Police deny arresting 50 Addu City residents prior to president’s visit

The Maldives’ Police Service has denied arresting approximately 50 people – primarily Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) supporters – the night prior to President Mohamed Waheed’s arrival in Addu City yesterday (May 8).

President Waheed visited Addu to inaugurated the Hulhumeedhoo road development project,  open the Hulhudhoo pharmacy and inaugurate higher secondary education at Seenu Atoll School, according to the President’s Office.

During the ceremony for the former Dr Waheed “highlighted the importance of developing roads on the bigger islands for the development of the atoll. In this regard, the President said the government’s aim was to complete such developmental endeavors without any interruptions.”

Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig told Minivan News the night before Waheed’s arrival close to 50 people were arrested, “and about 90 percent of those taken in were MDP supporters”.

“The police knew who had been actively engaged in [MDP] demonstrations and targeted those individuals. Those who were arrested were having coffee in restaurants, standing having a chat outside, others were stopped at vehicle checkpoints. They were arrested for allegedly being ‘a member of a gang’,” he added.

A few of the individuals arrested were released after one or two hours, according to Sodig.

“People know this game because it was the game [former President Maumoon] Gayoom played. They know they were arrested because of Waheed’s visit,” Sodig said.

“Police probably purposefully did this negative campaign. But Waheed’s game has backfired. Families of the arrested individuals are really angry and frustrated,” he added.

As part of an ongoing police operation in Addu to “keep the peace”, “lots of people were taken into custody and were released after their information was collected”, the Police Media Official who spoke with Minivan News today (May 9) initially stated.

The official then refuted the statement, claiming that only one person was arrested in Addu City on May 7.

The official confirmed that being “arrested” and “taken into custody” have the “same meaning”.

However, a police media official told local media outlet CNM that “people assembled in groups and other suspects were taken in for questioning last night. He said that they were all released except for one who is being held for issuing a death threat to a policeman.”

Mayor Sodig explained that the Addu City Council was not notified about this ‘special operation’.

“Normally the commander(s) visit and explain the details when a special operation is going to take place,” Sodig said. “During last week’s fortnightly meeting [with the council] the police did not mention such an operation was planned.”

“The [city] council is gravely concerned by these developments,” Sodig told local media.

Approximately 30 were arrested from Hithadhoo Island, more than 10 from Feydhoo Island and around 10 from Maradhoo Island, all part of Addu City’s administrative district, according to local media.

These arrests were made under the “’Our Peaceful Addu City” operation, which has been continued by the police services to make the atoll “crime free”.

Police ‘star force’ out of control

“Addu City has the largest population outside of Male’ [approximately 35,000 people], as well as a very large land area, and so much is happening now,” Sodig explained. “We have to have a police presence not only in namesake or to run the desks, but enough to oversee the whole area.”

“Usually there are 15 to 20 police officers in each of the three stations in the area, however this is not enough, so we requested the police provide extra strength to increase numbers to about 30 per station,” he continued.

“The special operations team [responded by] sending their ‘star force’, but they don’t have their commander here. He’s not in control of this group or operations. Instead they are directly overseen by Male’ command,” said Sodig.

“That’s the reason why we don’t want them to continue,” he declared.

The task force consisting of 50 special operations police was started in January 17, 2013 and was supposed to end April 17, according to Sodig. However, the entire special operations force has remained in Addu City, targeting those allegedly involved in drug and gang issues.

“Dream on Waheed”: Sodig

During Waheed’s visit to Addu City, he stated that the Maldives not only has two ideologies – Islamic and anti-Islamic – but a third “ideology of unity” which was evident in Addu City.

He made the remarks after seeing a “Unity Jagaha” (campaign office) on Hulhumeedhoo Island in Addu, according to local media.

Last month President of the Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) and former president, Maumoon Gayoom, claimed the Maldives was now dominated by people belonging to the “Islamic” ideology and those belonging to the “anti-Islamic” ideology.

Waheed also said that prior to his visit to Addu, “he had received information that a certain group was ‘very strong’ in Addu City, however, his team received greater support than he had expected.”

Waheed was informed that MDP support in Addu was very strong, but that’s not what he has seen, according to Mayor Sodig.

“Dream on Waheed,” Sodig declared. “He doesn’t have much support here, it is not close to [former President Mohamed] Nasheed, Maumoon, or [Abdulla] Yameen supporters.”

Sodig explained that paid government employees were ordered to receive Waheed at the airport, which is abnormal.

“This is the game Mamoon played during his [30 year] term,” said Sodig. “During Nasheed’s government this kind of thing never happened.”

“There were only 100 or 200 people to receive Waheed. There were some supporters from his united coalition with Adhaalath Party (AP) and Yameen supporters. However, people from all government agencies in the area, all paid staff, were told to receive him,” Sodig said.

“This includes senior government officials, senior civil servants – informed by the Civil Service Commission, all the schools’ senior management and non-teaching staff – issued a letter from the Education Ministry, southern utilities company staff, as well as airport and customs staff,” he claimed.

According to Sodig, currently 70 percent of Addu City’s electoral ‘dhaaira’ (constituency) are MDP supporters, and the party is close to reaching their goal of signing 80 percent of the population.

“At the moment, [we know] from door to door campaigning, MDP has more than a 60 to 70 percent support base, while 20 to 30 percent of the population is undecided,” said Sodig.

“In my area we only need 200 or 300 extra votes to reach that target [of 80 percent]. It’s achievable for sure,” he added.


Sri Lankan govt distances itself from minister’s “deportation” comments

The government of Sri Lanka has distanced itself from the comments of a Sri Lankan minister who called for the deportation of Maldivian asylum seekers.

On Friday (March 15), Minister of Technology, Research and Atomic Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka called on the Sri Lankan government to take action against Maldivians who are converging in areas in the country.

Sri Lanka’s Presidential Spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake told local media on Tuesday (March 19) that Minister Champika’s comments had been made in the minister’s own personal capacity, and did not reflect the views of the government.

The Presidential Spokesperson added that Maldivians living in the country did not pose a problem for the government and had yet to cause any difficulties.

Sri Lankan media reported last week that Champika had called for the government to carry out a census of all Maldivians living in the country and subsequently arrange for the deportation of those seeking asylum.

Speaking to Minivan News on Monday (March 18), Minister Champika attempted to clarify his previous comments, claiming that he was only referring to Maldivians living in Sri Lanka illegally.

“There are roughly 18,000 students studying in Sri Lanka and they pose no problem. However the guardians of the students then decide to come over too, their parents and brothers are now residing here.

“The problem is when these guardians start trying to permanently settle down within this country illegally,” Champika claimed.

According to Sri Lankan media, minister Champika alleged that “thousands” of Maldivians were seeking political protection within the country due to internal tension within the Maldives.

