Akon arrives in the Maldives

American R&B artist Akon has arrived in the Maldives this morning to perform tonight in the second show of the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Music Festival’ upon the invitation of Tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Minister Adeeb and event organisers Chopart received Akon at the airport alongside a team of youth leaders who had shown support for Akon’s concert amid continuing opposition to the show from religious leaders.

Haveeru reported Akon as asking his fans to “get ready to party” before coming to the show, assuring a good time for all who attend.

Akon’s performance was announced during the ‘Tourist Arrival Countdown Show’ on December 31, which eventually featured a host of Indian artists after the cancellation of Sean Paul’s performance.

Adeeb also confirmed yesterday (January 7) that Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra will appear alongside Akon in tonight’s show. Priyanka is due to arrive sometime this evening.

In 2010, a show featuring Akon was organised before organisers cancelled, citing a lack of technical support and security. As with the Sean Paul concert, both the Islamic ministry and local religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf had spoken out against the show.


Jamiyyathul Salaf ask PPM and JP not to use its religious sermon except for religious purposes

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has today said that the NGO had received information that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhoory Party (JP) coalition was using the recent lecture delivered by Salaf’s lecturer Sheikh Adam Shameem, against the purpose of the lecture.

The NGO said that the lecture and the name of the NGO was not to be used for anything other than its actual purpose, which was to remind the people to be careful of those trying to destroy the independence and Islam in the country, and to remind the people not to let those people achieve their goal.

Salaf said the NGO appeals to the members and leadership of PPM and Jumhoory Party and the coalition of parties aligned with JP not to use the NGO’s sermons and name for any other purpose.

Jamiyyathul Salaf also stated that the NGO is not affiliated with any political party and that the NGO is an independent civil NGO.

The NGO said that it could not stop the way people feel about a sermon delivered and also that sermons being an advantage or disadvantage for political parties was not an excuse to stop the NGO from fulfilling its responsibilities.

Salaf said that the NGO does not consider the timing when holding their religious events.

Meanwhile, yesterday Salaf issued a statement accusing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of misleading the public over the purpose of the sermon ‘Andalus’, as the sermon was “receiving huge support from the public”.

On September 18, The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation chairman along with members of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were summoned before the Independent Institutions Committee’s sub-committee  following complaints by MDP MPs that the sermon by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told the Independent Commmission’s sub-committee that the live feed of the sermon was cut off around 11:35pm that night after the editorial team noticed that the sermon was heading to a direction which was not its original objective.

The sub-committee decided to forward the issue to the Independent Institutions Committee.

In December 2010, Salaf called on the then-government to “provide military training to all Muslim Maldivians and familiarise citizens with the use of modern weaponry” before “Jews take over the country”, days before a controversial visit by a team of Isreali surgeons to offer free-of-charge eye camps in Male’, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo and Addu Atoll Hithadhoo.


MDP condemns Salaf preacher’s insinuation of party’s involvement in Dr Afrasheem’s murder

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has condemned insinuations by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim suggesting that the party was behind the brutal murder of moderate scholar and MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

The MDP in a press release on Wednesday (September 18) expressed concern with what it contended was the Salaf preacher’s “incitement of hatred among the public with the intention of influencing the [presidential] election.”

“We assert resolutely that the party had no involvement whatsoever in the brutal murder of late Dr Afrasheem Ali,” the press release stated.

“The party calls upon all parties not to use such a tragic atrocity in the name of religion and out of political rivalry in efforts to mislead the public.”

The MDP warned that NGOs “sowing discord in society for the undue political benefit of another party” could see the “increasing freedom of expression, economic development and civilisation of the present turn into the brutality and fear of the past.”

A religious sermon titled “Andalus” organised by Salaf – attended by senior members of the Adhaalath Party – was broadcast live on all local television channels except the MDP-aligned Raajje TV on Tuesday night. The MDP has since contended that Sheikh Shameem’s sermon amounted to negative campaigning against its candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In his lengthy sermon, the Salaf preacher criticised the MDP’s guest house policy and youth policy and accused the party of planning to introduce religious freedom in the Maldives. Sheikh Shameem also claimed that the 800-year-old Islamic faith of Maldivians was under threat and attempted to draw parallels between the Islamic empire’s loss of Andalus in the fifteenth century and present day Maldives.

