National Security Committee to forward resolution prohibiting Israeli flight operations

The parliament’s National Security Committee (NSC) has today decided to forward a resolution to the parliament to prohibit operations of Israel’s El Al airline to the Maldives.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP for the Madaveli constituency Mohamed Nazim, also a member of the NSC, today confirmed the decision to Minivan News.

According to Nazim the resolution will be forwarded to parliament Speaker Abdulla Shahid today.

”The speaker will then decided when to present it to the parliament’s floor to ask for a vote,” Nazim said. ”The decision was made following a request made by the Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari to pass a resolution to prohibit the flight operations to the Maldives.”

In May Israel’s national carrier El Al formally applied to the Ministry of Transport to begin flying to the Maldives from December.

President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said at the time that he believed the government was inclined to grant permission to the airline.

Later in April religious party Adhaalath resolved to terminate the coalition agreement with MDP in the event that permission was granted.

Transport Minister Adil Saleem previously said the ministry was processing a license for El Al subsidiary airline Sun d’Or International Airlines, and claimed the partnership would create opportunities for Israeli tourists to visit the country while also facilitating pilgrimages for Maldivians to mosques around Jerusalem and other parts of the country.

In September the Adhaalath Party’s council voted to break the coalition agreement to protest the current government’s religious policy, citing the Israeli flight issue as a component therein.

This week Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari requested the NSC to endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.

Expressing his views on the issue, Dr. Bari told the MPs he “personally does not support the Israel airline to operate in the Maldives”.

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr. Bari said that he made the request because he believes “Israel has committed several human rights violations”.

Dr. Bari noted that Maldives should not stand with Israel as it commits atrocities against the Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine.

“Maldives cut off ties with Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi’s government when he was killing, violating fundamental rights of his people. Similarly, Maldives should follow the same standard by isolating Israel for the atrocities committed against Muslims,” Dr.Bari said.


President defends traditional Maldivian Islam as parliament endorses Bari as Islamic Minister

The parliament has approved the reappointment of Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari as Minister for Islamic Affairs, in a narrow vote 38 in favour 35 against.

Dr Bari was first appointed to the position under a coalition agreement made between the government and the religious Adhaalath Party, resigned on the party’s request after it made the decision to break the agreement t over the government’s religious policy.

Opposition parties have earlier said their MPs in the parliament would  not vote in favor of Dr Bari and that he would be dismissed. A parliament committee that looked into the issue has meanwhile dismissed his reappointment and will submit a report on the matter.

Adhaalath made a further move today to sever its connection with the government, dismissing its former President and current State Islamic Minister Sheikh Hussein Rasheed. Sheikh Hussein had been also asked to resign by the party following its split with the MDP, but had elected to remain in the government.

Speaking to Minivan News, Sheikh Hussein said that he had received a letter from the Adhaalath Party yesterday informing him that he had been dismissed from the party for acting against the party’s ideas.

”The people will know the work I have done for Adhaalath Party,” he said. “When the party was first established there was no one that had the courage to take the lead so I did. No one had the courage to go and take the party registration form but I went and took it,” Sheikh Rasheed explained. ”That was the time when the former President and scholars were under great influence and threat of being imprisoned.”

Now, he said, the party was under the influence of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Sheikh Hussein said the VTV television station, owned by opposition-aligned MP and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, had reported his dismissal from the Adhaalath Party before the decision had even been taken by the disciplinary committee.

He said that when the party asked him to resign from his position, he only told the party his view on the matter.

“Dr Bari and I are working independently in the Ministry, free from influence,” he said. ”If I If I have violated any regulations there will be actions taken, but the party’s Disciplinary Committee needs to be investigated first.”

”We created the party with a very good intention. It was to go forward with the country and citizens and to serve the religion. But that is not the direction in which that party is moving now,” he said.

Sheikh Hussein said he had not yet decided to join another party, and was currently awaiting word from the Elections Commission on the matter.

Dr Bari and President of Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.

Government stands up

President Mohamed Nasheed has meanwhile defended Islam and Maldivian culture and traditions, ahead of an opposition-backed religious protest on December 23. The website promoting the protest briefly called for the “slaughter” of “anyone against Islam”, slogans which were subsequently removed and blamed on a “technical mistake”, “hackers” and later, “intelligence officials”.

Nasheed has claimed that religious protesters are trying to implement Islamic Sharia penalties such as stoning, amputation and execution – penalties which have traditionally been pardoned by the Maldivian judicial system.

Speaking at a rally held on Saturday evening, Nasheed defended traditional cultural practices such as playing and listening to music and the role of women in society, noting that “women have been in the Maldivian workforce as long as men.”

He  called on political parties to publicly state which form of Islam they supported: “the Islam we have been practicing in this country for several hundred years, or a new faction of Islam.”