“Thousands of its citizens are now in areas such as Dehiwela, Ratmalana, Nugegoda, and they are seeking political protection and [it] would be a tremendous problem to Sri Lanka in the near future,” the Minister was quoted as saying by Sri Lankan-based publication the ‘Mirror’.

Despite the Minister’s comments, Maldives High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Hussain Shihab told local newspaper Haveeru that relations between the two countries were at an “all time high”.

Furthermore, Shihab claimed Sri Lanka was receiving large economic benefits from Maldivians living in the country, stating “[Sri] Lanka acknowledges the benefits they get from Maldivians.”

In regard to Minister Champika’s comments, the High Commissioner claimed that they could have been based on some “wrong” information, further stressing that the sentiment was not shared by the Sri Lankan government.

“If the Sri Lanka government was concerned, why would they ease the visa process for Maldivians? [Sri] Lanka has facilitated the visa of Maldivians coming here for medical treatment. So there is no policy to implement any restrictions on Maldivians,” he was quoted as saying.

Minister Champika’s comments were made in light of proliferation of Saudi ‘madrassas’ – religious teachers – who are accused of propagating extremist Islamic ideas in Sri Lanka.

The minister stated that there are roughly 700 madrassas currently teaching in religious schools in the country, and it had been established that the religious teachers had been connected to recent disputes within Sri Lanka.


US to assist in restoration of damaged pre-Islamic artifacts

United States funding for cultural preservation will be used to restore pre-Islamic artifacts in the National Museum, which were destroyed by a mob that broke into the building amid February 7’s political turmoil.

US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Patricia Butenis, made the announcement yesterday evening during a event held in Traders Hotel to celebrate the 236th anniversary of US Independence.

“We had intended to help preserve the priceless fragile pre-Islamic artifacts in the National Museum, the very ones destroyed in February when some thugs broke into the museum,” said Ambassador Butenis. “We have received funding for this project, which will now be used to restore the damaged artifacts to the fullest extent possible, and maintain the museum’s early collection of textiles.”

According to a museum source, the destroyed artifacts included one the museum’s most significant pieces – a coral stone head of Lord Buddha, an 11th century piece recovered from Thoddoo in Alifu Atoll.

Other pieces vandalised included the Bohomala sculptures, monkey statues and a broken statue piece of the Hindu water god, Makara, while the two five faced statues discovered in Male’ were also damaged – the only remaining archaeological evidence proving the existence of a Buddhist era in the Maldives.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador Butenis urged the Maldives to continue to develop its democracy, and emphasised that the US had itself experienced a difficult struggle to implement the concept.

“In the first decade of of our nation’s existence, questions of how to form our government persisted as we tried to address the concerns of 13 different states. Despite strong disagreements, each nonetheless sent representatives to the convention and formed a government acceptable to all,” she said.

The convention produced what is rightfully hailed as a landmark document, and one that established a strong foundation for the rule of law. Its counterpart, the bill of rights, enshrined many of our basic rights such as freedom of speech, assembly and religion,” she added.

“But the original Constitution was not without flaws. It failed to protect people of all genders and races. The struggle to improve our laws, and for a just democracy and society, continues even today.”

Butenis said the US “knows how tough and rough the road to democracy can be, and the path to improve it. It requires the involvement of all sectors of society, political leaders and an active free press. It requires political leaders to put the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. This is as true for your country as it is for mine,” she said.

The US supported the work of the Commission of National Inquiry (CNI), she said, initiated in agreement with the Commonwealth, and the political party talks facilitated by the UN.

“These two mechanisms, with the necessary participation of all political parties, can provide a way forward to resolve the issue of an election date and the political turmoil that continues to preoccupy many citizens of the Maldives,” she said.

She also expressed “alarm, frankly”, at the “reports of violence during protests, violence towards journalists, and accusations of police violence and brutality. In our training with Maldivian police, we stress the importance of maintaining human rights,” she said.

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen spoke at the event on behalf of the Maldivian government, thanking the US for its continued assistance, particularly in terms of military training, tsunami recovery and reconstruction efforts.

“The US is a country for people to dream, and win their dream – the American Dream,” Deen said.

“Many people in the world, from all different countries, have achieved that dream, because the US has maintained its democracy and equality for all nationalities, religions and races.”


Comment: Sharia and the death penalty

This article first appeared on Dhivehisitee. Republished with permission.

On July 1, a Maldivian lawyer was brutally murdered, his body stuffed into a dustbin.

On June 4,  militant Islamists tried to murder Hilath Rasheed, the country’s only openly gay rights activist and a rare voice advocating secularism in the Maldives.

On 30 May,  a 65-year-old man was killed on the island of Manafaru by robbers after his pension fund.

On the same day, in Male’ a 16-year-old school boy was stabbed multiple times and left to bleed to death in a public park.

On April 1, a 33-year-old man was stabbed to death in broad daylight by two men on a motorbike.  On February 19, a twenty-one-year-old life was taken in a case of ‘mistaken identity’.

Amidst the increasing violence and decreasing value of life, calls for restoration of the death penalty are growing. It is normal for a society experiencing unprecedented levels of crime to demand the death penalty as a solution. In the Maldives, however, the whole debate is framed within the precincts of religion, touted as a return to ‘Islamic justice.’

This is not to say other ways of looking at it are completely absent from the discourse. There’s Hawwa Lubna’s examination of the death penalty within a rule of law framework in Minivan News, and Mohamed Visham’s somewhat confused and confusing analysis of its pros and cons in Haveeru, for example. Such discussions are, however, pushed to the fringes as the theme of ‘Islamic justice’ takes precedence.

My question is, how Islamic is this call for ‘Marah Maru’ [death for death]? Is revenge what underpins provisions for the death penalty in Sharia?

The Qur’an mandates that everyone has a right to life, unless a court of law demands killing: “Nor take life — which Allah has made sacred — except for just cause.”1

What is not being said in the Maldivian debates on the death penalty is that although the Qur’an provides for situations in which the death penalty can be imposed, all such situations are carefully laid out with stringent evidentiary requirements that discourage carrying out a death sentence.

And, in all situations where capital punishment can be imposed, it offers alternative punishments that allow the death penalty to be avoided. 2

Among the three types of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed in Sharia–hududqisas, and the ta’zir– murder belongs to the Qisas category. Qisas are offences proscribed by the Qur’an or Sunnah, but are subject of personal claims, rather than offences against Islam. Qisas deals with murder or bodily injury. The Qur’an allows retaliation against the individual who commits a Qisas crime, but also clearly demonstrates a strong preference for forgiveness.3

We have often heard in the current Maldivian debate the call for an ‘eye for an eye’, a ‘life for life’, citing the Qur’an; what we do not hear is the rest of the verse.

