Government appoints foreign secretary, state minister, deputy ministers

President Abdulla Yameen has appointed individuals to additional political positions this week.

Dr. Ali Naseer Mohamed has been appointed as Foreign Secretary. He was previously serving as Additional Secretary at the Foreign Ministry.

Jumhooree Party’s council member Fuad Gasim – who remains a State Minister – has been transferred from Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture to Ministry of Health and Gender.

The President also appointed three new Deputy Ministers.

Fathimath Inaya has been appointed to the post of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. She formerly served as Joint Secretary in the same ministry.

Mohamed Mahir has been appointed as Deputy Minister of Health and Gender.

Dr. Aishath Muneeza has been appointed as Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs. She studied for a doctorate in law at International Islamic University of Malaysia.


Islamic Ministry requests MNDF, police officers be authorised to grow beards

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has requested amendments to the uniform code of the security services to authorise army and police officers to grow facial hair.

A media official from the ministry confirmed that a letter was sent to the President’s Office this week officially requesting the policy change “to give permission to police and army officers to grow beards as in other Islamic countries, since our constitution is based on Islamic principles.”

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed told local media this week that a number of army and police officers had appealed with the ministry for the change.

Shaheem argued that in spite of disagreement among scholars regarding the issue, the Maldivian constitution provides the freedom to adhere to Islamic codes.

He noted that other Islamic nations such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Pakistan permitted beards in the military while Sikhs in the Indian army were allowed to wear beards.

Shaheem explained to local daily Haveeru this week that the Islamic Ministry was not advocating in favour of making beards mandatory for the uniformed bodies, but rather to allow those who requested permission to wear beards.

“While our constitution offers that right, why has it been forbidden by some in an Islamic country?” he asked, adding that he had complete confidence that President Mohamed Waheed “would not turn his back on the request.”

“Mocking the Sunnah

Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and MP Afrashim AliShaheem’s religious conservative Adhaalath Party, part of the ruling coalition, put out a statement yesterday “condemning in the harshest terms” remarks made by two unnamed scholars in a lecture to police officers last week that the party contends “mocked” the Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed).

The press release did not identify the speakers by name. However, a police media official confirmed that the session was conducted by Dr Ibrahim Zakariyya Moosa and MP Afrashim Ali, a moderate scholar and council member of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

According to police media, the pair spoke in detail about sources of disputes among religious scholars, including on the issue of beards.

“In his speech, Dr Afrashim Ali mainly explained the importance of knowing how the Prophet’s Sunnah is ranked,” reads the police news item.

MP Afrashim argued that issues on which scholars have not been able to reach a consensus could not be declared either compulsory or heretical as “there cannot be a definite conclusion regarding such problems.”

According to Adhaalath Party, one of the scholars told police officers that there was no benefit to society from an individual wearing a beard “even if, for example, it was established from the Prophet’s Sunnah.”

The remarks implied that growing a beard was not mandatory in the Sunnah and cast doubt on its purpose, the Adhaalath party statement argued.

“As some officers of the Maldives police institution wanted to wear beards, he attempted in his talk to convince them that there was no need to do something that was of no benefit to society,” the statement reads.

Adhaalath Party noted that there was consensus among Islamic scholars that wearing beards was part of the Sunnah. Scholars however disagreed as to whether the practice was obligatory upon all Muslim males.

“This is as clear as the midday sun,” the statement claimed, citing authentic hadith purporting to show that the Prophet “ordered all Muslims to trim their moustaches and grow out their beards.”

In its statement, the Adhaalath Party’s scholars council also urged all government departments and state institutions to “amend all regulations in conflict with Islamic principles.”

Article 10 of the constitution states that the religion of the state is Islam while “no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

Religious NGO Jammiyathul Salaf meanwhile released a statement yesterday signed by the group’s President Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohamed Ibrahim, Sheikh Hassan Moosa Fikry and Sheikh Ahmed Sameer bin Ibrahim insisting that beards were compulsory in Islam.

The Salaf statement further claimed that regulations prohibiting beards in the military were unconstitutional as it was contrary to a well-established tenet of Islam.


