Dhivehi and Islam to be taught to Maldivians in Trivandrum

Arrangements are being made to teach Dhivehi and Islam to Maldivian children residing in Trivandrum, India, Education Minister Dr Aishath Shiham revealed today.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of a workshop for principals of schools in Shaviyani, Noonu, and Raa atolls, the minister reportedly said that efforts were underway to hire Dhivehi and Islam teachers for the approximately 300 Maldivian children in Trivandrum.

She noted that offering Dhivehi and Islamic education to Maldivian children living abroad was a campaign pledge of President Abdulla Yameen.

In January, the Maldives High Commission in Sri Lanka announced that it was seeking Dhivehi language, Islam, and Quran teachers for Maldivian children residing in the neighbouring country.

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The parlance of paradise: Preserving the Maldivian language

While over one million tourists visit the Maldives every year to gaze out at turquoise waters while sipping coconuts beneath palm trees, Maldivians have a far better understanding of what their guests seek – a perception inherent in the Dhivehi language.

Dhivehiraajjege understand that it is a view of the Moodhu that tourists hope for – the clear shallow waters between the beach and the reef – as opposed to the Kan’du, or deep sea. Similarly, visitors would hope to be served with a Kurumba – a ripe coconut filled with juice – rather than having a dried up Kurolhi fall onto their heads from the tree.

Even the tree itself, the giver of shade and Kurumba to thirsty tourists, represents more than the sum of its parts to the Dhivehi speaker, with the iloshi traditionally used to make brooms, the fann used for roofs, and the Ruhgulhi to make drums.

“It is our identity. When we say ‘I am a Mal-dhivehin’ – the Maldivian and Dhivehi – you can’t separate it,” explains President of the Dhivehi Academy Ashraf Ali. “This is the only factor which shows the cultural and linguistic identity of the Maldives.”

President Abdulla Yameen has recently called upon all state institutions to adhere to the 2011 National Language (Priority) Act, which created the Dhivehi Academy – charged with continuing the preservation and development of the language.

The President’s Office quoted Yameen as saying that the Dhivehi language was one of the “greatest privileges of our nationalism”, describing it as a “social obligation, as Maldivians, to give precedence to our national language”.

Ashraf explained that the preservation of the local language – spoken by less than 400,000 people – is beset with difficulties, but maintained that Dhivehi was “changing” and “evolving” rather than declining, with the Maldives’ youthful population lacking the same fluency in their Dhivehi as their elders.

Dhi-velopment

“They’re mixing into English language because the medium of instruction in the education system is given in English. Mostly the students don’t have enough time to discuss and to talk in Dhivehi language,” said Ashraf.

The restriction of Dhivehi to Islam and Dhivehi classes has left many young people feeling as if their mother tongue is not an official language, he suggested, arguing that English is seen as the key to a career.

A number of Arabic and Urdu words have been introduced into Dhivehi in recent decades, and Arabic has recently being introduced up to grade 7 in some schools – with plans to make expand into all schools. Young people are now seeing both Arabic and English as equally foreign languages.

“This generation don’t understand the Arabic, so they are mixing English. When they use English, the elders are saying ‘why are you destroying the language’, but the young people respond, ‘why did you mix with Arabic and Hindi’?”

Many more words detailing different types of ocean remain in use only amongst fishermen, who perceive the currents and swells of the Indian ocean far better than the younger generation for whom fishing has become a less common vocation.

One of the tasks performed by the academy is dealing with this evolution of the language in the Bas Committee, which also developed the official Dhivehi dictionary – published in 2012. Meanwhile, the Qavaaidhu Committee deals with issues relating to grammar and rules. An official English-Dhivehi dictionary is planned for next year. Furthermore, the academy is tasked with ensuring that Dhivehi is the primary language used across government institutions.

Events organised by the academy such as national competitions promoting the language have increased in popularity in recent years, with Ashraf suggesting that this growing interest may have been an unexpected side-effect of the country’s democratic advances over the past decade.

“The system has changed – the governance. Mostly people want to go to the People’s Majlis, so they have to speak in Dhivehi,” he said. “If they come up from these competitions they feel they will have something to show in the future.”

Language of love

The impact of the 2011 legislation was also described as providing greater knowledge of the language. The academy provides workshops and courses across the country, as well as a book fair which the academy has decentralised in order to spread its work into the atolls.

Work to preserve the country’s most prominent dialects has also taken place, with around 60% of the records of regional dialects – including the Addu, Fuvamulak, and Huvadhoo dialects – now preserved in Malé. A book featuring some of the preserved works in the Addu dialect is planned for publication later this year.

