Less people eating during day time this Ramadan, reveals police statistics

The number of individuals arrested from Malé city for eating during daylight hours in Ramadan has decreased by 83 percent when compared to 2013, reveals police statistics.

Only five were arrested in the first two weeks of Ramdan for eating while 31 cases were reported in the same period last year. According to the police, two cases of eating during daylight hours were reported every day last year.

Consumption of food without a reasonable excuse during Ramadan is prosecuted as a criminal offense in the Maldives.
The cases are usually proved with testimonies of eye witnesses or the perpetrator. Those guilty are fined with MVR 150 for “disobedience to orders” under article 88 (a) of the Penal Code.

Three men were arrested on the first day of Ramadan (June 29) for smoking cigarettes while fasting. All three had criminal records. One of them was caught inside a public toilet. That same week, another man was caught eating on the stairs of his apartment building and suspected drugs were also found on the latter.

On July 1, a 37-year-old man was arrested for eating dates from a breakfast table at a Male’ mosque, just before sunset. Police told local media he had also smoked a cigarette after eating from the mosque.

In April, a man who had been caught smoking a cigarette during Ramadan in Malé was fined and in July another man was fined for chewing arecanuts during daylight hours.

A police spokesperson told Minivan News that arrests are made based on reports or if police witness individuals eating in public spaces. The police will attend to cases where people are reported to have eaten in a private place.

Both the Maldives Police Services and Islamic Scholars are creating more public awareness in order to reduce such crimes, the police said.

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Preparations conclude for the start of Ramadan

Today marks the first official day of Ramadan in the Maldives following the conclusion of final preparations for the month of fasting and prayer.

After the anticipated sighting of the new crescent moon did not come on Friday as expected, the Islamic Ministry announced that Sunday (June 29) was considered to be Ramadan 1 in the Hijra year 1435.

The start of festivities also began at midnight across much of the world, with Yemen reported to be the only country to have started celebrations on Saturday.

President Abdulla Yameen has called on Maldivians to observe the period with piety, encouraging the performance of pious deeds and virtuous duties.

In a statement released by the President’s Office, Yameen noted Maldivians’ preservation of the Islamic faith, appealing to all to continue this tradition over the next 30 days.

The government’s efforts to assist with preparations were also acknowledged by Yameen, with a number of temporary and refurbished mosques having opened in recent days.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed was in attendance at the reopening of the Al-Furqan mosque on Friday after six years of construction and multiple delays. The mosque is reported to be the most expensive in the country’s history, at MVR21 million (US$1.3 million).

Speaking at the opening ceremony for new mosque – capable of facilitating 3000 people – Jameel urged Islamic scholars to uphold the country’s Islamic identity by presenting it in a way comprehensible to the nation’s substantial youth population.

Local media have also reported the opening of a temporary mosque in Maafannu to compensate for the recently demolished Fandiyaaru Mosque. The Maldives National Defence Force completed the mosque – with capacity for 800 people – in just 14 days, reported Sun Online.

After initial fears regarding funding, the Islamic Minsistry announced the release of MVR800,000 to Malé City Council for repairs to 22 mosques. Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has pledged to spend MVR10 million on mosque repair for Ramadan.

Additionally, President Yameen has pledged to reduce waiting times for the overburdened Malé-Hulhumalé ferry to just 10 minutes while state utilities company Fenaka is said to have pledged interrupted power supply to all islands this month.

Working times for the Maldives’ 25,000 civil servants have been reduced to the hours between 10am and 2pm after local women’s rights NGO Hope for Women had argued the previous arrangement allowed insufficient time for women’s increased domestic workload during the month.

Meanwhile, the government announced that schools would be closed for grade 9 and below throughout the month, while class times will be reduced for other age groups.

Haveeru has also reported a reduction in the price of a number of basic commodities at the local market, as well as the opening of an additional fresh market in the capital.

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Museum staff express concern over moving artifacts to host Independence Day event

National Museum staff and Male’-based arts NGO Revive have expressed concern over plans to move delicate exhibits for upcoming Independence Day celebrations to be held in the museum.

