Resort tycoon unveils “Religion and Nationalism Policy”, promises to strengthen Islamic faith

The Jumhoree Party (JP) has unveiled its “Religion and Nationalism Policy” – a set of objectives focusing on strengthening Islamic faith and national identity in the Maldives – as part of party leader Gasim Ibrahim’s bid for presidency in the upcoming elections.

Both the religious conservative Adhaalath Party (AP) and Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) recently defected to Gasim from President Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s coalition, forming the ‘Jumhoree Alliance’ – a coalition consisting of the three parties.

DQP Leader Hassan Saeed was subsequently appointed as Gasim’s running mate.

In a rally held to unveil the policy on Tuesday, Gasim stressed his “personal efforts” defending national identity and the religion, claiming to have been the mastermind behind the constitutional prerequisite that in order to be a Maldivian, one must be a Muslim.

During the constitution drafting process Gasim claimed that, despite a small group of people objecting to the mandatory requirement, it was he who forced the article into the constitution by invoking his power as Speaker of the Assembly. As a result, Article 9(d) of the constitution states “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives”.

“I made the proposition to include the article demanding that every Maldivian citizen must be a Muslim. I did this by invoking the powers vested to the Speaker of the Constitutional Assembly under the previous constitution,” Gasim said. “Despite opposition from a few, I carried out my religious and national duty courageously believing in Allah. By the will of Allah, I was able to succeed.”

Gasim also he had worked to include the article because 99 percent of Maldivian people did not want any other religion allowed in the Maldives, although he admitted that a few individuals did not share the same view as he did.

Meanwhile as head of the Villa resort chain Gasim remains one of the country’s single largest importers of alcohol, with customs records for 2011 revealing that his hotels – including the Royal, Paradise, Sun, and Holiday Island resorts – imported approximately 121,234.51 litres of beer, 2048 litres of whiskey, 3684 litres of vodka and 219.96 kilograms of pork sausages annually, among other haram (prohibited) commodities restricted to ‘uninhabited’ islands.

Focus on Islamic education and an Islamic University

The Chairman of Villa Group also promised that in his future government he would make the subjects Islam and Quran mandatory in all schools up to grade 10. He said he was promising this because people wanted it to be that way and that no one can “challenge” the wishes of the people.

“I do not wish to rule upon you as a king, but rather as your servant,” he claimed.

Gasim also said that the Jumhoree Party intends to establish an Islamic University in the country that would teach Arabic and Islamic Studies. He also promised to establish Islamic education centres in other regions of the Maldives as part of his government’s bid to strengthen people’s faith in Islam.

Speaking during the rally, Minister of Islamic Affairs Shaheem Ali Saeed – who is the Chair of Adhaalath Party’s Foreign Relations Committee – said the Jumhoree Alliance was the only political group with the technical people required to defend Islam.

He claimed there was no other political party or political group able to overpower the strength of the coalition in academic merit or experience.

Strengthening Islamic faith among youth

Shaheem meanwhile claimed a Jumhoree government’s educational focus was the establishment of an Islamic University. He promised that within the first year of government, legislation would be proposed to parliament to upgrade the current Islamic College Kulliyath’ Al Dhiraasath al Islamiyya to an Islamic University.

He also promised that schools teaching in the Arabic medium will be set up in four regions of the country other than in Male’, claiming that a lot of people had complained to him over a lack of Arabic teaching schools.

“These things will turn out to be a defining step in renewing our Islamic identity. These policies are important steps that will be taken for the benefit of this country. The most prestigious promise made by our leader Gasim Ibrahim is to keep this country as an Islamic state,” Shaheem said.

Shaheem claimed that making Quran a mandatory subject for students was part of Jumhoree party’s belief in strengthening Islamic faith among young people.

“The result will be that young people will have stronger faith in Islam and a renewed spirit of nationalism,” he said.

The Islamic Minister said under a Jumhoree government, efforts would be made to strengthen ties with Islamic states that would help other Muslims living in difficult situations – such as Maldivians.