“It’s very difficult – the books are very expensive. That is the main problem for Dhivehi writers – they don’t have any kind of subsidy to better show their efforts. Maybe that is the one reason why the language is not well developed today.”

“The main problem to preserve the language is we don’t have enough facilities – even the human facilities…Still we don’t have any ability to do Dhivehi cartoons, Dhivehi comics. These are the challenges we face to preserve our language. We plan to have these things, but we don’t have any support within the academy.”

Ashraf also pointed out that, in order to survive in the 21st century, Dhivehi must adapt to sweeping technological advances – an objective that he is confident will receive the full support of a new generation of Maldivians.

“Dhivehi language must be a technology friendly language. That capability is not there in the last generation – now this generation, they have this capability so they have many ideas.”

“To preserve and develop the national culture, we must know the language. Every Maldivian must know the language for the culture and for his own country,” said Ashraf, whose major concern was simply that teaching methods had left students bored with their mother tongue.

“You should love the language in order to develop the language,” said an optimistic Ashraf.

Pointing out that the Dhivehi vocabulary has at least eight synonyms for the word ‘love’, Ashraf clearly feels that this is something Maldivians have a great capacity for.

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Gasim warns government against betraying coalition, says JP sidelined from victory rally

Speaking at the Jumhooree Party (JP) parliamentary election victory rally ‘Dhivehi Rayyithunnah Saabas’ last night the party leader Gasim Ibrahim warned that failing to fulfill coalition promises would be bad.

Gasim said that he had been doing everything President Abdulla Yameen has asked of him and that he expects the ruling coalition not to betray the promises made amongst the allies.

Stating that things should not be forgotten, and that promises should be fulfilled, Gasim said any failure to do so would “result in zero”.

The JP leader noted that while his party was promised 35 percent in the government, only 29 political appointments have been allocated to them so far.

“For example, if the government is making 400 political appointments, 29 is not 35 percent of that amount. [If it is 35 percent] there would be more. But if 29 appointments is 35 percent [of political appointments] then we are content.”

“But if we consider this figure, it should definitely reach 100. If this is not the case [we have to] look in to this,” Gasim said.

Gasim argued that the JP had lost ten seats in the parliamentary elections due to some “other reasons”, the details of which he said he does not want to delve into. Otherwise, he argued, the party could have won in 25 out of the total 28 constituencies in which he competed.

Gasim has earlier said that leading figures from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) competed as independents in eight of the 28 constituencies allocated for JP under the coalition seat allocation deal. Pro-coalition Adhaalath Party – sidelined from the deal – also ran in constituencies allocated for both the PPM and JP.

Earlier this month the ruling progressive coalition led by President Yameen’s PPM held a rally to mark the parliamentary election victory, but the JP was not present at the event.

Explaining JP’s absence, Gasim said said yesterday that it was not a coalition event but a PPM event. He said no JP members were given the opportunity to speak at the rally – “not even to give words of thanks”.

He said the PPM leadership refused a request to alter the rally agenda to allow JP members to speak.

The JP backed PPM the second round of presidential election 2013 after failing to reach a deal to contest with a single candidate in the re-run of the first round. The JP backing was essential for President Abdulla Yameen’s win over Maldivian Democratic Party’s Mohamed Nasheed in the second round.

Since the coalition government was formed – with the JP promised 35 percent in the government- the two parties have faced a number of major disagreements, though both have denied claims of a rifts in the coalition.

A major poing of contention was during the budget allocation last December when President Yameen requested that the PPM decide upon the details of the budget. JP leader Gasim said his party was not consulted regarding the budget and proposed a number of amendments.

More recently, both parties decided to field separate candidates for the position of parliament speaker creating further tensions within the coalition.

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President calls for “respect and love” for Dhivehi language

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has called for national programs to be introduced to foster “respect and love” for the Dhivehi language.

Speaking at a function organised by the Dhivehi Language Academy, the President stated that the promotion and preservation of the language was a national duty rather than the responsibility of an institution.

President Waheed warned that by neglecting work aimed at the growth of Dhivehi, it risked being buried.

During the function, 30 seconds were observed as a sign of respect for the Dhivehi language, the President’s Office said.

Waheed went on to express concern over the misuse of Dhivehi by Maldivians and youth, before appealing to all parents, guardians and teachers to protect the language.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News there was no risk of the language being “put to one side” in place of another.