Meanwhile, speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) rally last night (September 18), former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reportedly said that the PPM and Salaf shared the same ideology and claimed the NGO would participate in the party’s campaign activities after endorsing PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen.

The late Dr Afrasheem

Dr Afrasheem Ali was found stabbed to death near the stairwell of his residence in Male’ on October 1, 2012. Soon thereafter, police arrested two MDP activists – Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim ‘Smith’ – in connection with the murder. Both suspects were however released without charge.

The MDP at the time accused the government of attempting to frame the party with “politically-motivated arrests” of its members. In November 2012, former President Mohamed Nasheed accused the government of negligence in its efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

On the night of his murder, Dr Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talk show on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) titled “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).

In the programme, Dr Afrasheem said he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception in their minds due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was meanwhile quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Dr Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything in his last television appearance.

Dr Afrasheem’s moderate positions on subjects such as listening to music had drawn stringent criticism from more conservative religious elements, who dubbed him “Dr Ibilees” (“Dr Satan”).

In 2008, the scholar was kicked and chased outside a mosque after Friday prayers, while more recently in May 2012, the religious Adhaalath Party released a statement condemning Afrasheem for allegedly “mocking the Sunnah”.

NGO Salaf had meanwhile released at least a dozen statements against the late Dr Afrasheem at the time of his death. In a three-page press release (Dhivehi) on July 10, 2008, Salaf listed Dr Afrasheem’s alleged transgressions and advised the moderate religious scholar to “fear Allah, stop talking any way you please of things you do not know of in the name of religion and [stop] twisting [Islamic] judgments to suit your personal wishes”.

The NGO also called on the public not to listen to “any religious fatwa or any religious talk” from the scholar.

MDP and Islam

The MDP press statement meanwhile reiterated that the party would protect Islam and not allow other religions to be introduced to the Maldives.

Referring to its track record in government, the party noted that a Ministry of Islamic Affairs was established for the first time in the country by the MDP government upon taking office in November 2008.

Local scholars were allowed the freedom for the first time to preach and conduct sermons and lectures, the press release continued, while 42 mosques as well as a number of prayer rooms in schools were built and 150 Islamic teachers were trained during the MDP’s three years in government.

It added that the National University’s faculty of shariah and law was strengthened with foreign assistance and a new government-funded building was constructed for Arabiyya School in Male’ by the MDP government.

An Islamic Bank was opened in the Maldives in March 2011 with MVR 22 million (US$1.4 million) spent out of the state budget in 2010 together with an investment of MVR 127 million (US$8.2 million) secured by the MDP government from the Islamic Development Bank, the press release noted.

Moreover, the MDP government began state-funded annual symposiums for local scholars to facilitate academic discussions of pressing religious and social issues, the press release stated.

“We note with pride that as a result of these measures, the stature of religious scholars in society was raised and opportunities opened up for scholars to be academically active and serve at a national level,” the MDP said.

The party’s 2013 manifesto meanwhile includes the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” in Male’ for MVR 200 million (US$13 million) that would include a library, lecture halls and a mosque with a capacity 5,000 worshippers.

Among other policies for the next five years include conducting an international Islamic conference in the Maldives at an estimated cost of MVR 25 million (US$1.6 million) with the participation of renowned foreign scholars, training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, and allocating MVR 36 million (US$2.3 million) for renovating mosques across the country.

“We note that all these projects are costed and budgeted and the manifesto includes details for implementation,” the press release stated.


Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf recommends beheading, firing squad over lethal injection

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor to amend the government’s draft bill on the implementation of death penalty, urging that convicts be beheaded or shot instead of given lethal injection.

In letter to the AG proposing its recommendations for the bill, Salaf explained that by beheading the convicted murderer, the pain he endured would be reduced while the heirs of the victim would still receive satisfaction.