Internet and ignorance to blame for religious extremism in the Maldives, says Dr Bari

Religious extremism in the Maldives is the long-term result of the previous government’s repression of religious debate and learning, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has said.

“As Muslims, Maldivians were keen to learn about Islam”, Dr Bari told Minivan News. The country’s education system as well as certain government policies, however, shut the door to such knowledge.

Dr Bari said many Maldivians were forced to travel abroad to seek religious enlightenment, and several ended up at the “wrong type” of institutions.

Some Maldivians attended the religious schools or ‘madhrasaas’ of Pakistan, targeted in the US-led War on Terror as ‘breeding grounds’ for terrorists. In addition to those indoctrinated at the madhrasaas, Dr Bari said, several Maldivian extremists were radicalised over the internet.

Dr Bari’s conclusion that some Maldivian extremists were radicalised online is in line with emerging Western literature on the subject as well as new anti-radicalisation laws in the West.

The Violent Radicalisation and Homegrown Terrorism Act 2007 passed by the United States House of Representatives, for example, identifies the internet as one of the main tools through which extremists spread their ideology.

The export of Dr Bari’s approach to rehabilitation was recently discussed on the popular American news blog, The Huffington Post.

Although Dr Bari was quoted in the article as having said his programme was successful in rehabilitating “hard-core terrorists”, he clarified that it was aimed at extremists.

“There are no hard-core terrorists in the Maldives. There are extremists, but no terrorists”, Dr Bari said.

The line between terrorists and extremists are too often blurred in both Western media and its policies, he added, as could be seen in the US-led military invasion of Afghanistan.

Dr Bari’s own definition of a ‘terrorist’ is “someone who commits violence against innocent people in the pursuit of a certain goal”. Harming innocent people, be it during peacetime or war, Dr Bari said, “is against the teachings of Islam.”

“If an American in the Maldives was harmed by someone who is angry with the policies of its government, that would be wrong”, he said. As practising Muslims, Maldivians should welcome and protect visiting Americans as they cannot be blamed for their government’s policies, he said.

The only known incident where extremists had crossed the line into terrorism in the Maldives was the bombings at Sultan Park in September 2007.

The confrontation between extremists and police in Himandhoo in October 2007, he said, may have been officially categorised as ‘terrorism’ but it was not a terrorist inciden t:”It was a violent confrontation that could have been avoided had there been discussion and dialogue.”

How to deradicalise

Dialogue is key to Dr Bari’s approach to the rehabilitation or de-radicalisation of extremists.

“We approach known extremists on friendly terms. Ministry-appointed scholars make the initial contact with known fundamentalists, meet them on their own terms and establish a rapport. This is followed by discussion and dialogue through which they come to realise that, in many cases, they have been misinformed about the teachings of Islam”, Dr Bari said.

All the people who were involved in the confrontation at Himnadhoo have now “fully reintegrated” into the community as a result of the programme, he said.

Dr Bari was unable to determine how many people in the Maldives have been categorised as ‘extremists’ in the Maldives. Neither was he able to provide the criteria used to define a person as an extremist: “It can be seen from a person’s behaviour. What they say and what they do”.

Dr Bari earned his doctorate at the University in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic University of Al-Madinah, focusing his research on a critical analysis of Fath al-Bari’s commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari.

Asked if religious discussion and debate should now be allowed more freely given the consequences of repression in the past, Dr Bari replied that any such debate “should be within Islam.”


New religious unity regulations: English

This is an unofficial English translation of the new religious unity regulations for the Maldives, produced by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The original Dhivehi is available on the Ministry’s website, and in the Government Gazette.

UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION: Regulations on protecting religious unity of Maldivian Citizens

CHAPTER 1: General Clauses

(1) Introduction and title

(a): This is a general Regulations defining general principles to ensure religious unity as authorized by Law No. 6/94, Religious Unity Act of Maldives.

(b): These regulations shall be called ‘Regulations on protecting religious unity of Maldivian Citizens’.