We ordained therein for them:

“Life for life, eye for eye,

Nose for nose, ear for ear,

Tooth for tooth, and wounds

Equal for equal.”

But if Anyone remits the retaliation

By way of charity, it is

An act of atonement for himself.

And if any fail to judge

By (the light of) what Allah

Hath revealed, they are

(No better than) wrongdoers. 4

The law of equality

Is prescribed to you

In cases of murder:

The free for the free,

The Slave for the Slave,

The woman for the woman.

But if any remission

Is made by the brother

Of the slain, then grant

Any reasonable demand,

And compensate him

With handsome gratitude 5

The right for the family of a murder victim to demand harm is balanced by the opportunity for family members to accept payment, or diya, for their loss instead of demanding that the perpetrator be punished. This is reflected in the fact that, generally, the Qur’an expresses a preference for diya over qisas 6 It says, for instance, that the Muslim who chooses diya will be rewarded in heaven:

It is part of the Mercy

Of Allah that thou dost deal

Gently with them.

Wert thou severe

Or harsh-hearted,

They would have broken away

From about thee: so pass over

(Their faults), and ask

For (Allah’s) forgiveness

For them; and consult

Them in affairs (of moment).

Then, when thou hast

Taken a decision

Put thy trust in Allah.

For Allah loves those

Who put their trust (in Him) 7

The question is, when Sharia so emphasises forgiveness over punishment, why is the emphasis of the Maldivian death penalty debate on punishment over forgiveness? In the murder of lawyer Ahmed Najeeb, for instance, the breathtakingly rapid investigation and court case revealed that two members of Najeeb’s eight inheritors chose diya over death, preferring not to take a life for a life.

When, according to the Qur’an and Sunna, diya is the more honourable choice, why was the choice of these two relatives Najeeb not highlighted in the national discourse as motivated by ‘Islamic values’ and, therefore, praiseworthy?

Why is ‘truly Islamic’ justice only portrayed as ‘an eye for eye, a life for a life’?

Not only is the reluctance to punish found in the Qur’an, it is also the case in the Sunnah. A’isha, the wife of the Prophet said, for instance, to:

avoid condemning the Muslim to Hudud whenever you can, and when you can find a way out for the Muslim then release him for it. If the Imam errs it is better that he errs in favour of innocence…than in favour of guilt.8

There is another narrative from the Prophet’s life that demonstrates he actively encouraged his followers to ward off punishment by looking for uncertainties that would create reasonable doubt, making the punishment impossible.

Maa’iz b. Malik was a person who presented himself to the Prophet, confessing Zina and requesting purification with the hadd. His story is scattered through the books of Hadith in numerous narrations. The Prophet repeatedly told him to go back and seek Allah’s forgiveness. After he kept returning, the Prophet made a number of attempts to make sure there was no doubt. He sent his Companions to Maa’iz’s people to inquire if he was known to be insane. He was informed there was no evidence of insanity nor was was he known to have any defect in his mind. He then asked them whether he was intoxicated, and the Companions smelled his mouth and informed him that they could not detect any signs of alcohol on his breath. Only then did the Prophet implement the hadd of stoning. In additional narrations of this same story, the prophet asked Maa’iz some specific questions to avert possible doubt:

“Perhaps you only kissed her or flirted with her or gazed at her.” Maiz replied, “No”. He then asked, “Did you have physical intercourse with her?” He replied, “Yes,” and only then was he ordered to be stoned.9

Quite clearly, Islamic justice is based on the ethos of forgiveness rather than punishment.

This understanding of the Sharia is being left out of the Maldivian debate – as it was left out of much of Western discourse on Sharia in the last decade – by those calling for an end to the moratorium on the death penalty. It is a suspension that has lasted from 1953 till now, and one that more closely reflects the Quranic understanding of Sharia.

Given that all parties pushing the death penalty are framing it as re-introduction of an ‘Islamic justice’ system, it is wrong that they are all ignoring the emphasis that the system places on finding alternatives to taking a life for a life.

It raises the question of whether the real motives behind the call for the death penalty are political rather than a desire for justice itself, Islamic or otherwise.

Leading the call are the usual suspects – prominent legal players such as Attorney General Azima Shukoor, Prosecutor General Ahmed Muizz and Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – who have all expressed their desire for restoration of the ‘Islamic justice’ of the death penalty. And the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has – incredibly – described the beleaguered Maldivian justice system as capable of meting out capital punishment justly.

For politicians, imposing the death penalty at a time of unprecedented violence such as now provides the opportunity for appearing tough on crime – always a vote-attracter among a population battling with rising crime rates, especially when a crucial election is nigh. Their assumption is that if the State were only brave enough to take upon itself the power to kill, everyone else would cease to do so.

Furthermore, it provides a rare and valuable opportunity to flex political muscle at a time when the government is weak and its legitimacy is in question.

For the Islamists, it is the means with which to enforce a particularly harsh interpretation of Sharia on the Maldivian people in the name of Islam.

Given the situation, it is shocking that no member of the community of ‘Islamic scholars’ in the Maldives have come forward to emphasise understandings of Sharia and Islamic jurisprudence that highlight forgiveness and mercy as virtues much more deserving of Allah’s approval than revenge – even where justified by law.

Does the lack of an alternative view mean that in the last decade or so Islamists have established such a hegemony over Maldivian religious thought that it prevents any other views from being offered to the public?

Does it mean there are no ‘Islamic scholars’ in the country with an understanding of Islam that is not Islamist?

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Q&A: Al Jazeera interviews President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan

Al Jazeera’s 101 East program has conducted an in-depth interview with new President of the Maldives, Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan. The original interview can be seen on Al Jazeera’s website. The transcript below was provided by Al Jazeera.

Fauziah Ibrahim: Let’s start with the events on Feb 7 when President Nasheed resigned. He says that it was under duress. Was it a coup?

Dr Mohamed Waheed: It wasn’t a coup. It’s been portrayed in the Western media as a coup d’etat. But the president resigned voluntarily. We have pictures of him having a Cabinet meeting following which he writes his own letter of resignation. And in front of the television camera, he announced he was resigning with his Cabinet standing behind him. He could have indicated even indirectly even if he was under duress. He didn’t. It took 24 hours before he changed his mind. I am convinced that he resigned voluntarily.

FI: Doesn’t it disturb you though that your presidency is being challenged and being undermined by these accusations?

DMW: Of course these are unfair accusations. We were totally unprepared, it took us by surprise. And therefore, we could not get our message across to the rest of the world, to tell them about our understanding, to tell what actually happened. He had the machinery already in place because all these people were appointed by him from his party only. And therefore all shifted with him to his house and began the media campaign to show to the rest of the world it was a coup d’etat. It wasn’t a coup d’etat, if you think it was do you think he would be out here talking to you and everybody else? You know there’s no restriction on his freedom and he is moving around. We have a democracy and we are respecting it. We welcome an independent investigation to find out exactly what happened. We will not be in the way of finding out the truth.

