Protesters march with IS flag calling for enforcement of Islamic Shariah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Former President Nasheed condemns false attribution of quote by Sun Online and Vaguthu

The office of former President Mohamed Nasheed has strongly condemned the false attribution of a quote by Sun Online and Vaguthu from an article published this week in the Irish Times.

In a story published on Monday (August 18) under the headline, “Government’s image tarnished after reintroduction of death penalty: President Nasheed,” Sun Online reported Nasheed as saying that the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) was attempting to enforce Islamic Shariah and that the government’s image has been tarnished in the international arena as a result of reintroducing the death penalty.

Online outlet Vaguthu meanwhile published a story under the headline, “PPM working to establish Islamic Shariah – Nasheed.”

The former president’s office, however, noted in a press statement yesterday that both Sun Online and Vaguthu falsely attributed a section of the Irish Times article as a direct quote from Nasheed.

‘You can’t have democracy without a country. Since the election, the government has been excoriated internationally for reintroducing the death penalty; under the law children as young as seven could potentially be sentenced. The PPM is moving towards sharia law,’ Sun Online and Vaguthu quoted the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) acting president as saying.

“However, President Nasheed said no such thing in his interview to the Irish Times,” the former president’s office said, explaining that Nasheed’s direct quote was “You can’t have democracy without a country,” while what followed was written by the author of the article, Mary Boland.

Sun Online has since amended its article and removed the quotation marks. The new version states that the Irish Times article was “based entirely” on Nasheed’s interview.

Sun also noted that Nasheed listed sea-level rise and Islamic extremism as the biggest threats facing the Maldives, warning that a “reversal of democracy is under way and dictatorship once again looms”.

Both during last year’s presidential election and his three years in office, rival parties and religious groups accused Nasheed of being anti-Islamic, promoting secularism, and pursuing liberal policies. The MDP presidential candidate had denied the allegations and assured that “other religions” would not be introduced under his administration.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Sun Online Editor Ahmed ‘Hiriga’ Zahir conceded that there was “a problem with the presentation in the part where there was a direct quotation.”

“But the news [on Irish Times] was written based on an interview Nasheed gave to the paper more than the paper’s editorial opinion, when you look at the whole context of it,” he said.

The correction or removal of the direct quotation was made “within a very short period” after publication, Hiriga said, adding that formally issuing a correction or retraction was not warranted as it was not “a problem with our information”.

“We corrected it when it came to our notice. The whole [Irish Times] story was based on what Nasheed said. It wasn’t the best presentation from our reporter with the inverted commas,” he continued.

“I also do not believe that presenting it as direct quotes from President Nasheed is the best practice. So we have made the change.”

The statement from the former president’s office meanwhile condemned “in the strongest terms” the dissemination of “false information” from the news outlets.

The statement called on journalists and editors to be more mindful of publishing incorrect or “misleading” information and appealed for impartial and unbiased reporting.

The statement urged reporters to take more care in translating from other languages into Dhivehi.

The former president’s office also called on the state’s media oversight or watchdog bodies to “investigate such matters and take measures fairly and without discrimination” and for all involved to work together to “strengthen the media sector to ensure such incidents that hinder independent journalism do not recur.”


Fatwas against registering marriages a huge challenge: Family Court chief judge

Fatwas claiming that registering marriages at the court is unnecessary and un-Islamic are posing serious challenges to the Family Court, Chief Judge Hassan Saeed has said, suggesting the formation of an official state institution to issue fatwas.

“As Maldives is a 100 percent Muslim country, legally mandating some people to issue fatwas officially will encourage people to follow the law,” Saeed was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

Registration of marriages was a common practice in all countries, he observed, calling on religious scholars to publicly discuss and clarify such issues.

“Is there any basis in law or Sharia to say that [registering marriages] is not an Islamic requirement? You cannot say it is okay to perform a marriage hiding inside a room with two random witnesses [to whom] you give some treat,” Saeed was quoted as saying.