The principles compiled in these regulations aim to maintain the religious harmony existing among Maldivians for eons; solve conflicts that arise from disagreement among Islamic scholars on certain issues; ensure that information regarding such issues are spread so as not to sow discord in society; facilitate Islamic scholars to raise religious awareness among the public; maintain religious unity of Maldivian citizens; and to advice Ministry of Islamic Affairs on such issues to establish an advisory Board, and to set out the responsibilities of such a Board.

(3) Chapters included

These regulations are made up of 5 Chapters. They are,

(1) General areas

(2) Advisory Board on religious unity among Maldivian Citizens

(3) Giving sermons, advice and issuing religious rulings in Maldives

(4) Spreading religions other than Islam

(5) Outlawed actions

(4) Authority tasked with enforcing these regulations

These regulations shall be implemented by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The Ministry has the right to delegate to another authority enforcing of any actions deemed necessary to maintain religious unity as stipulated by these regulations.

(5) Authority tasked with propagating Islam in Maldives

(a) Ministry of Islamic Affairs shall be the ultimate authority to propagate Islam and dictate its principles.

(b) Ministry of Islamic Affairs shall decree the ‘official fatwa’ as shall be practiced in Maldives where issues of conflict occur among Islamic scholars. Such religious rulings shall be based upon the Quran, the Sunnah (norms) of the Noble Prophet, agreement among the Islamic scholars, and local religious etiquette.

CHAPTER 2: Advisory Board on religious unity among Maldivian Citizens

(6)Compiling the Advisory Board on religious unity among Maldivian Citizens:

The President must establish a special Board, on the advice of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, to provide advice and assistance to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and other relevant authorities in the implementation of Laws and Regulations made to maintain religious unity of Maldivian citizens.

(7) Board’s name

The board’s name shall be ‘Advisory Board on religious unity among Maldivian Citizens.’

(8) Board’s Secretariat

The board’s Secretariat shall be administered by Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(9) Members making up the board

Ministry of Islamic Affairs will decide on the number of members that shall be represented on the Board. At least one representative from each of the following fields shall be chosen to be on the Board. Ministry of Islamic Affairs must have three members on the Board.

Ministry of Islamic Affairs

Ministry of Education

Maldives Fiqh Academy

Maldives Police Service

Maldives College of Higher Education

A member nominated from among local NGOs

A local Islamic scholar

A person with a legal background

(10)Criteria for qualification as Board Members


(1) The person shall have reached 25 years of age

(2) Having at least a First Degree in Islamic Studies, or Sharia, or (general) law  from an Islamic University recognized by the Government of Maldives

(3) The person shall not be a person who was convicted of a ‘hadh’ crime as stipulated in Islamic Sharia (law)

(11) Board’s Presidency

The Presidency of the Board will be held by the person chosen by the Board Members from among the three Board Members of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. All documents of the Board shall be expressly under the Ministry of Islamic Affair’s name.

(12)Board’s mandate

(a) The Board shall assist the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to formulate and implement policy relating to the above-mentioned licenses as stipulated in these regulations or those regulations which are formulated by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(b) Give advice to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs whether to revoke or not (preaching) licenses if it is deemed that the person has acted in violation of these regulations.

(c) Give advice and help if such advice and help are required by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in appealing to relevant government authorities to take legal action against any person whose actions are deemed to be threatening religious unity of Maldivian people, and if it is deemed that such actions need to be brought to an immediate stop.

(d) Recommending to Ministry of Islamic Affairs any amendments needed to be brought to Laws, Regulations and Policies in order to protect religious unity of the Maldivian people.

(e) The Board shall not adopt any decisions that are in violation of the tenets of Islam.

(13)Board’s quorum

A meeting of the Board can be held if at least 5 members from 5 fields are present. (If even one member from any single field is represented, it will be deemed that that sector was represented).

(14)Board’s Decisions

Board’s Decisions can be adopted only by a majority of those present at the Board’s meeting.

CHAPTER  3: Preaching, giving sermons, and issuing religious rulings in the Maldives

(15) Preaching and giving sermons

Preaching, giving sermons, and issuing religious rulings in the Maldives can only be carried out by getting the permission described in Clause 2 (a) of the Maldives’ Religious Unity Act.