“We at the national museum believe the museum’s objects are very valuable and cannot be replaced if anything happens to any of the items,” National Museum Director Ali Waheed told Minivan News.

“I am concerned, we are not happy about this,” Waheed said.

He said that the President’s Office had sent a letter about holding the Independence Day event to the Tourism Ministry, which had in turn notified their Department of National Heritage.

“The department only informed us about the event three days ago,” Waheed claimed.

He said there were concerns that National Heritage Department Director General Zakariyya Hussain had not consulted museum staff about whether holding the event in the museum would be sensible.

“Zakariyya gave the approval but he didn’t say anything to us. He didn’t want to talk about it. At least he has to ask if this is good or not,” he claimed.

The President’s Office meanwhile said it had not been informed of the museum staff’s grievances, while rejecting claims that there would be any issues with holding such an event in the museum.

The President’s Office held an Independence Day event at the National Museum last year, which posed the same challenges to staff as it took place during Ramazan. The permanent exhibition items had to be shifted internally and placed against the walls to clear the middle of the hall, according to Assistant Curator Ismail Ashraf.

“[However,] it was quite different last year because there were many political issues and they were not able to get another venue,” noted Ashraf.

“During last year’s ceremony government agency heads and parliament members attended and there was no damage to the objects,” he continued. “However, there is the risk and probability of something happening [this year] when 400 plus people will be attending.”

Staff accepted that a similar event to celebrate the 2012 Independence Day had been held at the museum without incident – although the guest list is anticipated to be larger this year.

President’s Office Spokesperson Masood Imad told Minivan News yesterday (July 22) that the government did care about preserving Maldivian culture and heritage, but dismissed concerns that there were any politics involved in the event.

“There is enough time [for museum staff to prepare], we have not been informed [holding the event is problematic],” said Masood. “Nobody feels it is an issue. Minivan News is not the party that should be spreading these concerns, this is not a claim the museum staff are making, Minivan News is actually,” Masood said.

NGO Revive has meanwhile said it plans to submit a petition, signed by National Museum staff, to the President’s Office tomorrow (July 24) requesting the government reconsider its decision to hold the July 27 Independence Day celebrations inside the National Museum.

National Museum concerns

“We are caring about these things very much. The objects are very, very old and delicate. If they are moved several times, it may cause damage. I am responsible for their safety and security,” Waheed told Minivan News.

“I submitted a letter to Director General Zakariyya Hussain at 1:10pm on Monday (July 22) that we [the museum staff] are not responsible [for the damage that may be caused] when the objects are side by side in the hall,” he claimed.

Ashraf the assistant curator echoed Waheed’s sentiments that moving the artifacts to accommodate the event risked damaging them.

“It’s a permanent exhibition and we will have to move everything [on the ground floor] away to make a walkway for people for the ceremony,” Ashraf told Minivan News. “There are many artifacts to have to move, and having to do so quickly poses a risk of damaging the objects.”

“The other risk is that lots of people come in and not all will think the same way we do, [so] it is a risk that people may touch or take,” he continued.

Ashraf explained said that since the museum only has six permanent staff, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) is supposed to help with moving the artifacts.

“They can help move the very heavy things, but we have to be there to supervise. We are in charge and if there is any damage [caused to the items] we are responsible,” he said.

Since it is currently the holy month of Ramazan, the amount of work National Museum staff can accomplish in preparation for the Independence Day event is also limited due to restricted working hours, Ashraf explained.

“In the month of Ramazan, museum hours are 9:00am to 1:30pm. This Independence Day event will take place Saturday night and Sunday  morning we have to open the museum [to visitors],” he noted.

Ashraf urged the President’s Office to hold the event in another location.

“This year there are other options, so why still choose the National Museum?” he asked.

“The National Art Gallery has a full hall empty for temporary exhibitions, with enough space for the ceremony”.

Ashraf also noted that artifacts were destroyed “the day the government changed”, during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s controversial transition of power last year – by people with “different thoughts” to those of the museum’s staff.

“A mob of people took advantage of the lack of security,” he explained. “These things happened and the risk [of it happening again] is still there. It shows the government doesn’t have much interest in this work,” he alleged.

