Protesters march with IS flag calling for enforcement of Islamic Shariah

A protest march took place in Malé yesterday with participants bearing the militant organisation Islamic State’s (IS) flag calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

‘We want the laws of the Quran, not the green book [Maldivian constitution]’, ‘Islam will eradicate secularism’, ‘No democracy, we want just Islam’, and ‘Shariah will dominate the world’, read some of the placards, which were all written in English.

‘To hell with democracy’, ‘Democracy is a failed system’, ‘Shariah gave you the rights, not democracy”, ‘Shariah is the only solution’, and ‘No Shariah = no peace’, read others.

Some 200 people, including about 30 women in black niqab and 10 children, took part in the march across the capital.

Shortly after the march began near the social centre on the western end of Majeedheemagu – the main thoroughfare of the capital – police reportedly stopped the protesters near the Nalahiya Hotel and demanded they stop using the black IS flag.

Police told the protesters they have been previously informed that the flag of a particular organisation could not be used.

“The call has been made, the flags have been raised,” read one of the placards.

However, the protesters reportedly insisted that the flag did not represent IS but was the seal of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and contained the phrase of the Shahadha (the declaration of belief in the oneness of God and Mohamed as the messenger).

After a brief exchange, police allowed the march to continue, which made its way down Majeedhee Magu to the tsunami memorial area.

On their way, participants reportedly handed out sweets to children with spectators on the street.

The march ended with a special communal prayer wishing success for Islamic ‘mujahidheen’ (holy warriors) fighting in conflicts across the world.


In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a press statement condemning “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

The ISIS or IS jihadist militant group – which has declared an Islamic caliphate in territory held across Iraq and Syria – has been accused by the UN of committing mass murders against prisoners, enemy combatants, and civilians.

“IS is using the veil of religion as a pretext for inflicting terror, and committing violations of human rights,” said Dunya, daughter of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and niece of current President Abdulla Yameen.

Dunya’s remarks followed Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.

“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.

“We note with concern that neither the Islamic minister nor the government has taken any action while activities related to terrorism in different forms as well as extremism are carried out in the Maldives, religious strife and hatred is incited widely, and death threats are being made against various people over religious matters,” the main opposition party said.

The party noted that the ISIS flag was used in recent protests in Malé calling for a boycott of Israeli tourists.

While the protesters had gathered outside the residence of the Islamic minister in violation of freedom of assembly laws, the MDP noted that the government had not taken any action.

The Islamic ministry has also provided a meeting hall of the Islamic centre for a religious sermon which was advertised with the ISIS logo, the MDP claimed.

The party claimed to have learned that police and army officers were involved in putting up the banners across the capital.

Opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV reported last month that a Facebook group called Islamic State in Maldives was promoting IS in the country.

The group has shared photos of the protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists.


MVR50,000 offered for information leading to Rilwan’s return

The family of journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla have offered a reward of MVR50,000 (US$3,240) for information leading to the successful return of the 28-year-old, missing for 15 days.

“We feel that this investigation is very slow compared to the seriousness of the problem,” explained Rilwan’s brother, Moosa.

“And the government is not taking this seriously.”

Moosa called on anyone with relevant information to contact the family on 7791120 or 7773250.

Following criticism of President Abdulla Yameen’s response to questions regarding the disappearance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Thursday evening (August 21) expressing “deep concern”.

Rilwan was last seen on the Malé-Hulhumlé ferry in the early hours of August 8, less than an hour before neighbours reported seeing a man forced into a vehicle outside his home.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon also expressed concern regarding acts of intimidation and reprisals to journalists in general.

“Freedom of media facilities a greater degree of interconnectedness and awareness in the community, and is the cornerstone of any democratic society. Therefore, the protection and safety of journalists is fundamental not only at an individual level, but at a national and international level as well,” read the statement.

Rilwan’s disappearance has prompted media outlets across the political spectrum to band together, with a joint statement calling for an end to a persistent culture  of media intimidation expected later today.

All media outlets involved in the statement are now prepared to call Rilwan’s disappearance a case of abduction.

“We are very grateful for all journalists’ support,” said Minivan News News Editor Zaheena Rasheed, who has spearheaded the coalition of concerned journalists.

“Rilwan’s disappearance comes at a time of continued intimidation of the press. We want to send out the message that we will not allow such intimidation to continue.”

Threats made against journalists covering gang violence in June followed a series of attacks on media facilities and personnel over the past two years.