Salaf argued that Islamic history had precedents for this form of execution, while the purpose of Qisas – an Islamic legal term for equal retaliation which follows the principle of Lex talionis (‘an eye for an eye’) – would be achieved if it acted as a deterrent to others from committing such crimes.

Salaf also expressed support for the execution of convicts through firing squad, noting that scholars of Islamic jurisprudence had spoken in favour of the method.

The Attorney General in 2012 announced that the government had drafted a bill on implementing the death penalty through lethal injection, and presented it to the public for comment.

Salaf disputed the reliability of this method, contending that such injections have been proved ineffective in executing a convict within a single needle.

The NGO argued that due to the West’s opposing stance towards death penalty, the Maldives could face difficulties and restrictions in receiving stocks of lethal injections, which would be a “perfect excuse for any president who does not wish to enforce the death penalty”.

“If that is the case, it is a huge injustice to society. It is very dangerous that the current draft paves way for one government to execute it while another can make excuses to not execute it. It is unacceptable. Even today, convicts in several countries are still un-executed because of the non-availability of such injections,” Salaf said.

Salaf also proposed several other recommendations including barring intoxication as a legal defence for the crime of murder, meaning that even involuntary intoxication would not commute a convict from facing the death penalty. Salaf argued that if intoxication could be considered a defense, the purpose of implementing death penalty would be undermined as an accused could always misuse the defense of intoxication to avoid execution.

The current draft bill stipulates that the death penalty should be given to a convict who has murdered someone while in possession of his senses and conscience. In theory, a murder committed while under the influence of a substance will therefore not attract the death penalty.

Salaf also recommended that the current position of the bill on minors should be abolished and that even minors should face execution as soon as the final verdict is made.

Currently the bill stipulates that should a convict who is a minor, pregnant or in a critical medical condition be found guilty of murder, the execution shall be delayed.

Among other recommendations, Salaf proposed amendments to the number of judges that should hear a case concerning death penalty.

Salaf proposed that at a lower court level, the case should be heard by a panel of three judges, while a four member panel should hear such a case at the High Court and a five member panel at Supreme Court level.

Salaf also urged that such cases concerning the death penalty must be heard by male judges only. The NGO also recommended that a clause be included in which before the execution the convict should be given the opportunity to repent and carry out a short prayer.

According to current stipulations in the bill, a suspect found guilty of murder should also be provided with the opportunity to meet his family on the day of execution and say their last farewell.

Salaf in its recommendations called upon the attorney general to remove the clause in the draft bill giving the President the power to commute any death penalty sentence to a life imprisonment sentence, claiming that such a clause defeated the overall purpose of the bill.

Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office has said that it has looked to procedures followed by Egypt, Malaysia and the US in carrying out the death sentence, while also obtaining the opinions of religious scholars and lawyers.

Push for the death penalty

In October last year, the government announced its intention to introduce a bill in the People’s Majlis to guide and govern the implementation of the death penalty in the country.

“It is currently a punishment passed by the judiciary and a form of punishment available within the penal system of the Maldives,” said Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel at the time.

“But for full guidance and matters governing the matter, legislation is required,” he added.

The last person to be judicially executed in the Maldives was Hakim Didi, who was executed by firing squad in 1953 after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder using black magic.

Statistics show that from January 2001 to December 2010, a total of 14 people were sentenced to death by Maldivian courts.

However, in all cases, the president at the time has commuted these verdicts to life sentences.

Speaking to Minivan News, President of Jamiyyathul Salaf Abdulla Mohamed stated that the current bill by the attorney general was “incomplete” as it had only focused on death penalty, and said that the principle of Qiasas was much broader.

“For instance, the bill does not give a remedy to the victims who are subjected to assault and other bodily harm. They should also get a legal remedy. However the bill is more focused on death penalty,” he said.

Asked if the NGO was of the view that victims could get a fair trial, given the present concerns raised over the impartiality and competency of the Maldivian judiciary, Abdulla Mohamed said the NGO had proposed recommendations to the judiciary on the issue.

“We have previously sent recommendations to the authorities concerning the state of judiciary. We have clearly highlighted the necessary qualifications and standards that a judge should have,” he said.