Civil society support

Revive, a local NGO which works in collaboration with the National Archives and National Museum, has advocated in support of the museum staff’s concerns surrounding the event.

“I’m very surprised the government [is holding this event] but are not able to arrest those who vandalized the museum last year,” Revive President Ahmed Naufal told Minivan News.

“Moving permanent exhibitions is not done anywhere in the world, only temporary exhibitions,” Naufal explained.

“National Museum staff have a low budget and are unable to preserve [everything],” he continued. “There is a high risk items will be destroyed by moving the exhibition.”

National museum staff have signed the ‘Revive Petition’, which calls on the government to reconsider its decision to hold the Independence Day celebrations inside the National Museum, as it would require moving the permanent collection of artifacts which could cause damage that cannot be restored.

“Fifteen staff have signed the petition. That’s everyone who came to the [National] Museum and Heritage Department,” noted Naufal.

“This includes the only Maldivian archaeologist from the Heritage Department, Shiura Jaufar and the National Museum Director.”

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Maldives celebrates Ramazan with food, festivities, fasting, prayer

The Maldives has seen a flurry of activities in the lead up to the holy month of Ramadan, which began today (July 9) in the tropical island nation, with festivities and devout worship to continue throughout the month.

Ramadan marks month in which the Quran was revealed to mankind, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is a time of fasting, is one of the five pillars of Islam and represents a form of worship to Allah.

During Ramadan, or Ramazan as the holy month is referred to in the Maldives, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.

Maldivians throughout the 100 percent Sunni Muslim nation will abstain from eating, drinking and sexual activity from dawn until sunset throughout ‘roadha mas’ (fasting month).

The rituals during this holy month are intended remind those who follow Islam of their duty as a Muslim, by keeping them away from worldly temptations to tame the mind and instill determination.

Extensive cleaning, home repairs, as well as shopping for foodstuffs and other household supplies are common practice in preparation for Ramazan throughout the Maldives, as is hosting banquet celebrations, traditionally referred to as ‘maahefun’ parties, to welcome the coming of Ramazan and symbolically celebrate eating the last meal before ‘roadha mas’.

Family, friends, and neighbors come together to enjoy traditional food and music, while many celebrations have ‘boduberu’ performances, a combination of traditional singing, dancing and rhythmic drumming considered one of the most high-profile examples of Maldivian culture.

Maahefun block parties have been ongoing throughout Male’ neighborhoods, particularly over the last week, in addition to events hosted by political parties, businesses, schools and government offices.

Since the exact date Ramazan begins is derived each year from phases of the moon, moving backwards an average of 10 days every year, last night (July 8 ) the Islamic Affairs Ministry held a small conference to confirm the sighting of the new moon.

During a ceremony following the meeting, the Islamic Affairs Ministry declared that today (July 9) would mark the beginning of Ramazan in the Maldives, as well as some other Muslim countries where the new moon had been sighted.

Now that Ramazan has officially begun the flurry of parties and preparations have given way to calm and quiet during the day, particularly in Male’ where there is a noticeable lack of people on the roads in the typically overcrowded capital.

Working hours have been reduced to between 9:00am to 1:30pm, as per previous years, while cafes and restaurants have been permitted to remain open until 3:00am. In previous years, many eateries and other businesses were open 24 hours, however in October 2012, the Ministry of Economic Development revoked the 24 hour licensing permits issued to businesses across the country, citing concerns over national security.

The pace of daily life has slowed to accommodate the difficulties that arise from not eating or drinking, which can be quite challenging given the tropical equatorial climate in the Maldives.

Mosques are brimming with worshipers – in some cases they are overflowing with people who can be seen praying in the street – during the five regular prayer times which fall around 5am (fajr), 12pm (dhuhr), 3:30pm (asr), 6pm (maghrib), and 7pm (isha).

There is also an special tarawih (night prayer) that takes place during Ramazan; while the exact prayer time varies it always follows isha prayers.

Another optional prayer time in the middle of the night, around 2am, is referred to as ‘dhamu namaadhu’ (midnight prayer) in the Maldives. While it takes place throughout the year, there are more attendees during this holy month.