FI: We have seen footage of security forces out on the streets; we have seen people demanding for the resignation of the then president Nasheed. Mainly these people have been the security officers. That’s what we are seeing from the video. Also, we have video footage of your current defense minister entering the barracks and then coming out of the barracks demanding the President’s resignation. We see him also in the President’s office just before and just after the resignation. Now, at that point he was just a civilian. Why was a civilian given so much privilege access?

DMW: I have no idea because I was not part of what happened that day.

FI: Did you know this was going to happen?

DMW: No, absolutely not.

FI: But you met with opposition parties before this happened.

DMW: The opposition call for his resignation has been going on for a very long time. For almost three weeks we had serial demonstrations every night in Male, calling for the President’s resignation for various reasons. And when this thing happened, nobody expected this to happen. My understanding of the issue was that the president was issuing unlawful orders to the security forces and at some point, they decided that enough was enough and they were not going to listen to him. And that’s when he decides that he was going to submit his resignation. But he changed his mind afterwards.

FI: Why do you think he changed his mind? Why do you think he is now saying it was a coup?

DMW: I think he just lost it. He lost it and realised what a blunder he had made. Maybe this was a trick he was playing on the people; I don’t know. But he resigned voluntarily and in front of the camera. He could have said under the circumstances, I am being forced to resign, but he didn’t. He didn’t give any indication, any clue. He could have called me and said “Waheed, I am being forced to resign.”

FI: What would you have done?

DMW: I would not have taken the oath of office if he had said that. He should have called me, he didn’t. He called some of the ambassadors in this country asking for help, he called some of his party members, and he called the rest of the Cabinet in his office but he didn’t talk to me.

FI: Why do you think he didn’t call you, is because he didn’t trust you?

DMW: We haven’t been talking for a while except in the….

FI: Is it because he thought you were not part of his plans in the Maldives?

DMW: We all fought for democracy in the country. It was not a reversal. I was part of the democracy movement as well.

FI: It does seem like a reversal though now that you have appointed this particular civilian, a retired colonel as the defense minister, you have appointed Mohamed Jameel Ahmed Home Minister both of whom are known as supporters of ex-President Gayoom. You have also appointed Dunya Maumoon who is Gayoom’s daughter as the state minister of foreign affairs. Are we about to see Maldives slide back into dictatorship here?

DMW: I have also appointed to the Cabinet people from seven other parties. I am trying to form a national unity government. I want everyone to participate.

FI: But everyone is looking at the security forces and they are saying the people who head this security forces are Gayoom’s supporters.

DMW: That is not true. The Home Minister is not from Gayoom’s party. In fact, the current Home Minister was in Nasheed’s government. President Nasheed came to power in a coalition. He was unable to win by himself. We brought in other parties and we won the election. But soon after the elections, he decided to go back on his words. And get everybody out of the government. The Home minister was one of them and what we saw progressively after that was a gradual reversal of democracy. The head of state began doing things that were unconstitutional like locking up the supreme court, arbitrarily arresting political leaders and detaining them without charge, and finally we have this very bizarre situation where the president orders the military to arrest a serving judge.

FI: During these events, you served as vice-president. Did you object to his actions?

DMW: Yes, I objected and advised the president that it was not the way to go about it.

FI: Did he take your advice?

DMW: He does not take anyone’s advice. He is not somebody who takes people’s advice.

FI: Why didn’t you as vice-president then resign?

DMW: I spoke out; I said this is not the way to do things. I don’t particularly like these people or the judge, I don’t know him. This is not the way to go about it. There are constitutional ways where these things have to be done.

FI: Do you trust the judiciary in the Maldives?

DMW: I trust the judiciary but it has its problems.

FI: What sort of problems?

DMW: There are problems in the sense that it has to be strengthened like in the use of modern evidence; I would like to see that the judiciary becomes more independent; that they have more resources.

FI: It has been said that the judiciary in the Maldives cannot be trusted and it is corrupt and basically supports the Gayoom regime?

DMW: No, no, no. This is not rue. The Supreme Court was appointed by the president himself. He was the one who nominated the Supreme Court judges.

FI: When you took office, several high profile officials overseas resigned. Among them are the Maldivian ambassador to the UN who went live on Aljazeera, the High Commissioner to the UK also resigned, the Deputy High Commissioner who happens to be your own brother also resigned. He said he did not know why you were favouring Gayoom. He warned you not to join the people of the autocratic ruler Gayoom. How do you feel when you are being connected to the former dictatorial regime?

DMW: The High Commissioner and the deputy high commissioner who happens to be my brother were all appointed by Nasheed. Their loyalty is clearly with the former president. Most of the educated people in this country were educated in the last 30 to 35 years. And out of that, former President Gayoom ruled this country for about 30 years. So it is very difficult to find people here who have not served with President Gayoom or who have not been with this government. If you look at the closest people to former President Nasheed you will find that there were a lot of people with him were also with former President Gayoom and his government. So it is an unfair accusation that I am taking particularly side with Gayoom. That’s not true; of course I want all political parties to be involved in a political process. Therefore, it is also proper that we must bring people from his party in.

FI: Do you not think that the specter of Gayoom looms large over Maldives and this is why you have this political turmoil now?

DMW: Not entirely. Of course Gayoom is a factor because he got 40 percent of the votes in the last election. You know, he still has some support. The man has got to be given a little bit of respect.

FI: Do you want him to be here?

DMW: If he wants to that is his right. But there are other political leaders in the country now. There are other political parties here now. They all want to be part of the political process, not to be alienated. We need to have an inclusive process in which more political parties must be involved. We simply cannot swipe all the other parties off. This is the problem.

FI: It’s certainly very honorable that you want a unity government, that you want all the parties together in order to progress the Maldivian democracy. However it’s also been said there are larger powers than you who are the machinations behind what is happening in the Maldives. You are merely a puppet. Now what do you say to that.

DMW: No, this is not true. Because I have said, I have my terms on my coalition partners who are now coming into the government. What I am saying is that you guys nominate the people and I will put them into the Cabinet. It’s my choice where I put these people. And I also don’t want them to talk to me about the vice-president’s post because that has to be somebody who I choose and somebody who I think is not involved in politics and so on. I believe that is very important this time to build confidence in the government, in the political process. The best I can do at the moment is to facilitate the process that brings people together and create some healing. There are some deep rifts in politics in the Maldives at the moment and the way to go forward is not violence, or not coming out on to the streets. The only violence that has happened here is because of former President Nasheed. There is no other violence here.