“The concern regarding the misuse of the language was in reference to slang coming into Dhivehi. The language is certainly not dying,” he added.

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President makes Dhivehi book fair visit for Writer’s Day

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan yesterday attended the 2012 Writer’s Book Fair, an event organised by the recently established Dhivehi Language Academy.

The president attended the event, which started last Wednesday (April 18), during its final day.

As part of his visit, which was scheduled to coincide with Writers’ Day, Dr Waheed spoke with participants about the books available for sale at the fair, the President’s Office has said.

The academy was inaugurated back in August last year in an attempt to to promote, preserve and study the origins and usage of the Dhivehi language .

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“Judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law”: Foreign Minister, as political tension erupts

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has received an order from the Supreme Court to release Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed.

However MNDF spokesperson Major Abdul Raheem told Minivan News this afternoon that the military has “not yet decided what do with that order.”

The MNDF refused to release the judge on a Supreme Court order last night, requesting that it be delivered during ‘official hours’. Minivan News understands that President Mohamed Nasheed met with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court this morning.

Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed was arrested for corruption and for “allowing his judicial decisions to be determined by political and personal affiliations and interests”, Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem said in a statement today.

The arrest of the judge caused a spike in political tensions across Male’, coming so soon after he opened the court late at night to order that the arrest of DQP politicians for “hate speech” was unlawful.

“[Judge Abdulla’s] repeated failure to comply with constitutional requirements regarding the individual integrity and competence of judges has been compounded by the failure of normal constitutional checks and balances to hold him accountable to the society he is supposed to serve,” read the Foreign Ministry’s statement.

“The Government of the Maldives fully supports and will always protect judicial independence,” Naseem said today. “However, judicial independence does not mean that judges are above the law and can behave as they see fit – contrary to the laws of the land. A judge is a citizen of the Maldives – no more or less important than any other citizen”.

Political tension erupts

The civil, criminal and high courts have cancelled hearings in protest against the arrest of the Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed. The High Court, Supreme Court and Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muiz demanded the release of the judge.

Muiz told local media that police must consult the PG before taking a judge into custody.

The Criminal Court also issued a court order today ordering the PG to prosecute within the next three days the Chief of Defence Forces and others involved in “contempt of court”.
A group of lawyers filed a similar case at the High Court after the military ignored court orders from both the High Court and Supreme Court for Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s immediate release.
Upon receiving the police summons yesterday, Judge Abdulla had filed a case at the High Court requesting that the summons be cancelled or overturned. The court issued an order halting the summons pending a ruling on the case.
Following his arrest, the High Court issued a court order around 2:00am Tuesday morning for the immediate release of the judge. The High Court noted that as article 12 of the Judges Act specifies procedures for the arrest of a sitting judge.

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz released a statement after midnight calling for the immediate release of Judge Abdulla, noting that a judge could only be arrested on criminal charges with a warrant from a higher court.

Only the PG is authorised by the Judges Act to seek such an arrest warrant, the Chief Justice noted.
“The day these principle are demolished is the darkest and gloomiest time in the life of a nation,” the statement reads.
The apex court also issued a court order around 5:00am for Judge Abdulla’s immediate release.
Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) also called for the release of the judge, claiming that the government had “completely destroyed the country’s hard earned democracy”.

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) meanwhile called on authorities to respect article 24 of the constitution, which states, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his private communications.”

However the Foreign Ministry said that Abdulla Mohamed had violated the Bangalore Principles on judicial conduct and independence.

“All the time, Abdulla Mohamed’s actions are becoming more blatant – from asking children who have been sexually abused to act out the crime in court, to repeatedly releasing opposition figures brought before the courts for serious crimes including assault and incitement to hatred or violence,” Naseem said.

“As the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) made clear following their recent assessment of the state of the Maldives judiciary, judicial independence is a responsibility requiring accountability – a point clearly reflected in the Constitution of the Maldives. This accountability includes a requirement of individual competence and integrity by judges in their proceedings: including issues of actual or perceived bias, prejudice, or conflicts of interest and ethical behaviour outside of office, requiring continuous responsibility to demonstrate high moral character,”

“Unfortunately, it is clear, in contravention of the Bangalore Principles, that Abdulla Mohamed considers judicial independence to mean that he can do whatever he likes, and can act with total impunity”.

The Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the watchdog body supposedly responsible for ensuring the good conduct of judges, “is itself dominated by judges and opposition politicians”, the Foreign Ministry stated.