The Family Court issued a statement last week announcing that it will not register marriages performed by individuals without the court’s involvement, which would be in contravention of the Family Act.

Complaints regarding the refusal to register such marriages will also be rejected by the court, the statement noted.

As such marriages have come to the court’s attention, the Family Court noted that it could not accept cases related to divorce or other disputes as the marriages were not registered officially.

The rights of couples and their children could only be protected through wedlock within the bounds of law, the court said, insisting that marriages could only be performed or sanctioned by the state.

Marriages performed outside the Maldives are registered by the Family Court upon submission of legal documentation.

The penalty for violating the Family Act is meanwhile a fine of up to MVR1,000 or banishment to another inhabited island for a period less than six months.

The issue of unregistered marriages was raised by the court in 2010 as well.

Religious extremists in the Maldives have both endorsed and performed such marriages, claiming that even private, out-of-court marriages should be treated as legal as long as the minimum Shariah requirements for marriage are met.

Some cases of out-of-court marriages include child marriages, which are to a large extent illegal in the Maldives.

Under the Family Act, children under the age of 18 can get married at the court if he or she has reached puberty and has received a special permission from the court.

The Child Sex Abuse (Special Provisions) Act however states that engaging in sexual activity with a child through a marriage performed in accordance to Islamic Shariah principles shall not be considered child abuse.

In October 2009, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives looked into a case involving the marriage of a nine-year-old by religious preachers, whilst police investigated a similar case earlier that year.

In 2007, local media reported that a 14-year-old girl was married privately to an older man on Himandhoo island – a hotbed of religious extremism at the time.


President Yameen vetoes sexual offences bill

President Abdulla Yameen has returned the sexual offences bill passed by parliament last month for reconsideration.

According to the President’s Office, in a letter to the speaker of parliament, President Yameen provided details of issues noted by the Attorney General after reviewing the legislation (Dhivehi).

“The bill containing some provisions that are contrary to Islamic Shariah and Islamic principles was among the reasons considered for returning the bill,” the President’s Office stated.

Under article 91 of the constitution, within 15 days of receipt the president could either assent to a bill or “return the bill for reconsideration of the bill or of any amendment proposed by the president.”

The sexual offences bill was passed on December 30 with 67 votes in favour out of the 69 MPs in attendance.

Following the passage of the bill, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef condemned the conditional recognition of marital rape as a crime and called on MPs who voted in favour to repent.

“With the exception of forbidden forms of sexual intercourse, such as during menstrual periods and anal intercourse, it is not permissible under any circumstance for a woman to refrain from it when the husband is in need,” Dr Iyaz had said on a local Islamic question and answers website.

While the bill did not categorically criminalise marital rape, it allowed for four exceptions: while a case for dissolution of the marriage is in a court, while the divorce filed by either husband or wife is pending a court, sexual intercourse to intentionally transmit a sexually transmitted disease, and during a mutually agreed separation (without divorce).

Dr Iyaz however contended that a woman must still show “complete obedience to her husband” even if she had filed for divorce.

Moreover, in cases of a revocable divorce, a man can renew the marriage during the waiting period (i’ddah) by having sexual intercourse. The woman’s consent would not be necessary in such cases, he argued.

He added however that the woman would have the right to go to court if the man’s intention of resuming the marriage was abuse.

Dr Iyaz is currently campaigning for the Hulhuhenveiru parliament seat on behalf of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party.

The contentious bill was drafted and submitted in October 2012 by now-Progressive Party of Maldives MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed. Nasheed wrote in the draft legislation that it was not intended to replace Shariah, explaining that it did not preclude application of a Shariah penalty for an offence specified in the bill.

The proposed law covers sexual offences ranging from adultery, homosexuality, incest, bestiality and necrophilia.