FI: Much of the current political turmoil started in September last year (2011) when the Islamist group Adhaalath left Nasheed’s coalition saying that he was not doing enough to strengthen Islam in the Maldives. Do you think Islam needs to be strengthened in this country?

DMW: This is a Muslim country. Of course there will be some political parties that will promote Islamic values. This is also true in other countries. Even in Western countries there are political parties which espouse religious values. So as a Muslim country, you shouldn’t be surprised that there are one or two parties that will talk about this. You must understand in the Islamic world there is a whole range of views on what an Islamic society should look like. And in this country and in my Cabinet, we have a range of views. Most of the people in this country are educated. We have a 96 percent literacy rate and most of our young people have gone abroad and studied in Western universities. We have emulated liberal democratic values in our country.

FI: And yet there is a rising growing Islamic fundamentalist movement in this country as well. Do you think Shariah law will work in the Maldives as some are calling for?

DMW: You see, even now our legal system is based on the Shariah and the civil law.

FI: Do you think full shariah law should be or can be implemented in the country?

DMW: Well, it is for our parliament to decide. That’s what a democracy is all about.

FI: I put it to you that perhaps democracy does not work in the Maldives. We have seen Gayoom’s dictatorship end after 30 years. Then we have seen Nasheed come in and try o implement democracy. You are alleging that he was dictatorial in some of his ways. Perhaps democracy does not work in the Maldives because this is a country that bases itself on personalities rather than policies. Is this right?

DMW: This is what we are trying to change. We started a journey of a democracy and we want this to be on the path. These are some of the challenges that we face. But we are increasingly moving towards a society where first of all we uphold our constitution, we respect the rule of law and then we don’t have people who practice dictatorial methods. We have independent institutions, we have the human rights commission, the anti-corruption commission and an independent auditor general and so on. They have to be empowered to make sure there are enough checks and balances so that people don’t go in on autocratic directions.

This is a struggle, and this struggle did not start only in 2008. It started a long time ago and we all have suffered in the process and therefore we have a stake in succeeding in democracy. And democracy will continue, there is no doubt about it. I have no doubt that democracy is for all of us. It is not only a Western concept. We have grown up with these values and we want to live with these values. We want to live ion a democratic free society and I think it can be done in Maldives. But people have to give in a little bit, you every time you don’t like something that happens you can’t go out on the streets and start pledging and burning places. This is a more advanced country; we have more educated people here. It’s a peaceful place and we cannot give this kind of shock to the people in this country. It’s not fair.

FI: Mr President, thank you for speaking with us.

DMW: Thank you.


Comment: Salaf or democracy

The appeal of [Islamic NGO] Jamiyatul Salaf on June 12 is interesting for many reasons.

It is the first public statement by an influential organisation in the Maldives condemning democracy and political pluralism as ladini/un-Islamic and fasada/corrupt systems.

To be sure, an Islamist counter-discourse to democratisation is not new in the Maldives. It has its roots in the 2000’s.

Not one, too many

As early as July 2004, following president Gayoom’s June announcement of democratic reforms, Mauroof Hussain, now the Adaalath party’s deputy president, wrote a trenchant article decrying democracy. In the article, Hussain referred to the most influential Islamist ideologue Mawlana Abul A’la Maududi, who railed democracy as conflicting Allah’s hakimiyya/sovereignty.

To be sure, Maududi does not abandon democracy, but gives it an Islamised garb: Maududi’s ‘theodemocracy’ provides restricted popular sovereignty because the legislative function would be limited to ‘interpreting’ Islamic sources.

Sheikh Mohammed Shaheem Ali Saeed built along these lines in a 2006 book on the subject of democracy and Islam. He acknowledges democracy shares a lot of features with what he calls Islami nizam. However, he is emphatic that Islami nizam is not democracy, because the latter contradicts Allah’s hakimiyya.

In a more recent article, reacting to president Nasheed’s remarks that Maldives was a ‘liberal democracy’, Shaheem argued the Maldives constitution now provides an Islami nizam. Shaheem is quite emphatic: we now have an Islamic constitutional system.

It is worth quoting Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed response to a question on voting:

“If we [reject] voting, then we might as well [reject] all other things that we [Muslims] imitate and copy from non-Muslims. For example, minting or even printing Qur’an, or civil and infrastructure developments like building schools, universities or roads…these are worldly affairs. Those innovations depend on human needs and develop according to their knowledge and views. If a people reject such innovations, they will have to be behind others [in development]. Islam does not wish this from Muslims…the Prophet says: ‘You have better knowledge (of technical skill) in the affairs of the world’”.

Shaheem, Rasheed and Maududi go much further than Jamiyatul Salaf’s leader Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad Ibrahim in accommodating democracy. Sheikh Muhammad’s October 2008 article on Daruma magazine rejects democracy in its ‘essence’ as a system of kufr/un-Islamic. While he accepts voting in principle based on Islamic notion of shura, he has a highly restricted view on electing political leaders. Muhammad argued voting rights should be limited to a select few in the society: the ulama, followed by experts and the wise in the society.

Still in a more restrictive view of elections, jurist Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi reasoned that a caliph himself was entitled to appoint his own successor. So there was no necessity for elections for Mawardi. In our times, influential Islamist Sayyid Qutb would not accept democracy at all because it is a jahiliyya product.

Disagreeing with most of the above views, influential Islamist cleric of our times, Yusuf Qaradawi, argues democracy in its ‘essence’ is fully compatible with Islam. He denounces those who say otherwise as ignorant of Islamic teachings.

Unlike Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad Ibrahim of Salaf, for Qaradawi, everyone could, or rather should, vote to choose their leaders. Unlike Maududi and Shaheem, for Qaradawi, popular sovereignty does not conflict with God’s hakimiyya. Again, it is telling that Qaradawi is Qutb’s severest critic in the Islamist camp.

What do we make of all these different views on democracy? I leave it to the readers to make up their minds.

Hypocrisy or politics

But to come back to Jamiyatul Salaf’s Appeal, few observations:

The Appeal is indeed right in highlighting the continued failures of the authorities to address political issues such as corruption and bribery, economic crises, and social issues like violence in all its manifestations.

Islamist utopianism feeds on such failures: Gayoom’s personal dictatorship failed, and now democracy seems to be failing too. So, Islamism says: Islam huwa al-hall/Islam is the solution!

Second, it is interesting that after condemning political pluralism and democracy, Salaf at the same time is prepared to participate in pluralism and democracy: Salaf announces their work to groom an ideal presidential candidate for 2018 elections.

Although the principle of maslaha/public interest is implicit in the Appeal, one wonders why Salaf is not seeking a systemic change, instead of grooming a salih/pious Dhivehi Son (note it’s not a Daughter). Salaf’s anti-political rhetoric in condemning democracy and political pluralism is then highly questionable, if not hypocritical. Narrow politics lurks behind anti-political moralism.