Protest organisers President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Imran Abdullah, and Abdullah Mohamed, head of a coalition of religious NGOs organising the protest, were questioned by police on December 13.
Press Secretary of the President’s Office, Mohamed Zuhair, today claimed that “former President Gayoom, the Adhaalath Party and religious extremists are whipping up hatred, intolerance and xenophobia for political purposes. They hope to topple the government from the streets because they can’t defeat it through the ballot box.”

Opposition MPs to vote against reappointment of Islamic Minister Dr Bari

Opposition MPs have declared that they will vote against giving parliamentary consent to the reappointment of Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari as Minister of Islamic Affairs, who resigned “out of respect” for the Adhaalath Party’s decision to sever its coalition agreement with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Dr Bari was however reappointed less than a week after his resignation. The head of the Adhaalath Party’s religious scholars council told press that he accepted the post in his “individual capacity” after “98 percent” of the people he consulted with – including religious scholars, businessmen and members of the general public – had advised him to do so.

Following his reappointment, the nomination was sent to parliament for approval this week.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Spokesperson MP Ahmed Mahlouf told Minivan News today that the parliamentary group of the party has not yet reached a decision on the vote to confirm the appointment.

“We have not decided about it yet, but I think most of the MPs will not give consent to him considering the events that took place recently,” said Mahlouf, adding that he did not wish to comment further at the present time.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Abdulla Mausoom meanwhile said the party would announce its decision to the media tomorrow.

DRP Leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali told press this week that the party’s MPs were not inclined to consent to Bari’s reappointment. Thasmeen cited the Islamic Minister’s role in the publication of controversial religious unity regulations despite the vocal opposition of religious groups.

Dr Bari was initially appointed Islamic Minister under the Adhaalath Party’s agreement with the ruling party. Bari told media last week that he had advocated against leaving the MDP-led coalition and was not present when a resolution to the effect was passed by the party’s consultative council.


Dr Bari reappointed Minister of Islamic Affairs

Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari was reappointed Minister of Islamic Affairs this morning, less than a week after he resigned from the position in the wake of the religious conservative Adhaalath party’s decision to sever its coalition agreement with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Dr Bari told Minivan News last week that he resigned “out of respect” for his party’s decision.

While both Dr Bari and State Islamic Minister Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed were asked to resign by the Adhaalath Party as they could “no longer represent the party in this government”, the latter issued a statement saying he would not resign unless he was asked by President Mohamed Nasheed.

Speaking to press at the Islamic Ministry today, Bari claimed that he accepted the post “as an individual” after “98 percent” of the people he consulted with – including religious scholars, businessmen and members of the general public – had advised him to do so.

Bari explained that he did not resign out of dissatisfaction with the government or difficulties in performing his duties, insisting that he accepted the post again “as a second opportunity to serve the nation.”

President Nasheed had welcomed Bari’s decision to accept the post while remaining a member of the Adhaalath Party, he said, insisting that he had no intention of resigning from the party.

Bari added that he expected Adhaalath Party to be “satisfied” that a member of the party would be filling the post of Islamic Minister.

Bari went on to criticise the party’s decision to sever the coalition agreement, claiming that a decision had been made before the consultation council held a meeting.

Moreover, he added, the meeting was held in violation of party rules and regulations as members were not informed of the items on the agenda. Dr Bari said he had argued against leaving the MDP-led coalition.

Adhaalath Party Spokesperson Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, who resigned as State Minister for Islamic Affairs last year, told Minivan News today that Dr Bari’s resignation was “a drama.”

“It was a drama he played so I would not like to comment on his action,” he said.

Adhaalath Party meanwhile issued a press statement today strongly condemning Dr Bari’s decision as going against “the spirit of the party’s constitution as well as the party’s decisions.”

“We also note that Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari lied when he claimed to have assumed the post again after consulting with the party,” it reads, characterising the move as “lowly conduct” on the minister’s part.


Islamic Minister condemns humiliation of tourist couple

The Islamic Minister of the Maldives Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has strongly condemned the humiliation to a foreign couple by the celebrant of a renewal of vows ceremony held at Vilu Reef Resort and Spa.

The video of the wedding ceremony held at Vilu Reef, in which the celebrant degrades oblivious couple with a torrent of insults in Dhivehi, appeared on social networks last week.

The couple were initially told in English that the ceremony was a ‘traditional Maldivian’ ceremony, “according to Islamic and Arab norms”, and then attacked as “infidels” and “swine” in Dhivehi during the US$1300 proceedings.

“The religion of Islam has not taught us to treat non-Muslims as enemies,’’ clarified Dr Majeed. “While a tourist is in a country with a valid visa,  according to the rules and regulations it is a responsibility of the state institution to provide them protection.’’

Dr Majeed said that “under no circumstance” did Islam allow a person to be humiliated or robbed of their money or property if they did not follow the religion.

The Islamic Minister also appealed for resorts not to conduct any irreligious activities “to delight the tourists.”

Police have now arrested the celebrant, who was an assistant working at the Food and Beverage Department, and another individual involved in the ceremony, and are holding discussions with the Prosecutor General to determine the charges.