(16) Criteria for giving preaching license

(a) The permission mentioned in Clause 15 of these Regulations can be obtained once the application form, and the material and documents prescribed in the form, are forwarded and studied by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and if the Ministry deems the applicant meets the necessary criteria as stipulated in Clause (16) (b).

(b) The following criteria have to be met in order for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to grant a preaching license, as mentioned in Clause (15) of these Regulations.

(1) The person must belong to any sect of the Sunni Muslims

(2) The person shall have reached 25 years of age

(3) The person shall have attained at least a First Degree in religious studies from a University recognized by the Government of Maldives

(4) The person must not have been found guilty in a Sharia Court of having violated any clause of Law 6/94, Religious Unity Act.

(5) The person must not have been found guilty in a Sharia Court for a crime for which there is a ‘Hadh’, fraud, accepting of bribes, sexual misconduct, and drug abuse.

(c) If a person does not have the Degree as prescribed in Clause (16) (b) (3), the person’s service to religion so far, education and experience can be considered by the Board and exceptions made and permission given by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(17)Bringing foreigners to conduct religious lectures and giving sermons

(a) A written permission must be obtained for any association, NGO or individual, to bring a foreigner for preaching and giving sermons in Maldives.

(b) The permission mentioned in this Clause shall be given after the person is deemed to meet the criteria — after study of the person’s background and in accordance with policies set by the Board, once the application form for a preaching license, together with the material prescribed in the form, and certificates of qualifications are forwarded to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(18) Translation

If a foreign preacher’s sermon is to be translated into Dhivehi, any such translation should be carried out by a person or organization permitted by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(19)Foreign preachers to respect local norms

Foreign preachers should shape their sermons in line with Maldives norms, traditions, culture and social etiquette.

(20) Issuing religious rulings

(a) In Maldives all religious rulings shall be issued in line with the sects of Sunni Muslims.

(b) A ruling cannot be issued that is in contravention of what is generally accepted among majority of Islamic scholars.

(c) Rulings on controversial issues shall be issued in line with the general guidelines of ‘Fiqh.’

(d) While preaching in Maldives, any preacher should act in accordance with the religious rulings issued by the following institutions:

(1) Islamic Fiqh Academy of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)

(2) European Council for Fatwa and Research

(3) Dhaarul Ifthaaeel Misriyya of Egypt

(4) Allajunathudhdhaaimathul Lil Buhoolil Ilmiyaavalifthaai

(5) Majmaul Buhoolil Islamiyyaa of Al Azhar University of Egypt

(6) Islamic Fiqh Academy of Maldives

(7) Fiqh Academy of Raabithathul Aalamil Islamee

CHAPTER 4: Spreading religions other than Islam

(21)Maintaining religious unity

It is an obligation on the Government and all the people of Maldives to protect the religious unity of Maldivian citizens as Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim nation and because Islam maintains harmony of Maldivian citizens and because Islam is the basis of the unity of Maldivian citizens.

(22)Immunity granted for activity conducted for scholarly pursuit

These Regulations do not prohibit, for scholarly reasons, or for research, surveys, and lectures that are given under formal education; and information disclosed about other religions, if such information is disseminated to contrast Islam and other religions.

(23)Exemption for archaeological artifacts and historical sites

Archaeological sites and artifacts that have been and are being discovered in Maldives shall be exempt from these Regulations, including maintenance and protection of such, in order to retain them for history.

(24) Authority to deport anyone who propagates any religion other than Islam

Ministry of Islamic Affairs has the authority to order all relevant authorities to deport for a definite period, or deport for life, all foreigners who propagate any religion other than Islam or engage in spreading of beliefs that contravene any of the sects of the Sunni Muslims — if such a person is accused with ample evidence of any such illegal action or action that is related to propagation of other religions.

CHAPTER 5: Giving religious education in Maldives

(25) Operating institutions which give religious education

Any institution which gives religious education can only do so with express permission from the relevant government authority.

(26)Finalizing curriculum for religious education

(a) Any subject relating to religion shall be taught in accordance with the curriculum that is approved by the Government.