Finally, in the usual binary division of ‘Muslim Maldivians’ and the jahiliyya Other (Christians, Jews and Maldivians educated in the West), Salaf projects a Maldives drifting away from Islam under the corrupting influence of the Other. But there is no any empirical evidence that the Maldivians generally have become less Islamic since democratic openings in 2004.

If anything, the Maldives seems to be undergoing an ‘Islamic awakening’ unprecedented in its entire Islamic history since 1153, thanks to the democratic freedoms. The sheer number of women adopting the veil and men sporting the beard is testament to this.


So, the first lesson from our democratic experiment is this: whether or not democracy has delivered on other areas, it has surely freed Islam from the suffocating fist of Gayoom.

The second, more sobering, lesson is: democracy should not be taken for granted.

2018 is not an arbitrarily proposed year. It is only by 2018, Islamists foresee that sufficient numbers could be mobilized through outreach activities.

In the meantime, the ‘Call’ must go on.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Revelations of a former apostate: Mohamed Nazim speaks to Minivan

Many Maldivians are depressed and “collapsing inside” under the weight of the silence enforced on their questions of belief in Islam, Mohamed Nazim has said.

Nazim, now often referred to as ‘The Apostate’ by many, openly expressed doubts over his belief in Islam at a public lecture given by Dr Zakir Naik, an Indian religious speaker, towards the end of May this year.

Days later Nazim re-embraced Islam, equally publicly, having received counselling from religious scholars while on remand at Dhoonidhoo. Both events – Nazim’s renouncing of belief in Islam and the rapid reversal that followed -elicited a strong response from both liberals and conservatives both within the country and overseas.

Whatever the opinion on either side, Nazim told Minivan News, the issue of faith – or lack thereof – was not going to go away “simply because it is ignored.”

“Both the state and non-state agencies need to, at the very least, acknowledge that there are a substantial number of Maldivians who think about their faith and, sometimes, question it,” he said.

Nazim said that acknowledgement of their existence was not tantamount to calling for a secular state, as many seem to assume, but rather the first step towards addressing the problems that inevitably accompany any serious questions regarding faith.

Nazim’s repentance and return to Islam after his public proclamation that he was ‘not a Muslim’ happened within days. Reports said the change had been the result of counselling which Nazim had received while on remand. Details of what followed after his proclamation of ‘apostasy’, until now, have been vague.

‘I am not a Muslim’

“I do not believe in Islam”, were Nazim’s exact words to Dr Naik. He asked Dr Naik whether being born to practising Muslim parents made him a Muslim. If so, he asked, what would his status – and penalty – be in Islam?

‘That means you are not a Muslim”, replied Dr Naik, a medical doctor who owns ‘Peace TV’, a religious television channel based in India. During a meandering reply to Nazim’s question, Dr Naik told Nazim that the State was in a better position to advise him than a religious scholar like himself.

However, he added, the death sentence was not mandatory for apostates in Islam. It is only if the State itself is Islamic that the death sentence could be the ultimate penalty: “The Maldives is a Muslim state, not a Islamic State”, Dr Naik said.

Nazim said he sensed the hostility of the audience from the moment he asked his question. Intermittent jeering and calls for violence against him interrupted the rest of his dialogue with Dr Naik. Once Dr Naik’s answer was over, Nazim chose to return to an aisle seat near the exit.

Despite the strategic decision, a man wearing a long knee-length shirt over baggy trousers – a type of dress relatively new to the Maldives but long favoured by Afghans and Pakistani Muslims – punched Nazim in the neck before he ran towards police seeking protection.

After apparently suspecting initially that Nazim was running at them with hostile intent, the police took him into protection and escorted him to Iskandhar Koshi, a police barracks not too far from the lecture venue.

Some people followed him as he ran to Iskandhar Koshi, flanked by policemen. While waiting for the police to decide what was to be done with him, Nazim said, a policeman in plainclothes approached him.

“I know what you guys are up to. It will never happen in this country,” he said ominously, before leaving.

Nazim said his decision to publicly announce his doubts about Islam was one that he had made his own. He had neither discussed the matter with anyone else nor sought anybody’s advice on the matter. He had simply expressed doubts “that I sincerely entertained.”

“I felt as if I was suffocating. The extremism that was taking hold in the Maldives was increasing so rapidly. I could not travel in any vehicle anywhere without having to listen to extremist material,” he said. “I needed to speak about it.”

‘Protective custody’ or protected by default while in custody?

Although officially under police protection, Nazim was taken to Dhoonidhoo, the remand prison, and processed as any other accused. He was first put into what he described as ‘a cage’ – named ‘Arrival’ – while the necessary paperwork was done. An investigation by four officers, who Nazim describes as ‘invariably pleasant men’, lasted around two hours until 2:30am in the morning.

Nazim said he could see the reasons why an investigation was necessary. As the police noted, his actions had become a national issue. Some of the public reaction also implied that it could threaten public order or even national security.

The unprecedented nature of his actions also meant that the police were unsure whether he had committed an offence as defined in Maldivian law. He was told he would be held in Dhoonidhoo until the investigation was completed. He was there for four nights.

Nazim spent the first night sitting on a swing. He had been offered a bed, but he was sleepless and did not need one. The following day he was allocated a cell.

“It was disgusting”, he said. Everything was as left as used by the previous ‘tenant’. In the cells both to his right and to the left were people accused of murder. The cell was cleaned the following day, after his protestations.

He was able to talk to his lawyer the following day, when he was brought to court to be officially remanded in Dhoonidhoo. His lawyer also told him that the Human Rights Commission of the Maldivian (HRCM) would be unlikely to be able to intervene on his behalf as a case of apostasy would not fall within their remit.

The two scholars visit

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs appointed two scholars to counsel Nazim while in custody. They arrived on the third day of his detention. Inside half an hour of talking to them, Nazim said, he told them he was ready to accept Islam as his faith.

The discussion, he said, was honest. He expressed his doubts openly, and agreed that embracing Islam was the best thing for him.

In a discussion with his lawyer, who had visited him ahead of the scholars, they had both agreed that Nazim’s interests would be best served by “living as all other Maldivians do”. He would be a Maldivian, abide by the laws of the country, and live according to its Constitution.

An hour after meeting him, a brief counselling session and a prayer performed together, the two religious scholars who had visited Nazim as an apostate left him a Muslim.

The decision to read the Shahaadhath on national television, he said, was his own. His proclamation of apostasy was made in front of an audience, broadcast on national television, and played out across the Internet. He needed a public forum to demonstrate his return to the folds of Islam, he said, for his own safety.

It was only after he agreed to ‘revert to Islam’, as Dr Naik had referred to the process, that Nazim was allowed a pen and paper, which had requested numerous times during the time he was held in Dhoonidhoo. He had wanted to write to President Mohamed Nasheed as well as international NGOs to highlight his plight.