An attempt by the JSC to take action against Abdulla Mohamed following allegations of political bias after he appeared on TV saying “this government is a dying government” were overturned by the judge’s allies in the lower courts, Naseem argued.

The Civil Court in November 2011 ordered the JSC to take no action against Abdulla Mohamed, until the court reached a verdict in the case filed against him.

Judge Maryam Nihayath said at the time that if the JSC took any further action against Abdulla Mohamed while the case was in court, “it might disrupt the case and Abdulla Mohamed would suffer irreparable damages”.

Former President’s member on the JSC and outspoken whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, told Minivan News at the time that the JSC’s investigation of Abdulla Mohamed was “the first time the JSC had ever completed an investigation into a judge’s misconduct.”

“There are many allegations against Abdulla Mohamed, but one is enough,” she said. “If the JSC decides, all investigation reports, documents and oral statements will be submitted to parliament, which can then decide to remove him with a simple two-thirds majority.”

“Sadly, as we have seen time and again, the JSC has not been able to fulfil its constitutional task of holding judges like Abdulla Mohamed – who is representative of a small minority of judges who abuse their position to protect themselves and their political allies – to account”.

The  allegations against judge Abdulla Mohamed were originally forwarded to the President’s Office in 2005 by then Attorney General Hassan Saeed, current leader of the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP). His party is presently attacking the government not only for its interference in the judiciary, but of harbouring “Christian priests”, “introducing other religions into the country”,  “encouraging vice”, and accepting “statues for praying” from other SAARC countries during the recent summit in Addu.

Those allegations, concerning Abdulla Mohamed’s request that an underage victim of sexual abuse reenact her abuse for the court, were dropped when the JSC decided not to proceed with the investigation on July 30, 2009.

“With the JSC unwilling or unable to act, responsibility to reign-in judges who break the law should fall to higher judicial authorities. However, senior judges have proved time and again that they are not willing to take action against one of their own – destroying, in the process, public confidence in the judiciary,” Naseem said today.

It had therefore fallen to the President, “as the ultimate guarantor of the Constitution”, to resolve the situation, Naseem stated.

“The President could no longer sit by and watch as a minority of judges destroy public trust in the judiciary and make a mockery of the laws of the country. Abdulla Mohamed has therefore been arrested.

“This is not a move against the judiciary of the Maldives – but rather against an individual who has repeatedly broken the law and who should be held accountable for his actions,” the Foreign Minister said.

Judges under scrutiny

In October 2011, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) appealed for assistance from the international community over the “increasingly blatant collusion between politicians loyal to the former autocratic President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, and senior members of the judiciary – most of whom were appointed by Gayoom during his thirty years of power.”

The MDP statement also referred to the corruption trial of Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ahmed Nazim, charged with multiple counts of defrauding the former Atolls Ministry, which remains “indefinitely delayed.”

In an interview with Minivan News in September 2011, former chairman of the Special Majlis Drafting Committee responsible for the new Constitution claimed that the Supreme Court “and key elements within the judiciary are still controlled by Gayoom – directly or indirectly.”

“Face facts – they are issuing instructions to the trial courts, saying ‘Case X, stop proceedings, we’ll take that over,'” Ibra said.

“Who ever heard of an appellate court taking over a trial court’s jurisdiction? I don’t know of any instance in any democratic country, anywhere in the world, where an appellate court will take over a trial court.

“Even in cases of a mistrial, the instruction is to retry the case. Appellate courts don’t sit on trials. And they are systematically doing it – at least three cases so far. What they are effectively doing is influencing the independence of the trial court. The significance of that is that if trial court judges cannot be independent of the higher court, there is no room for appeals. Because the decision is going to be the Supreme Court decision.”

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The burden of ‘budhu’-a new age for Dhivehi

“Does language follow a democratic movement, or does a movement follow the language?” queried a source educated in rhetoric and journalism.

Many changes have come to the Maldives in the last twenty years, but some wonder whether Dhivehi is opening the door for political maneuvering.

“In the past, everything in the king’s palace had a word,” said Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid. Listing wooden nails and coil ropes named for their specific purposes, he explains “it was a king-centered, palace-centered community. The people lived for King. But it has changed very little over hundreds of years.”

Today, Dhivehi leaves gaps of understanding which politicians have been using as public pressure points, Shahid claimed. Those gaps are sometimes filled with superstition, running deep in time.

A Superstitious Past

According to folklore and historical research, the Maldives is the only island group in the Central Indian Ocean to have supported indigenous culture since ancient times. As such, its people have a fairly isolated and protective heritage.