(b) Curriculum on religious education shall be modeled, and such education carried out, in ways that will not violate the religious unity of Maldives.

CHAPTER 6: Prohibited activity

(27) Illegal actions while preaching giving sermons and issuing religious rulings

The following actions are prohibited when preaching, giving sermons and issuing religious rulings in Maldives.

Promoting one’s own individual opinion on issues that are in disagreement among Islamic scholars.

Encouraging violence; inciting people to disputes, hatred and resentment; and any talk that aims to degrade a certain sex and gender in violation of Islamic tenets. Telecasting and broadcasting of such speeches shall be deemed illegal.

Fabricating lies against trustworthy Islamic scholars and scholars who are Sunni Muslims.

Promoting your opinion, if such opinion violates a religious ruling as unanimously agreed upon by the Fiqh Academy of Maldives.

Talking about religions other than Islam in Maldives, and propagating such religions.

Talking about the culture and traditions of other religions in a way that aims to coerce a person’s mind to favor those religions; or any attempts to create such a spirit amongst the people.

(28) Acting in violation of these regulations, during preaching, by those who are licensed to preach

(a) If anyone talks against Clause 27 of these Regulations, the person shall be prosecuted under the Religious Unity Act, and in addition, as an administrative measure, preaching licenses shall be revoked, or held for a definite period. These Regulations empower the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to take such action.

(b If, in the spirit of these Regulations, a licensed preacher reveals aspects of Islamic Sharia as beheld by the sects among Sunni Muslims, Islamic scholars, and the evidence that they favor, such action shall not be deemed to be in violation of these Regulations.

(29) If a Maldivian or foreigner preaches, gives sermons and issues religious rulings, in violation of these Regulations

It is illegal for any Maldivian or foreigner to preach, give sermons and issue religious rulings in violation of these Regulations.

It is illegal for any person, other than those licensed, to preach and give sermons in public places.

(30) Propagating any religion other than Islam or building places of worship of other religions
Propagating any religion other than Islam in Maldives and trying to convert people to any other religion are prohibited actions for both Maldivians and foreigners.

It is illegal to build in Maldives buildings or places of worship of other religions.

In Maldives, any slogan that is representative of any religion other than Islam, shall not be produced and distributed.

It is illegal in Maldives to use any kind of medium to propagate any religion other than Islam; such media shall not be used to share or exchange information that may stir interest in any other religion.

(31)Translating into Dhivehi books on other religions and distribution of such translations

In Maldives, it is illegal to translate into Dhivehi, books or various other sources of information on other religions, and print, distribute or spread such material.

(32) Insulting or committing any action that may offend Islamic slogans

(a) Committing any action, uttering a word, or drawing anything that insults Allah, His Prophets and Messengers, the Companions of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

(b) It is illegal to utter a word or commit an action that insults the Koran, Islamic Mosques, and other Islamic slogans.

(33) Non-Muslims expressing their religious slogans or carrying out their religious activities

It is illegal for non-Muslims who visit Maldives and non-Muslims who live in Maldives to express their religious slogans; publicly display objects that express religious slogans of non-Muslims; gather at places and get into groups to express their religious slogans; sell objects of their worship; conduct any activity with an intention of spreading their religious slogans; participation of a Maldivian in any such activity; and allowing a Maldivian to participate in such an activity.

(34) Propagating any religion other than Islam

(a) It is illegal to propagate in Maldives any religion other than Islam and inviting people to such religions.

(b) It is illegal for any foreign non-Muslim teacher teaching in Maldives, and other such people, to talk about any religion other than Islam, in schools and outside of schools.

(35) Telecasting, broadcasting, and printing of programs that may result in damage to religious unity of Maldives

(a) It is illegal for any party licensed to telecast and broadcast to show programs or spread sound bites of programs that harass Allah, the Noble Prophet or any of his Companions, or the Noble Quran, or the Noble Prophet’s Sunnah or the Islamic religion. And it is illegal to show or spread sound bites of programs on religions other than Islam, and any such literature, drawings, advertisements, music, and songs.

