Former Islamic minister appointed Islamic university’s vice chancellor

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed former Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed as the vice chancellor of the newly formed Maldives Islamic University (MIU).

Shaheem, a senior member of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP), resigned from the cabinet on May 5. Following his resignation, Shaheem said he was considering retiring from politics to focus on social work.

President Yameen also appointed former education minister Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain as MIU chancellor yesterday. He was previously the chancellor of the Maldives National University (MNU).

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali revealed today that the president has also appointed five members to the MIU governing council.

The five members are deputy minister for Islamic affairs Mohamed Musthafa Ibrahim, the president’s representative on the Judicial Service Commission Mohamed Faisal, Dr Mohamed Haneef, Shuhad Rizwan, and Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim.

The president has also appointed five members to the Maldives National University’s (MNU) governing council, including information commissioner Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur.

The other members are Dr Fathmath Nazla Rafeeq, Dr Hussain Faiz, Mohamed Iuveiz, and Ismail Visham.

The appointments follow ratification of amendments to the Maldives National University Act last week, which authorised the president to appoint nine members to the 13-member governing council, including the chancellor and the vice chancellor.

The president could previously only appoint the chancellor.

The main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party had warned that the changes will compromise the MNU’s independence and politicise the institution.


President appoints Dr Ahmed Ziyad as Islamic minister

President Abdulla Yameen appointed Dr Ahmed Ziyad Bagir as the new minister of Islamic affairs today following the resignation of former minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed yesterday.

The president presented Ziyad his letter of appointment while Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla administered the oath of office at a ceremony held at the president’s office this morning.

Ziyad was serving as the principal of the Arabiyya School in Malé.

Former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has meanwhile thanked Shaheem for his “valuable service to the nation” as Islamic minister. Shaheem was appointed to the cabinet in February 2012 under ex-president Dr Mohamed Waheed and retained his post under president Yameen.


Opposition suggests inconsistent policies, while Islamic ministry lecture slams tourism promotion show

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Chairperson Ali Waheed has suggested that the government’s contradictory religious policies are damaging the nation.

“While the Maldives is celebrating its adherence to Islam, the religious structure of the government is as such – from the right, shows being organised,” said Waheed. “From the left, religious lectures are being convened.”

Waheed’s comments – referring to the New Year’s ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown’ music shows and the Islamic ministry’s ‘The Message’ lecture series – came at the conclusion of a party rally in the capital Malé yesterday.

Later in the day, in the first of ‘The Message’ lectures, Sheikh Adam Shameem condemned the tourism promotion concerts, which were organised and promoted by tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Drugs, sex, and rock and roll will destroy the nation, argued Shameem, suggesting that the government’s role was to lead the youth away from shameful deeds, but that such sinful activities were irresistible when handed down to them “on a platter”.

“What will happen when [they organize] sinful activities and invite the youth? Then, youth cannot be stopped,” he told approximately 1,500 attendees at the Alimas Carnival area in Malé.

The original New Year’s concert was set to feature dancehall singer Sean Paul until an online death threat prompted the artist to cancel the day before the show.

While the government later denounced the threat as a “hoax” designed to create an atmosphere of fear, religious groups united in condemnation of the event.

Islamic NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf called on the government cancel the concert, while Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed described the invitation of foreign performers for such shows as “unnacceptable”.

Minister for tourism Adeeb later explained that the Islamic minister’s words were his own personal opinion, and that the concert had been discussed at cabinet level.

The Islamic minister’s own Adhaalath Party subsequently expressed concern at what it described as “horrifying acts that defy Islamic teachings and social convention” taking place in the country.

After Sean Paul’s cancellation, Indian duo Salim and Sulaiman Merchant appeared on December 31, before a second concert was arranged featuring US R&B singer Akon on January 8. Akon himself had previously cancelled a 2010 show in the Maldives after opposition from religious groups.

Sheikh Shameem yesterday described Akon – a practising Muslim – as an “infidel negro”, expressing disappointment than more young persons had attended the music shows rather than attending Ishaa prayers.

Sheikh Shameem first came to public attention following his ‘mega-lecture’ ‘Andalus‘, during the 2013 presidential elections.

Live broadcasts of this lecture were interrupted by authorities for violating state broadcaster’s guideline, while the MDP condemned the lecture accusing Shameem of inciting hatred in order to sway the electorate. More recently, he was invited to speak to police during the celebration of Martyr’s Day last year.