Certain sayings and practices exemplify the fear that isolation engendered.

“Traditionally Maldivians didn’t think that it was good for a person to look too much at the sea, because one’s ‘heart would turn to stone’”, wrote Xavier Romero-Frias in The Maldivian Islanders. He advises that the Dhivehi meaning conveys a loss of memory and focus, rather than a loss of mercy.

Romero-Frias also explains that the winding streets on islands were not only attractive– they also prevented kaddovi, malevolent spirits of dead ancestors, from walking about. Replacing them with straight paths at the king’s order in the 1900s was unpleasant, to say the least.

The advent of Islam in 1100 AD tried to dispel indigenous superstition. The Sunni tradition in particular strongly discourages aniconism, or the depiction of religious and living beings. Signs of the Buddhist culture as well as “all type of Dhivehi cultural expressions deemed un-Islamic”, were destroyed, including budhu, or any carven image of a living being.

Some say the new regulations had a positive effect on Maldivian culture. “Wahhabism removed suspicions and freed the psyche,” said one source familiar with the issue. With numerous demons and windowless architecture, he said, Buddhist culture leaned heavily on superstition and deterred progress. “There were ill-omen days, and on those days people might not go fishing, for example,” he said.

While physical evidence of a Buddhist past has more or less vanished, words and their superstitious connotations linger.

Budhu is one example. Lacking words for ‘doll’ or ‘monument’, Dhivehi speakers generally refer to such objects as budhu–a habit that can lead to confusion.

In one story from Gan Laam Atoll, a statue is remembered as a human being.

Naseema Mohamed, a history consultant at Dhivehi Academy, told the tale of a big man who always stood near the island’s stuppa, no matter the weather. He never sat down. Mohamed said the story was about a standing man, but infers that the “man” was a Buddha statue.

“To some, even a photograph is considered a budhu,” Shahid said. Shahid was in prison for the first 16 years of his daughter’s life, and saw her only 12 days a year. To remind their daughter of him, his wife kept a picture at eye-level in the house. The gesture was reportedly disdained by Shahid’s sister, a pious woman who only took photographs for her passport.

The burden of budhu

Given the many meanings and uses of the word budhu, it seems reasonable that statues and monuments would be considered a public, cultural threat in the Maldives. However, as the recent vandalism and theft of monuments in Addu illustrates, gaps in language could be “one of the most serious problems, especially at this time,” as Shahid claims.

Officials have suggested that the attacks on the SAARC monuments have a political base. Shahid believes they were engineered because the public was pre-disposed to accept the destruction of images. Without separate, secular terminology for ‘monument’, people fell back on the religious argument.

“This is just one of the factors of how the religious and political groups were able to blow things out of proportion,” said Shahid. “Nobody wants to argue about budhu, they don’t want to be labelled a non-Muslim, so it’s better to stay quiet.”

The SAARC monuments were first criticised by the Islamic Ministry on religious grounds. Soon after, opposition Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) hailed the vandals as “national heroes” and filed a case against Customs for allowing the statues into the country. When Nepal’s statue was stolen on December 7, Addu City Mayor Abdullah Sodig asserted that the theft had a political base.

Recalling acquaintances who asked whether people would start worshiping new idols in Addu, Shahid concluded, “my opinion is this whole thing has gone out of proportion because of the language problem.”

When asked about Shahid’s assessment, Mohamed pointed out that Pakistan’s monument was a historical illustration. “There was nothing for anyone to be angry or annoyed about, although I could understand how some people would have that reaction,” she said.

Editor of MaldivesCulture.com Michael O’Shea said most Maldivians harbor suspicions, but many make distinctions. “Because budhu has a wide range of meanings, getting upset about some forms of it and not others is a personal choice,” he observed.

However, politics prevail. “You can’t have a cultural discussion without it turning into a political swinging match,” said O’Shea.

Recent events support his claim.

On the day before the nation-wide protest to “Defend Islam”, a religious rally at which key speakers pledged to defeat President Mohamed Nasheed in the 2013 presidential election, Afghanistan’s monument was broken from its mount and sunk in the sea. Addu Councilor Hussein Hilmee said the monument was an image of Afghanistan’s Jam minaret, which features Qur’anic phrases and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As printed slogans at the “Defend Islam” protest reminded the public, statues–even of the Jam Minaret–offend the national religion.

The destruction of the Addu-based monuments was one of several demands made by the protestors, who came close to clashing to with MDP protestors late Friday night.

