both,” he alleged.
Following the MDP’s claim in May that extremist ideologies were prevalent in the security services, the defence ministry dismissed the allegations at the time as both “baseless and untrue” and intended to “discredit and disparage” the military.
The Maldives Police Service (MPS) meanwhile issued a press release on Thursday (September 18) condemning Nasheed’s allegations.
While police estimated that about 24 persons with links to militant jihadist organisations might be active in the Maldives, MPS insisted that none of them were police officers.
“And the police leadership has always been working to ensure that such people are not formed within the police,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, the MDP asked yesterday for police to investigate death threats made against its MPs and senior members, who the party said were also being followed.
MDP MP Eva Abdulla received a text message last night threatening a suicide attack during the next MDP gathering. The message threatened to “kill off” MDP members and to fight “to the last drop of blood.”
MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News earlier this week that death threats have become too commonplace to publicise each incident.