However, he rejected claims made by critics of judiciary that the judiciary was unprepared to implement death penalty, stating that it was just a “mere excuse” to avoid the laws of Allah prescribed in Sharia’ law.

“There are other laws passed such as the law against the abuse of women and several other laws where the authorities make efforts to ensure they are enforced and that justice is delivered. Why can’t it be the same in a law that lays down the principles of Islamic Sharia’?” he questioned.

He further said that Islamic Criminal Law was very broad and very detailed, such that there are several conditions and requirements that have to be fulfilled before giving a punishment.

“The purpose of death penalty in Islam is to ensure that the orders of Allah are followed. It is an obligation to all of us as Muslims. Secondly, Islam greatly values a human being’s right to life. No one has the right to take the other person’s life. If he does so, he has to be punished,” he stated.

However the death penalty does not always mean one has to be executed, he explained. There are alternatives, as if even one heir decides to forgive the convict, he cannot be executed. Similarly, it is up to the heirs to demand blood money instead of the death penalty, and that even blood money can be forgiven if the heirs wish to do so.

Speaking to Minivan News previously, former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed has identified the “pathetic state of the [Maldives] judiciary” as one of the key human rights concerns he believed needed to be addressed in the country.

“[The judiciary] is not only corrupt, but also coming under the influence of radical Islam, even to the extent of violating codified laws of the Maldives and clear international obligations,” Dr Shaheed claimed.

“Disregard for rule of law has also meant that a culture of impunity is deeply entrenched, rendering many of the human rights of the people meaningless.”


Salaf calls for “new regulations” to protect Islam

Local religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has called on the parliament to enact stronger regulations to protect Islam, beyond the the Religious Unity Act.

In a statement issued today Salaf claimed there were regulations protecting sea turtles, whales, birds, lagoons and the environment, but no adequate regulations that protected Islam as such.

Salaf claimed that the new Religious Unity Regulations allowed “anyone to play with the faith of Maldivians, any way they want to.”

The NGO accused the government of pressuring and threatening Salaf when Salaf once asked Home Ministry, Islamic Ministry and the parliament to investigate some persons that have violated the Religious Unity Regulation.

Salaf also claimed that Ali Ahsan, the developer of  the website promoting Friday’s protest, was arrested under the Religious Unity Regulations.

An Islamic Conference due to be held at Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, organised by the Foreign Ministry and the Islamic Ministry, was questionable, Salaf said in the statement, alleging that article 22 of the regulation allowing for the deportation of missionaries was deleted before it was published in the gazette.

Salaf this week declined an invitation from President Mohamed Nasheed to meet and discuss their concerns.

In its statement, Salaf accused President Nasheed of pardoning “Christian missionaries” deported by the former government, and attached a list of names and passport numbers of individuals blacklisted by former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Foreign Minister under both governments, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, has previously told Minivan News that allegations of proselytising against foreigners were often “political charges” deployed by the former President, and had reached “saturation point”.

“There is this very, very deep reaction to anything un-Islamic in this country, and you can use Islam as a political tool quite easily,” he told Minivan News in June, following his appointment as UN Special Rapporteur on Iran.

“But I think people are getting fed up with it – you can see the reactions in the press to my appointment as special rapporteur. DRP MP Mahlouf said it was a Zionist conspiracy and a trade-off for favours done to Israel on my part. These things ring hollow the more you say them. They become cliche.”

At the height of the heated election rally in October 2008, the former government “mischievously suggested” that Salisbury Cathedral in the UK was conspiring to blow up the Islamic Centre in Male’ and build a church.

Salisbury Cathedral subsequently denied the allegation.


PIC asks police to “stay within guidelines” when handling protest

The Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has asked the police “not to be biased” in handling the separate protests to be held this Friday by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and religious organisations and opposition parties.

The PIC statement reminded the police that they are required under law to protect every Maldivian citizen and their property, while maintaining peace and harmony.

“Therefore, the commission reminds the police of its responsibilities in monitoring the protests to be held on December 23 and asks not to be biased in upholding the Maldives constitution and the laws,” the statement read.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said “police are closely monitoring everything related to the protests and will manage the events as necessary. Police will act according to the situation.”