The attempted murder of blogger Ismail Hilath Rasheed in 2012 was followed by the near-fatal beating of journalist Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed and the later arson attack on his employer Raajje TV in 2013.

No convictions have been made in relation to any of these incidents, although two men are currently on trial for the Asward attack.

Following Rilwan’s disappearance, threats against media personnel have continued, with discussions amongst journalists revealing an extended and pervasive campaign of intimidation cutting across political party lines.

Police raided a number of residences in the capital Malé on Thursday evening though police told local media that they were unable to reveal whether the searches were in relation to the missing journalist.

The Home Ministry last week assured that Rilwan’s disappearance had been given “high priority”, with a team of 40 officers now working alongside divers from the Maldives National Defence Force in the search.

A statement released by police on Wednesday (August 20) called for an end to public criticism of its investigation.

“It is with regret we note that some politicians and media outlets have been spreading false information that leads public to feel concerned about police work,” read the statement.

“Although the police did not provide every detail of every measurement taken by the police or every work police did, for security reasons, the police have provided details to adequate people.”

After interviewing witnesses regarding the abduction, Minivan News delayed publication after consultation with police, for the above reasons. After publication by other media outlets, however, Minivan felt compelled to release sufficient details to the public to make clear the nature of the case.

“The police advises not to politicise the issue concerning the missing journalist and not to spread information that will lead people to be concerned of police work, to all the politicians and media outlets that work as such,” continued the statement.

Numerous international groups, including the UN Office for the Commissioner of Human Rights and Reporters Without Borders, have expressed concern over the disappearance and called for a swift response from authorities.


More than MVR2 million donated to Gaza fund

A total of MVR2.3million (US$149,157) and US$8,089 has been donated to the Gaza fund set up by the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) to provide financial assistance to Palestinians affected by the ongoing Israeli military aggression.

In addition to fund boxes placed in the capital Malé and other islands across the country, according to the AP, dollar and rufiyaa accounts have been opened in the Bank of Maldives and the Islamic Bank of Maldives to collect donations.

Fund raising activities are set to continue till August 17, after which the proceeds will be channeled through the Qatari Red Crescent.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon issued a statement on Thursday (July 24) condemning the Israeli bombing of a United Nations shelter in Beit Hanoun, Palestine.

“It is a cowardly and shameful act on the part of Israel to target a UN shelter whose exact coordinates were given to the Israeli military by the UN. It again underscores the need for the UN Security Council to take urgent and stronger actions against Israel. The international community has a duty to put pressure on Israel to stop the killing and to end the crippling blockade of Gaza,” she was quoted as saying in a foreign ministry statement.

The statement noted that the Maldives co-sponsored a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council last week to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate “atrocities” committed by Israel in the ongoing conflict, which has seen more than 800 people killed.

Following an announcement by the government last week of its intention to boycott Israeli imports, Commissioner General of Customs Ahmed Mohamed told local media on Thursday that the import ban has now been enforced.

“From today, any attempt to import Israeli products will be blocked, and the importer will be given the chance to re-export, failing which the products will be destroyed,” he told Sun Online.


“Invisible war” being waged against nationalism and faith, says home minister

An invisible war is being waged against the Maldives’ nationalism, claimed Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer when commemorating Martyr’s Day last Thursday (May 29).

“We are under attack even today, at this very moment, and this minute and second – but in a different way. Today the targets are our thinking, creed, the good views we hold of our nation – the love for the nation, the respect for national history.”

“Today there are great efforts destroy these. This is an invisible war, weapons that cannot be touched,” said Naseer during an event held at the Olympus Theater in Malé.

Martyr’s day has been officially commemorated since 1979, in remembrance of Sultan Ali VI – commonly known as Ali Rasgefaanu – who is said to have died fighting Portuguese invaders in 1558.

The occasion was also observed by the police service, with the controversial Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim advising officers of the importance of martyrdom in Islam.

Additionally, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon warned of attempts by outside actors to enslave the nations politically and economically.

Beware of hidden enemies: home minister

The four pillars on which the Maldives stands are the Dhivehi language, Islam, the Dhivehi culture, and independence said the home minister.

Naseer stated that the foundation of Maldivian culture was Islam alongside social values such as respecting elders and women, and showing kindness towards one another.

Naseer requested people be vigilant of anyone who “casts a gaze filled with hatred” towards national properties, land, religion, and peace.

“Today we will have to face such experiences within the Maldives and from abroad. This is today’s war. You will not be martyred in this war, instead you will face death. Thinking and ideologies will be corrupted. The result would be unhappiness in both worlds,” said Naseer.