(b) It is illegal to use any Internet website, blog, newspaper, or magazine to publish such material as mentioned in Clause (35) (a).

(c) It is illegal for any parties conducting business in Maldives and companies to act in a way that disrupts Islamic etiquette when advertising their products or making announcements.

(36) Providing education on any religion other than Islam and providing education against the rulings of sects among the Sunni Muslims

(a) It is illegal to provide education on any religion other than Islam in anywhere in Maldives.

(b) It is illegal to provide education in Maldives that flaunt the principles of the sects among the Sunni Muslims.

(37) Prayer congregation

(a) It is illegal to lead a prayer congregation in a mosque in Maldives against the principles of the sects among the Sunni Muslims. Prayers should be conducted according to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Noble Prophet.

(b) It is illegal to conduct a separate private prayer congregation away from the main congregation while the main congregation is in progress inside that mosque; to be of the opinion that the official congregations in Maldives are not lawful and therefore deliberately staying away from main congregations; later in that mosque or elsewhere conducting a separate congregation in order to divide the society.

(c) It is illegal to conduct a congregation of Juma prayer, or Eid prayer, or Eclipse prayer in violation of principles set by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

(38) Punishment

All that is prohibited in these Regulations, and those actions which the Regulations call on people not to engage in, shall be deemed an offence. The punishment for any offense, for which any specific punishment is not prescribed in these regulations, shall be the punishment prescribed in Law 6/94, Religious Unity Act.

(39) Glossary

(a) The “Board” that is referred to in these Regulations is the advisory Board to maintain religious unity among Maldivian citizens that is appointed by the President of the Republic of Maldives on the advice of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in order to protect the religious unity of Maldivian citizens.



(2) Any word that is used in these Regulations shall be translated generally into the way the word is generally understood in a general context.

(3) …

(40) Start of implementation of these Regulations

These Regulations will be implemented from the day it is published in the Government Gazette.



Maldives to introduce study of comparative religion, says State Islamic Minister

State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed is advocating the study of ‘comparative religion’ in the Maldives.

“It is important for both Muslims and non-Muslims to compare their religions and cultures, and to compare philosophies,” Shaheem told Minivan News, explaining that subject was taught in many Islamic universities across the world, including academic institutions in Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Visiting Islamic lecturer Zakir Naik is a well-known proponent of comparative religion, and frequently quotes verses of other religious texts to support his arguments.

The religions to be studied in the Maldives course would include “all those in the world: Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions,” Shaheem said.

In the lead up to the launch of the course, Shaheem explained that the Islamic Ministry was drafting regulations legalising possession of books concerning other religions, such as the bible, “for educational and research purposes”.

Permitting the study of comparative religion did not mean permitting the worship of other religions in the Maldives, a 100 percent Muslim nation, Shaheem emphasised.

“The subject is comparative religion,” he said. “It will compare between Islam with other religions – such as Christianity and Judaism. At the end of study, students will know the differences and the similarities. When you study other religions, that doesn’t mean you convert to other religions – it is my belief that by the end of this people should know that Islam is the truth.”

Shaheem said the course would only be taught from an undergraduate degree level, and not secondary level “because [students’] minds are not prepared to deal with these philosophies. They are ready for it at university level,” he said.

An understanding of comparative religion would strength Islamic faith in the Maldives, Shaheem said, “because when Muslims study this subject they learn how to deal with other philosophies – they learn about what others believe, the differences between us and them, and what is the right side.”

He said he did not anticipate any objections to the new course, but noted that “the interpretation of Shar’ia has to develop from period to period. The island has become a country, the country has become a region, the region has become a world. Muslims have to be aware of these philosophies in order to deal with others in the world.”

At the same time, Shaheem said, it was necessary for other cultures to learn about Islamic culture.

“They must learn that Islam is not a religion of terrorism and extremism, or an uncivilised religion. Islam is a civilised system, because it provides all the needs of a human being – for example, in Christianity and Judaism philosophies there is no democratic political system, there is no family law, there is no economic system; we have a penal code, code, family law, economic law, even an Islamic banking system. This is why Islam is among the fastest growing religions in Europe, America and the rest of the Western world – Islam is everywhere.”