De-politicising Dhivehi in a democratic era

Politics govern most conversations in both manner and practice, said one source familiar with linguistics and media. He said the evolution of journalism illustrates the pressures of a democratic revolution on Dhivehi language.

“The language of journalism is now less formal than it was before. But, as it becomes less formal it also becomes less neutral,” he observed.

The democratic revolution of the previous decade pushed Dhivehi to its limits. “Under Gayoom, we didn’t have a word for ‘protest’. Instead, we said ‘express displeasure’. Previously, there was no word for ‘detainee,’ only ‘convict’. You were either a political offender or a convict,” he said.

Dhivehi evolved quickly “because the movement was happening very quickly,” but the source said it could learn from Arabic media, notably Al Jazeera, which developed new words instead of adopting English terms.

Pointing out that ‘freeze’ in Dhivehi only refers to objects, the source queried, “When the western press talks about unfreezing assets, we haven’t even got a word for freeze. How do we keep up with that?”

However, the source claimed, journalists are falling short of their duty.

“Journalists are passing the buck. They are saying it is not their job to change Dhivehi, but this is a responsibility of journalism. You can’t just copy the politicians” because it narrows the discussion and alienates the people, he said. “There should be some strong face of journalism. At the moment it seems like the entire discussion is in the language of politicians.”

What are the consequences?

“It is not just a constitution that will bring democracy and human rights and civil society. In Maldives, it’s everything. From language, to religion, to the population size. The language issue is a problem here. It has to be overcome.”

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Religious NGOs to hold “protest to protect Islam” on December 23

A coalition of religious NGOs have claimed that 100,000 people will join a protest in December “to protect Islam”, and called on “all Maldivians to take part”.

Speaking to the press at the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) studio, President of the NGO Coalition Mohamed Didi said that more than 127 local NGOs, music clubs, political parties and Island Councils would take part in the protest on December 23.

According to MNBC, Didi said the protest was not a movement against the government but a movement “against all un-Islamic ideas.”

Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef warned that “our faith will not be shaken by something someone says, but because of these things it might turn the non-muslims living in neighboring countries against us.’’

MNBC reported that the People’s Alliance Party (PA) had called on parents to bring children to the gathering.

Local newspaper Sun quoted Didi as saying that the government had been conducting many activities with the motive of erasing Islam from the country, and claimed that the NGO coalition was “left with no other choice but to protest to protect Islam.”

Senior officials from the Adhaalath Party, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) and Jumhoree Party (JP) were present at today’s meeting.

Claims that national monuments placed in Addu for the SAARC Summit were idolatrous and hostility towards a call by UN Human Rights Ambassador Navi Pillay for a national debate on flogging sparked protests in Male’ recently.

“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” Pillay said, referring to the practice of flogging a punishment for fornication.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

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Islamic Ministry condemns MPs for allowing UN Human Rights Commissioner to address parliament

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has issued a statement proclaiming that nobody is allowed to talk against Islam in the Maldives, “even in parliament”, as Islam is “the source of all laws made in the Maldives.”

The Ministry’s statement follows a call from UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay in parliament last week that the Maldives put a moratorium on the practice of flogging as punishment for extra-marital sex,  while it holds a debate on the matter.

Pillay told parliament that flogging was a form of punishment “that is cruel and demeaning to women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”

The Islamic Ministry condemned the parliament’s decision to let Pillay speak, noting that MPs were handed a Dhivehi translation of her speech and should have been aware of what she was about to say.

‘’No Muslim has the right to advocate against flogging for fornication,” the Islamic Ministry stated.

“According to the Quran 100 lashes should be given for the woman and man involved in fornication,’’ the Ministry said, citing 33:36 of Quran which reads: ‘’It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.’’

The Ministry said that no international organisation, foreign country or individual had the “right to obstruct Maldivians from upholding Islamic principles.”

‘’To preserve this nation’s sovereignty, all Maldivian citizens are obliged to respect the articles in the constitution and uphold the constitution,’’ the statement read. ‘’No law against any tenet of Islam can be enacted in the Maldives, according to the constitution.’’

The Islamic Ministry said any calls or action against this would be condemned by the ministry “in strongest possible terms.”

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has yesterday sent a letter to the UN Resident Coordinator in the Maldives, alleging that a call from UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay for a moratorium on flogging was “inhumane and disrespectful.”

In a press conference last week, Pillay also described the 100 percent Muslim provision in the Maldivian constitution as “discriminatory, and does not comply with international standards” which led to protests outside the UN head office in Male’.

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