The Royal Islamic Strategic Research Centre (RISSC)’s report into the global state of Islam has described the Maldives as a 99.41 percent Muslim country.
RISSC is an independent research entity affiliated with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, an international Islamic non-governmental institute headquartered in the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The calculation is a collation of research by Dr Houssain Kettani – who identifies the Maldives as a 100 per-cent Muslim nation – and the Pew Research Center, a Washington-based nonpartisan research body claiming to “promote a deeper understanding of issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs.”
The PEW Research Centre’s Forum on Religion estimates that of the Maldives population of 395,921, 389,586 are Muslims, equating to 98.4 percent or a non-Muslim population of 6335. The RISSC report averages the two figures and arrives at 99.41 percent, or a non Muslim population of 2335.
State Islamic Minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, described in the RISSC report as one of the world’s top 500 influential Muslims ‘administrative’ category, said according to the constitution of the Maldives the country was a 100 percent Muslim nation.
”The world should know the appropriate information about Maldives before publishing documents about Maldives. Everything in the Maldives is conducted in accordance with the constitution,” Shaheem said.
According to the Maldivian constitution all citizens are required to be Muslim, and the country is always described as a “100 percent” Muslim country.
In late May, famous religious scholar Dr Zakir Naik visited the Maldives and delivered a sermon in the capital Male’. During a question-and-answer session 37 year-old Mohamed Nazim stood up and declared himself “Maldivian and not a Muslim”, to which Dr Naik replied: “So 100 per-cent minus one.”
Nazim’s declaration angered the 11,000 strong crowd, and he was escorted from the venue by police and officials from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs amid calls for his execution.
After two days of religious counselling in police custody, Nazim appeared before television cameras at an Islamic Ministry press conference and gave Shahada – the Muslim testimony of belief – and apologised for causing “agony for the Maldivian people” and requested that the community accept him back into society.
Police submitted his case to the Prosecutor General’s office earlier this week, which is currently deciding whether to take the former apostate to the Criminal Court.
In July, 25 year-old air traffic controller Ismail Mohamed Didi was found hanged from the control tower of Male’ International Airport in an apparent suicide, after seeking asylum in the UK for fear of persecution over his stated lack of religious belief.
“Maldivians are proud of their religious homogeneity and I am learning the hard way that there is no place for non-Muslim Maldivians in this society,” Didi wrote in a letter to an international humanitarian organisation, dated June 23.
Maldives in RISSC’s top 500
Alongside Sheikh Shaheem, President Mohamed Nasheed features in RISSC’s list of most influential Muslims “for being one of the most environmentally conscious state leaders in the world.”
“In the earliest stages of his political career, Nasheed was imprisoned for his criticism of his country’s government and became an Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience,’’ said RISSC. ‘’Today, Nasheed has [pledged] to make the Maldives carbon-neutral within a decade by moving the country’s energy reliance to wind and solar power only.’’
Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, who visited the Maldives in May to deliver a sermon at the invitation of local NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf, was listed under ‘Media’.
RISSC described Philips as “a notable convert and Islamic scholar, Philips is founder of the virtual educational institution Islamic Online University and Discover Islam, an Islamic center based in Dubai.”
The report added that “In May 2010, Philips was the subject of a letter-writing campaign in the Maldives which condemned his preaching as a promotion of religious extremism. He was subsequently banned from entering the United Kingdom.”
Dr Naik was also listed in the top 500 under ‘Preachers’. RISSC describes him as “an Indian public intellectual teaching about Islam. He hosts huge public events where he speaks on Islam, highlighting misconceptions and promoting understanding about the faith.”
RISSC also noted that in June 2010, “Dr Naik was banned from entering the United Kingdom due to ‘unacceptable behaviour’. His public statements on terrorism and Osama bin Laden have contributed to his reputation as a controversial televangelist.”
His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, tops the list of most influential Muslims.