Shaheem noted that many scholars in the Maldives had studied the subject, including himself, and put himself forward as a potential teacher.

“I have studied this subject in Saudi Arabia, and I am very interested in comparative religion,” he said. “I am sure that when people study these things, at the end of the story they will agree that Islam is the truth.”


Islamic speaker Zakir Naik to visit Maldives

World famous Islamic speaker Zakir Naik has confirmed he will visit the Maldives from 28-30 April upon an invitation from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, reports Miadhu.

Naik, his wife and child are to deliver speeches according to Sheikh Farooq and the chance to ask questions will be given.

Naik is the president and founder of religious NGO the Islamic Research Foundation, which also owns Mumbai-based TV channel Peace TV.

The Indian national is a medical doctor and has become one of the most renowned speakers of Islam and comparative religion.


Comment: Silence is not always golden

Silence is not always golden, and never so under compulsion.

The Maldives is travelling on a road not just less travelled but abandoned by most other nations – the road of regression.

Reading the headlines of a Maldivian newspaper is like travelling back in time. Female genital mutilation (FGM), concubines, under-age brides, calls to bring back capital punishment, deportation of ‘suspect’ foreigners, increasing acceptance of man’s alleged superiority over women… concerned about this state of affairs?

The key, apparently, is to say nothing, because whatever you say is certain to be used against you as evidence of your apostasy.

This is the most common and invariably pejorative accusation against any critic of the current Maldivian condition. This emotive allegation is akin to Godwin’s Law, which states that the longer an Internet discussion grows, the higher the probability that a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler will arise, shutting off further discussion.

Similarly, criticise practices negating people’s human rights, obliterating traditions and marauding national identities in the name of ‘Islam’, and the probability of being called an apostate hits the roof, ending any further discourse.

Jürgen Habermas’ initial description of the public sphere may have been utopian, but a democracy cannot function without such a space for rational debate about subjects of societal concern.

Saying Maldivians are being robbed of their identity and culture by those importing a certain brand of Islam into the country is not a criticism of Islam itself. Nor is it a declaration of intent to follow in the footsteps of hate-mongering apostate Muslims who came pouring out of the woodworks following 11 September 2001 such as Dr Mark Gabriel, a doctoral graduate of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, Brigitte Gabriel and Walid Shoebat (to name but a few).

Gender regression

To point out that it is wrong for Maldivian women to be pushed back from a position of relative equality with men to being nothing but obedient child-bearing vessels, and to single out such thinking for criticism represents neither the perusal of a hidden political agenda nor a criticism of Islam per se.

Indeed, Quran 3:195 states: ‘…be you male or female, you are equal to one another…’

It is those who ignore this spiritual equality between men and women that 3:195 makes so clear, and preach contrary messages, that are being put in the dock for thorough and thoroughly required cross-examinations.

When criticism is leveled against the practice of butchering the genitalia of young girls, again, it is not Islam that is being criticized but those who are forcing the Maldives to regress into ancient cruelties its people have virtually abandoned. There is absolutely no mention of ‘female circumcision’ (as some who prefer to package this cruelty refer to it as) made in the Quran either directly or indirectly.

Neither is there a Hadheeth stating the act is required in Islam. While Prophet Mohamed did not explicitly ban the practice neither did he condone it, advising that if it were to be practiced, it should not be needlessly cruel. Criticism of FGM is a criticism of those who, under the name of Islam, are taking the most vulnerable Maldivians back to the times before people knew better.


Nor is it a criticism of Islam to decry policies of intolerance against people of other faiths – the most recent example being the imminent deportation of an American family because they are ‘suspected’ of being missionaries. It is to point out that ‘Islam’ is being manipulated to achieve certain aims and to pursue particular agendas.

Quran 49:13 states: ‘O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another’ [own emphasis].

Recognition of differences, pluralism – not a false dichotomy between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – that is what Islam asks of its followers. For Muslims to do otherwise is ‘un-Islamic’ and for Maldivians to do so is, additionally, ‘un-Maldivian’.