Yesterday’s sermon was titled ‘Our Responsibilities towards the Nation’. The lecture series will also feature Dutch convert Arnoud Van Doorn on February 20.

President Abdulla Yameen – who last night attended to opening of the Maldives’ first fully solar powered resort, Club Med Finolhu Villa – marked the celebration of the country’s conversion to Islam by telling citizens to be wary of outside influences that could weaken the Islamic faith, reported Sun Online.

At the opening of the new resort, Yameen said that it was a combination of tourism and Islam that had taught Maldivians to co-exist with different cultures.

During yesterday’s MDP rally, both Ali Waheed and former President Mohamed Nasheed vowed to change Yameen’s government, with the latter suggesting the country’s troubles’ were partly caused by divisions between Yameen and former President and Progressive Party of Maldives leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

When calling for all-party talks last week, Nasheed made special mention of the former thirty-year ruler.

“I urge President Yameen to hold discussions with President Maumoon, Honourable Gasim, even us and leaders of Adhaalath Party. Also to move away from actions that will push Maldives into chaos,” said Nasheed on Thursday (January 22).

Yesterday’s ‘Maldivians stand to defend the Constitution’ rally saw over more than 1000 people march around the southern half of the capital to protest a series of decisions by the government and the Supreme Court which have been questioned on constitutional grounds.

*The original version of this article incorrectly translated Sheikh Shameem as describing Akon as an “infidel nigger”.

Minivan News would like to apologise for this error and will endeavour to make sure this type of error is not repeated.

Related to this story

Nasheed urges President Yameen to convene all-party talks

Adhaalath Party concerned that concerts are defying Islamic teachings

Jamiyyathul Salaf calls on government to cancel “sinful” Sean Paul concert


Islamic Ministry proposes compulsory Zakat in new bill

Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed says proposed legislation to collect, distribute, and manage Zakat would facilitate the collection of MVR500 million annually.

Speaking at a workshop involving stakeholders to the Zakat bill, Shaheem said Zakat systems are protected by law in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, and Malaysia.

“In these countries, Zakat systems have been set up and protected by law, while institutions involved in the management of Zakat have been empowered by law. Hence, it is very important that such a system be organised by law in our 100 percent Muslim country,” he said.

The Islamic ministry collected MVR52 million as Zakat last year.

The comprehensive bill defines Zakat as part of a property that must be given by a Muslim individual or business entity for charity to entitled recipients – which includes the poor, heavily indebted individuals, and travellers.

Zakat payment in the Maldives has traditionally been voluntary, but the new bill makes the annual payment compulsory and imposes a jail term of five years or a fine of MVR500,000 for non-compliance.

Wealth, assets, and income are zakatable – subject to the levy – under the new law. These include precious metal holdings, cash and other securities, trade and business inventories, and earnings from agriculture, fisheries, service delivery and mining.

Draft regulations introduced with the bill propose collecting 2.5 percent of the value of financial assets, business goods, net business profits and rent. The regulations also propose collecting 2.5 percent of net income as Zakat.

Analysis of the bill suggests the legislation avoids double taxation by deducting money collected as Zakat from taxes.

The Islamic ministry is to manage the Zakat fund. Money collected as Zakat is not property of the state and cannot be borrowed by the state for fiscal purposes, the bill said.

Protected by law

The Islamic Ministry must set up a Zakat Management Council to manage Zakat funds under the draft legislation. The council is to be supported through the state budget and advised by a Shariah Advisory Committee, appointed by the Islamic ministry.

Zakatable assets and wealth include gold, silver and other precious metals, cash and other securities, and trade and business inventories.

The persons eligible for Zakat are the poor, paupers, those under bondage, those in heavy debt, “those whose hearts are inclined towards Islam,” travellers and zakat officials. Zakat funds can also be used for ‘fi Sabililah’ (‘in the cause of Allah’) purposes or to defend Islam and improve the well being of Muslims.

The poor and paupers include those who are unable to work due to old age, those who are disabled, widows, and students who have no means of income, or those who do not have a legal benefactor.

It also includes legal guardians who are unable to provide for those under their guardianship, those who are unable to initiate an economic activity due to lack of initial capital, and victims of natural disasters.

When allocating money to the poor, the council must consider other forms of state aid and assistance they receive.

