Sun article alleging Indian deportation of Maldivian nationals “mischievous” misinformation: High Commissioner Mulay

Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives D M Mulay has accused local news outlet Sun Online of attempting to “mischievously” spread misinformation, after it published an article alleging that India had begun to deport Maldivian nationals.

On Tuesday (March 19), Sun published an article claiming that the Indian Bureau of Immigration had been informing Maldivians – who are residing in India without a specific reason – to leave the country.

The article entitled ‘More difficulties for Maldivians living in India’ has attracted criticism from both the Indian High Commission and the Maldives Foreign Ministry, who have both denied any knowledge of such practices being undertaken.

Speaking to Minivan News, High Commissioner Mulay claimed that the Sun article was an attempt to spread incorrect information between both India and the Maldives.

“We have not received any such reports from our country regarding this matter. The article is a mischievous attempt to spread misinformation between the two countries,” said Mulay.

The article reported that Mohamed Ashraf, a Maldivian who has been living in India with his family since 2008, was suddenly told by Indian immigration to leave the country within seven days.

When Ashraf had asked for the reason for his sudden deportation, Indian immigration allegedly told him they were not required to give any reason to foreigners living in the country, the article states.

The article further claimed that a Registration Officer had told Ashraf that “more Maldivians will be issued such orders in the future”.

A media official from the Maldives Foreign Ministry said that it had not received any information regarding the issue, stating that “these things are all rumours”.

Responding to the criticism, Editor of Sun and Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) President Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir stated that the news outlet did not speculate or provide misinformation through its reports.

“The information we published is from the interview we got from the guy [Ashraf]. It is a practice of freedom of expression,” he said.

“We have received a lot of complaints from people living in India and they say they are having difficulties with visas. We are carrying people’s opinions.”

While Sun was able to obtain a copy of the document ordering Ashraf to leave the country, the article does not state whether any relevant government officials had been contacted for comment.

An official from within the Indian High Commission further denied that the Indian government was “clamping down” on Maldivians living in the country.

“There is no clamp down, except on those who flagrantly violate visa conditions. For example, people running guest houses on dependent visas.

In regard to the published article, the official asked: “Since when do we start believing in all media news? Most ‘news’ is published without checking with relevant parties.

“Incidentally, I still do not see any progress on any of India’s concerns like the seizure of passports [in the Maldives],” he added.


Fundamentalism more urgent threat to Maldives than climate change: The Diplomat

If global warming poses an existential threat to the Maldives, Islamic fundamentalism arguably presents an even greater political and economic challenge to the island nation in the short term to medium term, writes Sanjay Kumar for The Diplomat.

This danger was evident recently when the government ordered the shutdown of all spas and health centers at all resorts on the island. The decision came in the wake of a protest by an opposition conservative Islamic party, Adhaalath party or Justice Party, calling for a complete ban on such spas, which they believe are operating as brothels. Protesters were also demanding a ban on the sale of alcohol, demolition of monuments that the Islamists see as idols and a halt to direct flights to Israel.

In an apparent about-face, the government last week rescinded the ban, not least because of the damage that an extended ban would have done to the economy, which relies heavily on tourism. According to one estimate, approximately 900,000 tourists visited the islands last year.

Most of the 1,200 islands that make up the Maldives, which has a total population of more than four million, practice Sunni Islam. But the character of this island nation has still traditionally been liberal and tolerant – women there don’t typically wear the burqa, and they are active in the socio-economic arena. Indeed, President Mohamed Nasheed recently advocated for a “tolerant” form of Islam in his country.

But this hasn’t stopped a very determined minority working to radicalise society. Some blame former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for turning the country toward radical Islam by declaring Islam to be the state religion in 1997, thereby restricting the freedom of non-Islamic beliefs.

In 2002, a Maldivian named Ibrahim Fauzee was arrested in Karachi for having links with al-Qaeda and was whisked away to Guantanamo Bay by the United States. In 2003, an Edhyafushi Island poster praising Osama bin Laden appeared on the walls of a school. In 2005, Islamic fundamentalists attacked a shop in the capital Male for showcasing a picture of Santa Claus. In September 2007, foreign tourists were injured in an explosion in the capital’s Sultan’s Park.

When I last visited the Maldives I got the sense there was underlying apprehension about the expansion of Islamist extremist forces in the country. I interviewed President Nasheed recently to ask him about these concerns, and he told me that although he understood people’s fears, that there was no need to worry. He felt the radicals were a tiny minority that would be rejected by the people.

But some of the officials I spoke to were less sanguine. They explained that ideological support for the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is increasing, and they expressed concern over the rising number of Maldivian students going to Pakistan and the Arab World to seek religious education.

It’s clear that rising sea levels aren’t the only threat to the Maldives’ way of life. And while no nation in the 21st century should have to fear any religion, extremism has a tendency of eating up and spitting out even the best intentions of some countries.

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