Maldivians, until recently, were renowned for their openness and friendliness. The suspicions with which Maldivians now treat foreigners are consequences of this audacious robbery of Maldivian traditions and nature.

It is this loss that is being lamented by critics, the loss of the friendly Maldivian. The friendly Muslim Maldivian who welcomed foreigners with warmth and endearing curiosity. The Maldivians who have been indoctrinated into treating ‘the other’ with suspicion rather than with recognition as they once did – or as their religion tells them to do – it is they, and the practices that have made them so, that are the cause for concern and criticism.

No clash of civilisations

Islam is not monolithic. Nor is ‘the West’. Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilisations theory is a dangerous and vacuous idea based on Orientalism, colonialism and imaginary lines drawn across civilizations that he conjured up. Read the late Palestinian American intellectual and cultural critic Edward Said for a robust critique of the theory.

Unfortunately, it is a theory that many saw as proven with the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. Criticism of what is happening in the Maldives in the name of Islam does not mean the critics are in favour of the so-called ‘War on Terror’, or are swooning fans of George W Bush who initially used the word ‘crusade’ to describe this seemingly endless ‘war’.

Nor does it mean being in favour of the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that turned international law on its head and established the so-called Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes. Neither does it automatically imply these critics are cheering at the inhuman treatment of ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib; the ‘extraordinary renditions’; or the continuing surveillance and monitoring of Muslim communities in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’ and prevention of ‘radicalisation’.

Interpretations of Islam

It means none of those things because it is possible to be a Muslim and disagree with regressive and draconian policies that are being implemented in the name of Islam; and because it is possible for a Muslim to agree with certain ‘Western’ ideas and practices without abandoning their own faith.

Just as it is possible to be from the West and/or be a non-Muslim and disagree with inhumane and illegal policies implemented in the name of the ‘War on Terror’, or those that create the undeniably unjust North/South divisions of today’s world.

Such agreement and disagreement are possible precisely because, as quoted from the Quran before, human beings are ‘distinct peoples and tribes’ that should ‘recognise one another’ as such. It is wrong to try and erase these distinctions through violence and/or other means in order to establish a false homogeneity or hegemony of one group/religion/region over another.

In this disturbed world, the Maldives – had it been allowed to be itself and practice Islam the way it had done for centuries – could have stood as an example to the rest of the world that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, that it is diverse, and among its many followers are people of distinctive cultures.

Sadly, that Maldives is being taken away, its people being cookie-cutter-molded to fit the appearance and behaviours of a particular sect of Islam. A vast majority have allowed themselves to be led down this path, like rats by Pied Piper. Those that refused to be lured have been forced into silence, gagged by the implicit threat of being branded apostates, non-believers, Infidels.

Loss of identity

There still is time, yet, to fight the complete loss of Maldivian identity, to stand against the enforcement of this imported alien uniformity. It cannot be done if the first response to rational criticism is irrational accusations of apostasy.

Differences are inevitable and should be not just tolerated, but welcomed. Muslims are not the same world over. It may surprise some of those re-making themselves, willingly or otherwise, in the image of a particular sect of Islam to learn that the biggest concentrations of Muslim populations can be found in non-Arabic countries.

Not every Muslim is an Arab or every Arab a Muslim; nor does every Arab Muslim practice their faith in the same way. Seven percent of the world’s Muslims (over 50 million) live in Europe; two percent (over 7 million) in North America. Muslims today do not live in a world divided between an ‘Islamic civilization’ and a ‘Western civilisation’ nor do they conform to one look, one appearance, one set of customs – just the one God.

To sit and say nothing while Maldivian identity is taken away, while individuals are systematically turned into copies of a non-existent ideal with the argument that the right to individuality and to individual rights is but a covert tactic of ‘Western neo-colonialism’ – all in the name of Islam – now that would be a sin.

Accusations – of having been rendered brain-dead by the seemingly all-powerful silver bullets of Western media; political bias; and, above all, apostasy – should not, and will not, be allowed to silence the voices of reasoned criticism.

In the words, not of a lowly mortal critic, but the Quran itself: ‘there shall be no compulsion in religion’ (2:256).

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

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