The December 10 silent protest for religious tolerance is a “warning” of the Maldives’ weakening Islamic faith, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussein has said.
Faiz’s claim that the demonstration “shocked the nation” was made yesterday at the opening of the Islamic Scholars Symposium, reports local media.
“It was a warning that showed us the increased role religious scholars are required to play and the work they need to do,” he said.
Recommending that the scholars focus on strengthening the Islamic faith rather than debate contentious issues, Faiz said students and lawmakers required further education about the Shariah penal code.
The December 10 demonstration was originally planned for International Human Rights Day as a peaceful, silent protest. However, the 30 participants were attacked with stones, and blogger Ismail ‘Khilath’ Rasheed was taken to the hospital with head injuries.
Rasheed was subsequently arrested without charges following requests from religious NGOs and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik that police investigate the demonstration.
Rasheed’s detention was extended a second time last week, after Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticised the claim that the gathering had violated national laws, and Amnesty International declared Rasheed a prisoner of conscience.
Meanwhile, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has requested the parliamentary National Security Committee to include appropriate punishments for those who call for religious freedom in the nation’s penal code. In discussions, he said the punishments available under Penal Code Article 88(a), (b) and (c) were “soft.”
Bari previously ordered the Communications Authority of Maldives (CAM) to shut down Rasheed’s blog on the grounds that it contained anti-Islamic content.
This weekend’s Scholars Symposium is attended by 60 scholars who are debating seven key points of contention, reports Haveeru.
Points include the method for handling controversial religious issues; the formation of prayer rows between mosque pillars; alms payment; the Qunooth prayer; and the traditions of the Prophet Mohamed.
According to local media, the conference is the biggest of its kind to be held in the Maldives. Originally scheduled for January it was allegedly postponed for reasons unspecified.
The conference comes one week after a coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties rallied thousands across the country to “defend Islam”, setting off a game of chicken with the government which has lately put the tourism industry on the chopping block.
President Mohamed Nasheed attended yesterday’s opening ceremony.
Religious conservative Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla and several other scholars from the party are participating in the conference.
Members of Adhaalath Party and Minister Bari were unavailable for comment at time of press.