The home minister’s sentiments were also reflected in Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon’s statements on the occasion.

Recalling the sacrifices of various national heroes Dunya said that today’s globalised attacks were not waged with guns.

“In today’s world, most of the time we are uncertain about how or from where the enemies attack [us]. Attacks indented to enslave [us] come in many different forms,” said Dunya.

“In today’s world, instead of colonisation countries are being enslaved economically and politically.”

Asking whether a nation dependent on others for its basic needs can be considered independent, Dunya noted the importance of an economically independent Maldives that can protect its religion and identity.

Police commemoration

The Maldives Police Service also held a special parade at Iskandar Koshi on Thursday in order to mark the day.

Chief Guest at the ceremony, attended by Commissioner of Police Hussain Waheed and Deputy Commissioner of Police Ahmed Saudi, was the controversial preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim.

Addressing the police parade, Sheikh Shameem said police officers should always posses the will to be martyred in defending the people and the nation.

Remarking that the country was passed onto the present generation with the hard work of Mujahidin who were martyred in defending Islam and the nation, the sheikh explained the high regard for martyrdom in Islam.

Shameem has recently prayed for the acceptance of the martyrdom of Maldivians killed in the Syrian civil war, stating that anyone who fights to glorify Islam against disbelievers are Mujahideen (Holy warriors).

He also said on his Facebook page that Nusayri (Shiah Muslims) of Syria are disbelievers “worse than Christians and Jews”.

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 opposition Maldivian Democratic Party condemned the lecture accusing Shameem of inciting hatred in order to sway the electorate.


Week in review: March 22 – 29

The week began with 302 candidates and 189,000 voters taking part in the Maldives’ second multiparty Majlis elections.

After polling proceeded without notable incident, preliminary results quickly showed that the governing Progressive Coalition had secured a clear victory – later confirmed as a 53 seat majority in the 85 seat legislature.

President Abdulla Yameen – whose Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) took 33 seats – interpreted the result as a ‘yes’ to peace and stability and a chance to pick up where his half-brother Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s ‘golden 30 years’ had left off.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Gayoom – saw the result as a rejection of “foreign interference” and a show of support for her father and uncle’s leadership.

Coalition ally the Maldives Development Alliance noted that the result – in which it took five seats – as a sign of public confidence in the relatively young party. Despite being upbeat about his party’s 15-seat haul, Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim accused his coalition allies of fielding independent candidates in violation of pre-election agreements.

While Yameen acknowledged that vote splitting may have detracted from the size of the coalition win, the immediate effects appeared to have benefited his party, with two of the five successful ‘independent’ candidates switching to the PPM before the official results had been announced.

A further source of discord within the coalition loomed large after Gasim threw his hat into the ring for the Majlis speaker’s position this week. Though Gasim told local media he had the coalition’s full backing, the PPM subsequently announced its intention to field its own candidate.

The impact of the defeat on the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – who won just 26 of the 85 seats for which it fielded candidates – looks likely to be a period of restructuring, with former President Mohamed Nasheed calling for new leaders to step forward.

All observers of the elections – partisans and neutrals alike – expressed concern at the ‘money politics’ involved, with both the MDP and Adhaalath parties blaming such practices for their own poor performances.

Despite the foreign minister’s prior comments, both the EU and the Commonwealth observer missions focused on the negative impact the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Elections Commissioners had upon the electoral environment.

Government business

Amendments to the Decentralisation Act, which would resurrect previous previously thwarted plans for streamlined local governance, were this week introduced on behalf of the government.

The resuscitation of the Nasheed administration’s attempts to transform the country’s energy sector also continued with the outlining of the Accelerating Sustainable Private Investments in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) programme.

The government’s transformation of the island of Meedhoo appeared not have gone to plan, however, after a recently initiated reclamation project was halted due to its potential environmental and health impacts.

The Immigration Department revealed the success of a recent repatriation programme for illegal migrant workers, while employees on the Vilu Reef resort were also given their marching orders after having taken part in strikes.

In the courts, the decision to uphold a prior ruling saw the return of a five-month-old child to it’s German mother, while the Criminal Court heard the final disturbing details in the 2010 murder of Mariyam Sheereen.

The Tiny Hearts of Maldives NGO this week held their annual camp in Malé’s IGMH, providing expert care for children with congenital heart defects. Meanwhile, in Addu, investigations have begun in the events that led to a death during childbirth at Hithadhoo Regional Hospital.