2007 study by the Ministry of Gender and Family revealed that 58.2 percent of female respondents agreed that they were obliged to have sex with their husbands, whilst 29.3 percent of women believed it was acceptable for a husband to beat his wife for refusing sex.


Family of murder victim demand death penalty

The heirs of Mariyam Sheereen, who was found dead at a construction site in Male’ on January 2, 2010, have asked for the death penalty against the accused.

Under Islamic sharia, the victim’s family or heirs are given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for their loss (Quran 2:178).

According to newspaper Haveeru, Sheereen’s heirs appeared in court yesterday and demanded the death penalty be enforced against Mohamed Najah, Sheereen’s former boyfriend.

Following the investigation, police revealed at the time that her body was put into a small suitcase and transported to a construction site by taxi cab.


Adhaalath Party plans “Shariah is the Solution” protest march

The religiously conservative Adhaalath Party has announced a nation-wide protest march for next Friday calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

”Murder, violent assaults, robbery, rape, drug abuse and other such crimes have reached an extreme level in this country,” the Adhaalath Party said in a statement. ”The whole nation is threatened and institutions have failed.”

The gathering is to be held under the slogan ”Islamic Shariah is the Solution” and NGOs and political parties have been invited to participate.

”The gathering will commence at 4:00pm near the tsunami monument next Friday,” said the Adhaalth Party, appealing for as many people as possible to attend.

The statement suggested that participants should carry a national flag if possible.

”More than 100 NGOs have confirmed that they will be joining us in this gathering,” a party official said today. ”In the islands they will gather at an area decided amongst themselves; our target is to get as many islands, NGOs and political parties join this gathering.”

While the official did not mention names of specific NGOs and political parties that will participate, he revealed that the NGO coalition formed to protest the planned sale of alcohol from hotels in inhabited islands would be involved.

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf announced that it backed the Adhaalath Party’s gathering and Salaf would join the party’s event in support.

Salaf President Abdulla Bin Ali Ibrahim explained that Salaf would join any event that demands Islamic Shariah be observed.

”We will hold a meeting tonight to discuss it within our NGO,” Abdulla said. ”We have also expressed our ideas and sent it to the Adhaalath Party.”

The Adhaalath Party has recently threatened to terminate its coalition agreement with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) should an Israeli airline be allowed to operate in the Maldives.


Islamic Sharia applies where Maldivian law silent, High Court clarifies

The High Court of the Maldives has clarified that Islamic Sharia law defaults in cases where crimes may not be specifically forbidden by Maldivian law, and instructed parliament to keep this in mind when amending the penal code.

”When bringing amendments to the penal code of the Maldives, I rule that the concerned state institution amend the penal code in a manner that does not obstruct the giving of penalties for crimes prohibited under Islamic Sharia,” Judge Abdul Gany Mohamed ruled.

Judge Gany added the landmark ruling to the verdict in a case concerning a man who threatened a doctor last year in Indira Gandi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

The prosecution claimed that Sulhath Abdulla, of Maafannu Kurevi, went to IGMH in May last year and threatened a doctor who had refused to write him a prescription for a control drug.

The Criminal Court of the Maldives last year ruled that there was no specific law forbidding Sulhath Abdulla’s actions, and therefore he could not be punished.

Judge Gany said that although there was no Maldivian law for the crime he committed, anything prohibited under Islamic Shariah was consisted prohibited according to articles 2, 10, 19 and 59 of the constitution.

”Under article number 142[a], the courts must rule according to Islamic Sharia when deciding a matter on which [Maldivian] laws are silent,” Judge Gany said.

Judge Gany sentenced Sulhath Abdulla for four years house arrest for objection to order and violating article 88[a] of the penal code.

He explained that using foul words when addressing to people, threats to damage another’s body or property, intimidation, refusing to give samples necessary for investigations, obstructing investigation, using or possessing a sharp object that might cause “fear in society”, and using any object that could potentially be classed as a weapon should all be considered prohibited under article number 2, 10, 19 and 59[a] of the constitution.