Once a ‘born-again Muslim’, he had pen and paper and a new cell that was far cleaner than the one he had before. He was also allowed to walk and leave the cell at times.

He was returned to court in Male’ on the fifth day of being held in Dhoonidhoo. Once he recited the Shahaadhath in front of the sitting judge, he was told he was a free man. There was no case against him.

The legal black hole

Nazim said he was not aware of a pending legal case against him, as has been reported by the media. A report of the investigation of his actions had been sent as a matter of routine to the Prosecutor General. The case, as it were, was closed as far as Nazim was aware.

Did Nazim commit a crime? Article 9a (3) of the Constitution states that anyone who was a Maldivian citizen at the commencement of the 2008 Constitution is a citizen of the Maldives. Article 9c states that despite the provisions in Article 9a, a non-Muslim cannot become a Maldivian.

In between however, is Article 9b, which is unequivocal and unambiguous in its statement that ‘No citizen of the Maldives maybe deprived of citizenship’. It does not stipulate any circumstance whatsoever in which a person, once a citizen, can be deprived of their citizenship. The wording of Article 9a, which states that ‘a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives’, understood in common parlance, suggests that it applies to those who wish to become a Maldivian.

How does this apply to Nazim? Had he not been ‘born a Muslim’, according to Dr Naik’s opinion on the matter? Was there then a need for him to become one? If he could not be deprived of his citizenship under any circumstance, why would he have had to ‘become a Muslim’ in order to ‘become a Maldivian’?

“When I did what I did,” Nazim said, “legally I was absolutely convinced that there was no way I could not be a Maldivian.”

There is no statutory law covering the issue of apostasy, which means, as stipulated in the Constitution, it is an offence ‘on which the law is silent’, to be considered according to Islamic Shar’ia. If he remained a non-Muslim and, therefore, a non-Maldivian, would Shari’a still have applied to him?

A silence similar to the one that Nazim describes as forcing Maldivians to keep quiet about questions over their faith appears to hold forte over public and official discourse on the subject of Islam.

Life as the only post-apostate Maldivian

Nazim is an affable, dignified and unassuming 38-year-old. He is heavily involved in community development projects, volunteers with many such projects, and is engaged in the development of social policy.

The reaction to his declaration of non-belief in Islam, he said, has been mixed – angry and supportive, superficial and profound. He lost 65 friends on Facebook, the social networking site to which almost every computer literate Maldivian subscribes. He did, however, gain 246 new ‘friends’.

His own friends and colleagues, he said, are uneasy talking about it. Very few have actually discussed it with him. He can feel its presence however, unspoken yet potent, in his every social interaction with another person.

Among the general public, apart from a few threatening text messages and threats left on his ‘wall’ on Facebook, the reaction has been muted since his public recitation of the Shahaadhath.

He does not regret what he did, he said: “Somebody had to do it, it needed to be spoken about. The repression of thought, the lack of debate and a lack of a proper public sphere in which such discussion can take place, is dangerous.”

He recalled Ismail Mohamed Didi, the 25 year-old air traffic controller who hung himself from the control tower of Male International Airport in July after he was ostracised by colleagues, friends and family when he expressed his doubts about his belief in Islam.

One of the two men who publicly expressed their doubts over faith decided to re-embrace Islam and live life as the Constitution says a Maldivian should. The other decided life was not worth living.


The Police are the law enforcement agency, not Islamic Ministry and Fiqh Academy: Islamic Minister Baari

The Islamic Ministry and the Fiqh Academy are not law enforcement or investigative agencies, but serve as advisory bodies to relevant government offices, said the Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Majeed Abdul Baari while answering questions from MPs in the Majlis yesterday.


Comment: The truth bearers

Sister! “Bend over backwards and tolerate,” said Dr Bilal Philips, the Canadian ‘Ilmveriya’ of Jamaican origin last Friday afternoon over ‘Atoll Radio’ – the Islamic FM station. He was responding to a woman who called to get advice on how to deal with her husband’s ‘cold’ first wife.

“You know how you would feel when your husband takes another wife,” he counseled. So “scrape at the bottom of the barrel” to get into good terms with her. Though, he added, it is the responsibility of the husband to get her relatives “to calm her down.”

The past week we heard the two converts – Dr Philips and the UK-born Brother Abdulraheem Green raise awareness and make recommendations to the Maldivians. They were brought by the Islamic NGO, ‘Jamiyyathulsalaf’ under the program ‘The Call 2010’ as part of their jihad to establish in Maldives what they consider an Islamic state.

‘Ilmverin’ is a term heard extremely rarely in the past. But now, it is a term that the religious factions commonly use in the Maldives to refer to the bearers of all knowledge, and maintain expert authority.

A Sheikh, a title acquired when a person achieves a first degree in Islamic Studies from an Islamic University, also becomes an Ilmveriya. They suggest that ‘Ilm’ or intellect cannot be limited to one area of knowledge such as economics, medicine or law. But Ilm comprises all knowledge and that can only be derived from Quruan and Hadhith – the foundation of all truths. The Ilmverin understand the total meaning and context of Quruan and Hadith and are therefore the true intellectuals. Thus, the unlimited knowledge of the Ilmverin enables them to inform and advise the public on any area, be it midwifery or state governance, as requested.

The religious factions claim that Maldivian society is “so much out of order”. And in the midst of the social and political challenges there is an immense move by them to bring the Ilmverin to the public’s attention as the saviors of the nation’s future.

The Ilmverin seemingly has the answers for all the social and political illnesses the Maldives face. Hence, it has become “the moral duty” of the religious factions to get the Ilmverin to put the country back on the right path to bring safety and prosperity for the entire population.

So on the Friday program another woman phoned in. This time she went on tearfully saying she cannot deal with her situation when she found out her husband and the father of her children was about to get married to another woman.

“You love him,” Dr Philips encouraged soothingly. “Do you want [in spite of] your love for your husband [for him] to commit a sin… [When it’s in your hands to legalise his relationship]?”

And yet another asked for Dr Philips’s verdict. This time she wanted to know whether in Heaven she would be granted her wish for her husband to love only her.

Dr Philips instantly drew her attention to human nature. And based on his all-encompassing knowledge he replied: “Men in their nature are to have more than one woman whereas the natural desire of a woman is to have one man to raise a family.”

If a certain group in the world argues that what could be regarded as “nature” of human being are only the biological needs such as to eat, to drink, to sleep, to have sex, etc, Dr Philips certainly did not believe so.

So he told the woman: “You have whatever you desire in Paradise.” And even though her husband can wish for any number of women at any time in Heaven, he said her wish will be granted. He assured her that in any case, since there is no such thing as jealousy in Paradise, she would not encounter any problems anyway.