One of the most significant aspects of Ramazan is Laylat al-Qadr, the anniversary of the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohamed, which falls on one of the last nights of roadha mas although the exact date is unknown. It is believed that an individual who prays with devout sincerity on this day will have all their past sins forgiven.

The spiritual oneness of island communities in the Maldives is palpable during Ramazan, especially when most of the community comes together to pray in the quiet, peaceful hours of the night, while the Imam’s Quran recitation can be heard echoing on the breeze.

While the religious significance and ritual practice of Ramazan makes this an extremely important month for Maldivians – and Muslims worldwide – it is also very festive.

Maldivians break fast as soon as the call to magrib prayers is heard in the evening, eating delicious traditional foods during ‘roadha villun’ (fast breaking). Dates and fresh juice – watermelon and young coconut are particularly popular – are followed by sweet and savory ‘hedhika’ (short eats).

Although the hedhika varies by household, a surprising variety of dishes can be derived from the basic ingredients of tuna, shredded coconut, chilies, onions, and flour. ‘Haaru’ (supper) is also taken sometime in the middle of the night, with many traditional dishes served during Ramazan.

This year a Male’ City Ramadan Fresh Market consisting of 24 stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables is being held in the capital’s Henviru ward, near the Artificial Beach. The market will be open daily from 8am until 1am until the end of the Eid holidays in mid-August.

Unfortunately, the increased demand during Ramazan also drives up food prices throughout the country each year.

The sundown to sunrise festivities are not limited to food. There is also an increase in evening sports events, such as football tournaments, as well as entertainment programs on TV, like the popular boduberu challenge that has been broadcast annually in recent years.

Given the importance of the holiday, President Mohamed Waheed issued a Ramazan greeting to the nation, noting that the holy month was an occasion to strengthen communal relations and an opportunity to restore peace and order in the society.

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Eid ul-Fitr celebrated in the Maldives

The Maldives celebrated Eid ul-Fitr this week with prayer by day and parties by night. After a month of fasting for Ramadan, residents appear to be enjoying the capital island’s festive, social atmosphere.

The Islamic Ministry announced that Tuesday, August 30 was Eid ul-Fitr this year, and Male’ residents woke early on Tuesday morning to the sounds of heavy metal playing near the tsunami memorial. By late morning, the music had stopped and people were moving among houses and shops and a relaxed holiday atmosphere settled over the usually bustling city.

As ordered by the government, all private vehicles were parked and quiet between 3:30pm and 10:30pm. The traffic ordinance made it possible for residents to walk comfortably in the streets on a day when most of Male’ comes out for a stroll or to see the festivities.

The Islamic Ministry extended prayer space from the Islamic Center to Jetty 1 on Male’s northern side. Women could pray in extended space between the Dhiraagu head office to the Friday Mosque Minaret. Men were allowed to occupy all other areas.

Many Male residents traveled to home islands for Eid this year. But those who stayed enjoyed a range of sports, music and cultural activities.

Lagoons Sports Club organised “Maali Neshun” and “Bodumas Beynun”, Maldivian sporting events, on Boduthakurufaanu Magu and Ameenee Magu on Tuesday afternoon.

In “Maali Neshun”, masked participants dressed in ash and palm leaves walked Male’s roads and frightened parade onlookers in jest.

Two fishermen in “Bodumas Beynun” used magic, or fanditha, to catch a large woven fish.

In the evening, Male’s youth and married couples were to be found in hoards at the live music show in the Raalhugandu area, which was sponsored by local telecommunications company Dhiraagu.

Local bands such as 1knightstand, Harubee, and MNDF Cops Band took the stage alongside solo artists like Unoosha and Easa. The concert, which featured a range of musical tastes from soft rock to metal, rap and ska, began around 10 pm and continued past 2 in the morning.

Just around the corner near Bodufungandu Magu, palm tree road blocks protected a street rave featuring drums and traditional dancers. Young people and families were seen, and heard, celebrating into the late hours of the night.

The five-day period of Eid continues through Sunday. Although business is expected to return to its normal, pre-Ramadan state on Monday, Maldivians are looking forward to a second, longer Eid celebration before the end of the year.

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