Zakat fund could also be utilised to encourage conversion to Islam, for those who strive to prevent harassment aimed at Muslims by non-Muslims and to assist those who have recently embraced Islam.

Zakat allocated for travellers may be given to Muslims who get stranded and become helpless while travelling for a lawful purpose.

The Zakat Management Council will determine the amount of money to be allocated for each category.

According to the bill, property of the state is not zakatable, while draft regulations say Zakat cannot be levied on property or money obtained via a transaction that is not permissible in Islam.

If a non-Muslim owns shares in a company being valued for Zakat, the value of their shares shall not be included in the valuation for Zakat, the draft regulations state.

Zakat funds are to be deposited in an account called the Baithul Maal as a separate and specialised account with the Maldives Monetary Authority.

The auditor general is to perform an annual audit of the Zakat Management Council under the proposed legislation.

Related to this story

More than 53,000 poor to receive Zakat

Donations made from Zakat fund to children’s home, centre for persons with special need

Alms Act to increase zakat contributions


Islamic Minister advises Maldivians against participating in foreign wars

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has urged Maldivians to refrain from participating in foreign wars.

The appeal comes after reports of at least two Maldivian men being killed in the Syrian civil war during May.

According to an online media group called Bilad Al Sham Media, a 44-year-old Maldivian man died  in a suicide attack on May 25 and another was killed two days later in a gun fight against soldiers loyal to Bashar Al Assad.

“[Islam] does not permit shedding another [Muslim] brother’s blood,” Shaheem said noting a high rate of civilian casualties in wars being fought in Muslim countries elsewhere.

Often, wars are being waged between different Muslim factions leading to the death of Muslim women, children, and elderly people and the destruction of mosques and homes, the Islamic Minister said at a press conference today.

“Islamic Jihad is that waged with sincerity, in the name of Allah, in defense of religion and nation, behind a designated Muslim leader, and against enemies of Islam and nation,” he said.

“Hence, rather than destroying oneself in conflicts of an unknown nature, the Islamic Ministry believes it is better to serve one’s own parents, families, and country,” he continued.

“[We] beseech all Maldivian youth and citizens, who love Islam, to refrain from participating in conflicts between one Muslim group and another. It is better to allow the citizens of the country in war to solve their own problems.”

Foreign interference obstructs citizens of a country from achieving their goals and allows governments to claim they are not fighting their own citizens, but foreigners, said Shaheem.

He further said that neither Islamic scholars nor citizens of war torn countries have asked for foreign interference. Instead, they ask foreigners to leave and allow them to solve their internal affairs.

“We must [only] pray for the beloved citizens of those countries under war,” he said before calling on the international community to do more to end bloodshed and conflict in Muslim countries.

‘Good intentions, but the wrong path’

In issuing today’s fatwa, the Islamic Ministry had consulted both local scholars and scholars from Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, Shaheem told the press afterwards.

“All [local scholars] of them in general agree people must not go there, to ongoing wars. It is not about deciding if it is a Jihad or not, even if it is Jihad, not to go to foreign countries. When foreigners intervene, it creates even more conflict. Instead of achieving goals, it contributes to greater internal conflict and greater disagreements”

Shaheem said Maldivian militants who go abroad must not be punished, but be rehabilitated and informed of religious teachings.

No Muslim scholar in the Maldives has called on Maldivians to participate in foreign wars, “but there are youth, who get emotional from what they see, of the suffering of Muslims, there are Maldivian youths who want to avenge that,” he said.

Their intention may be good, but the path they have chosen is not the right path, he said.

“I do not believe it is the right way. If it is an Islamic jihad, it is for a very holy purpose, the leader of the struggle has to be clear, their manifesto of what is to happen after the war has to be clear, whether it will give victory for Islam. Only if all of this clear, can one go into war,” he said.

Admitting to growing radicalisation in the Maldives, Shaheem said the media and scholars must help the government in its effort to educate the public.

Radicalisation begins with praying in separate communities, refusing to register marriages at court, and declaring other Muslims infidels, Shaheem said.

In February, the government shut down the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque to stop unauthorised Friday prayers by a group described as “extremists”

According to local media, the congregation prayed to Allah to weaken and current government and its leaders and prayed for ill-health and calamity to befall senior government officials, the Islamic Ministry and city council.

In May, the US State Department in the 2013 country report on terrorism said the Maldivian government believes that funds are being raised in the country to support terrorism abroad. However, the Maldives Monetary Authority denied the claim in a subsequent press release.