There have were many more opinions and verdicts sought from Dr Philips and Brother Green during their week-long program of lectures and Q/A sessions. And more must be sought by the Maldivian sisters from Dr Philip’s spouse Sister Sara Philips, at the private gathering she held for them on Saturday.

But within the crux of these programs lie three crucial, consistent and calculated messages. While all three messages have a direct relevance to the local state of affairs and the geopolitics of the world, they are delivered in an environment where the space for alternative voice is simply non-existent – a consequence of carefully laid social control methods.

Rule number one says no one should publicly question what an Ilmveriya says – especially a non Ilmveriya.

Rule number two is that no one should entertain an attempt to make a distinction between what an Ilmveriya says, and the Quran and Hadhith.

Rule number three is that any alternative viewpoint that differs from those of the religious factions in Maldives is an attempt to eradicate Islam from the country – so people who comment on what the Ilmverin says, and people who attempt to raise alternative viewpoints, should be immediately stopped.

Further, such people have to be dragged into the public domain as the ignorant and the Anti-Islamists. Or, perhaps they could be presented as agents of Christian missionaries with links to the West. Or if it is necessary they could even be Atheists or Apostates.

And if all that seems too strong, they could also be presented as chain-smoking, coffee-drinking lesbians!

The logic seems to be that all such people deserve defamation, intolerance and violence.

The religious factions have made it clear to the public that to be dubious about what an Ilmveriya says is equivalent to having doubts about Islam. To criticise what an Ilmveriya says is to ridicule Islam. To point out the inconsistencies and the contradictions in what the Ilmveriya says is to create confusion, destroy Islam and, it is claimed, a conscious effort to break up the Islamic solidarity of the nation.

To try and raise an alternative viewpoint is an attempt to establish secularism. And make no mistake! Such attempts are nothing but the biggest, most heinous, crimes ever – to question Islam and Allah’s order.

Lastly, the public should be assured that the Ilmveriya is never wrong, or telling lies. The Ilmveriya is never corrupt and will never manipulate people’s minds to exploit them. The Ilmveriya will never misuse his power on the others’ understanding that the Ilmveriya is always right. So, everybody is expected to listen to the Ilmveriya and gulp the information as truth without even ‘a single drop of water’.

In such an environment the Islamic Ministry that represents the religious political party, the Adhaalath Party and their affiliated lobby group, Jamiyyathul Salaf, have set in their agenda in motion. The immediate target is to implement Islamic Sharia in Maldives, to “Arabise” Maldivian society and to Islamise the Maldivian educational system.

And so Dr Philips brought the Maldivians’ attention to their own Constitution saying: “Make no mistake about what (the Maldivian Constitution) says… the Constitution of Maldives says the country will be ruled by Quran and Sunnah.”

Dr Philips pointed to the necessity of Islamic Sharia. He said that: “Where heads are cut off, and hands are chopped and people are lashed, such societies enjoy peace and stability.”

He picked Saudi Arabia as an example, saying he never needed to keep his front door locked during his twenty-year long stay there. Little did Dr Philips know that in Maldives people never used to lock the front doors of their houses, either. And even now on islands such as Kendu in Baa Atoll, most people still leave their front doors unlocked night and day!

Dr Philips spoke of the weaknesses of democracy and how they contribute to the destruction of societies. He spoke of the flaws of the foundations of democracy – equality, rational empiricism and discussion and consensus and explained what they meant.

He spoke of the danger of secularism and said it “is the religion for democracies”. He said only Islam can claim to be the religion of Eve and Adam. Dr Philips said what Islam has to offer (the world now) is a moral message which is not there in the rest of the world.

The call for Maldivian women to wear the hijab has lately become extremely loud in sermons and media forums delivered by the local sheiks. And Dr Philips meticulously included this second message in all his lectures.

He said Islam elevated and protected the status of women. He warned Maldivian women that “when you remove the hijab, you suffer”. He pointed out that the head scarf is not enough for a Muslim woman because it covers only her head and leaves “her top” and “her bottom” exposed.

He urged Maldivian women to wear the hijab which he says is a loose covering that covers the woman’s private parts. If there are other Ilmverin in this world who disagree that it is compulsory for all Muslim women all over the world to wear the hijab or headscarf, the Maldivians should never hear of them.

The third message came through Dr Philips in his last, but special lecture organised by the private institution The Clique College. Students, teachers and educators were recommended to attend it. In this lecture he called the Maldivians to “revamp the education system so that it falls in line with Islam as enshrined in the Constitution.”

He said Islamisation of the education system is “something which here in the Maldives is or should be on the forefront of the thinking, the discussion, the decisions which have to be made for the future of education.”

He said the education system has to be governed according to the Quran and Sunnah to “produce the ideal Maldivian citizen.”

He said the Western nations have a secularised education in which “morality is completely taken out” and “everything is geared towards materialism.” So, he said, “parents should encourage other parents and approach the government to change” the Maldivian education system into an Islamised one.

Dr Philips gave a detailed description of the teacher, the student, the environment and the materials used in an Islamised education system. He said the outcome of an Islamic education system is a student who is conscious of his/her need to worship Allah, is conscious of his/her goal in life – the Paradise; and is motivated to implement the divine commandments.

He also added that their social responsibility is to provide the needed skills to the society.

“It’s obligatory for every Muslim to seek knowledge”, he said, and identified useful knowledge and useless knowledge for the audience.

He said useful knowledge has an immediate practical use. He urged the audience not to waste time on useless knowledge, and said that sending rocket ships to Mars and getting robots to roam around and dig its soil to find its geological composition was an example of useless knowledge.

He said the goal of knowledge should not be for the sake of knowledge: “What drives people to do such things is their belief that there is no God… and the universe is an accident,” he said.

Dr Philips said that in Riyadh, it was found that the Quran, Islam and Arabic were subjects that the students most hated while they loved other subjects taught by non-Muslims. To avoid such a response and for effective knowledge transfer, he urged to use the KEIA model which stands for ‘Knowledge, Eman, Ikhlas and Amal Salih’.

He gave examples of how to Islamise subjects such as mathematics. He said teachers of Islamic Studies should be qualified in classroom management, child psychology and educational methodology.

Dr Philips finally ended his lecture circuit by offering a way for his audience to pick up from where he left. He reminded them of his online university that offers diploma and degree studies for free or nominal charges. Before he finished he also mentioned that there is an Islamised English-language reading series he has produced for kindergarten kids.

And it remains for us Maldivians now, while our politicians dance to the loudest tunes, to determine whether, when the cultural dynamics finally take shape and the Maldives becomes listed among developing nations – is it going to be the Saudis or the Somalian pirates that we turn to for money and the required knowledge transfer to maintain our economy.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]