Adhaalath Party to field parliamentary candidates in constituencies reserved for JP

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party has decided to field parliamentary candidates in 28 constituencies reserved by the governing coalition for the Jumhooree Party (JP), following a breakdown in talks between the parties.

In a press statement today, Adhaalath accused the JP of offering seats with the intention of “exploiting the trust and support of the public for Adhaalath to win as many seats as possible in the election for the Jumhooree Party.”

“The party does not believe now that [fielding candidates for] the 28 seats the Jumhooree Party will be contesting through the Progressive Coalition falls outside the party’s ethical responsibility,” the statement read.

Adhaalath assured its members that it would compete “to the best of our competence and ability” in constituencies the party believes it could win.

An Adhaalath Party council member told Minivan News last week that the party’s members have expressed interest in contesting for 32 constituencies.

He added that Adhaalath’s candidates may be the most qualified, with almost all having educational qualifications at a postgraduate level.

Coalition agreement

The ruling coalition – made up of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the JP and the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA), led by resort tycoon Ahmed ‘Sun Travel’ Shiyam – meanwhile reached an agreement last week to allocate parliamentary constituencies among the coalition partners.

Of the 85 electoral constituencies, the PPM will contest 49, the JP will contest 28, and the MDA will contest eight seats.

Following its exclusion from the coalition’s parliamentary election plans, PPM Deputy Leader Abdul Raheem Abdulla told the press that the Adhaalath Party was not “an official partner of the Progressive Coalition.”

“So the parties’ idea is to give them what we can from the seats which have been allocated to us,” Raheem said.

The Adhaalath Party began negotiations with coalition parties last week and requested the JP to assign five constituencies for its candidates.

The talks however ended unsuccessfully after the JP refused to cede the Vaikaradhoo and Makunudhoo constituencies in Haa Dhaalu atoll – two seats the Adhaalath Party believed its candidates had the best chance of winning.

“Instead, the [JP] proposed constituencies where the Adhaalath Party’s support is weakest,” today’s press release stated.

The party noted that it had decided to contest the parliamentary elections with the Progressive Coalition to prevent the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party from securing a parliamentary majority.

The Adhaalath Party was prepared to compromise and accept a few constituencies to campaign jointly with the governing coalition, the statement added.

However, if an understanding could not be reached, the party’s intention was to independently contest as many seats as possible, the party stated.

“Despite not reaching an agreement with the Progressive Party of Maldives in the discussions held on this issue so far, if the [PPM] cedes the few constituencies that we have requested, the Adhaalath Party will not compete in the other constituencies that the [PPM] will be contesting for,” the press release concluded.

No deal

In last year’s presidential election, the Adhaalath Party initially endorsed former President Dr Mohamed Waheed before eventually backing JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim, who finished third in the first round of the contentious polls.

In the second round, the party backed PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen without a formal coalition agreement.

Following the unsuccessful talks last week, JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim told the press that Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Abdulla had refused the JP’s offer of four seats, including three of five constituencies requested by the party.

“[Imran said] ‘no, no, we don’t want those constituencies, we cannot give up certain constituencies.’ So I said thank you very much. What can I do when they did not accept?” Gasim said last Thursday.

The business magnate noted that the JP had “no commitments” to the Adhaalath as the coalition agreement formed ahead of the presidential election no longer existed.

On the same day, Imran tweeted that the party would “not find it easy to make a deal” that did not involve allocating the Makunudhoo, Vaikaradhoo, Komandoo, Inguraidhoo, and Fares-Maathoda constituencies to Adhaalath candidates.

“Adhaalath could only contest the Majlis [election] with the coalition if the coalition concedes areas where Adhaalath has support,” Imran tweeted today.

Meanwhile, Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, spokesperson of the Adhaalath Party, took to Facebook yesterday to condemn remarks in the media by senior JP members that he contended “undermined Adhaalath Party’s dignity.”

“Adhaalath does not have to ask the JP to contest for the Majlis,” he wrote.

An unnamed senior JP official told newspaper Haveeru on Friday that the Adhaalath Party had forfeited the opportunity to contest the parliamentary election on coalition tickets.

“Despite not having an official agreement with Adhaalath Party, our leader decided to give seats to the party because he loves Adhaalath. But they wanted too many seats,” the senior member was quoted as saying.