Minivan News observed that the PIC is mandated to investigate complaints regarding the police. However, it was unable to clarify if the body was mandated to issue cautions and requests in advance of an event.

Shiyam said the police did not feel obligated to comply with PIC advance directives. “No, the statement has not altered our operations,” he said.

The commission has also urged protest organisers to preserve the social harmony in the country and protect each others’ rights.

A relatively new independent organisation, the PIC lately reported an increase in public awareness of its services.

Speaking to Minivan News at UNDP’s “Did You Know?” event on November 26, PIC member Dr Hala Hameed said, “We are getting more reports of police misconduct than previously.”

Hameed stressed that the PIC supports the police as well as the community. “We are here to empower the police and ensure that they have the appropriate resources to do their work, as well as oversee their operations.” She explained that the public believed independent bodies were likely to be effective.

The PIC has been involved in the build-up to the protests since November when the Islamic Ministry deemed the Addu SAARC monuments unconstitutional.

Two days prior to the UNDP event religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf sent a letter to the PIC demanding it investigate and take action against police for protecting the ‘idolatrous’ SAARC monuments in Addu, which it considered unconstitutional.

A police spokesperson subsequently said police were not protecting any “idols”.

“Those were properties of other nations and police are legally obliged to protect people’s property,’’ he said.

Religious organisations including Adhaalath party are gearing up for a protest to ‘defend Islam’ on Friday, December 23. Ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) currently plans to hold a defensive protest on the same date. Some politicians have requested that MDP step down from its protest to avoid unnecessary clashes.

PIC Director Shahinda Ismail did not respond to inquiries at time of press.


Salaf asks PIC to take action against police for protecting ‘idols’

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has sent a letter to the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) demanding it investigate and take action against police for protecting the ‘idolatrous’ SAARC monuments in Addu.

In its letter, Jamiyyathul Salaf noted that Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari had declared that the SAARC monuments kept in Addu were un-Islamic and unconstitutional.

Salaf said that after the Islamic Minister publicly revealed his stand on the issue, police had worked to protect the monuments and said that it showed that police “have no respect for the laws.”

Salaf claimed that some police officers had refused to go out and protect the monuments, and that those police officers were threatened and forced to protect the monuments.

In the letter Salaf also said that the police were aware that the idolatrous monuments were banned in the Maldives by more than one article of the law.

A police spokesperson today told Minivan News that police were not protecting any “idols” but was active in some parts of Addu to control possible unrest.

‘’Those were properties of other nations and police are legally obliged to protect people’s property,’’ he said.

When the SAARC Summit was held in Addu, each member state left a symbol of their nation in Addu City. Some of the monuments were determined by religious groups and the Islamic Minister as un-Islamic.

The monument from Pakistan representing the Indus Valley Civilization and Sri Lankan monument representing its nation’s lion were attacked. Some parts of the Pakistan monument were stolen and later replaced.

Opposition Adhaalath Party and Progressive Party of the Maldives [PPM] heavily criticized the government for keeping the monuments in Addu and claimed that the monuments cannot be kept in the Maldives according to the laws.

PPM Council members recently reported the Maldives Customs Department to police for allowing the monuments to be imported to the country.

The Islamic Minister recently asked the President’s Office and other institutions to remove the monuments.


Taxing property is “haram” in Islam, claims Salaf NGO

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has claimed that imposing taxes on a Muslim’s property without his or her consent is haram (forbidden) in Islam.

“Without doubt, using a person’s property or profiting from the property without the consent of the owner is haram in Islam,” the NGO said today in a press release. “Only the compulsory Zakat (alms for the poor) portion can be taxed from a Muslim’s property.”

Salaf cited Surah 2:188: “And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].’’

In addition, the Salaf press statement referred to Prophet Mohamed’s (pbuh) final sermon, in which he said, “O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.  Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners.”

Salaf noted that Islam protected personal property “to an extent that is not found in any other religion.”

The religious NGO contended that “formulating a law and taking people’s property whatever name it is done under is for a certainty haram.”

“Jamiyyathul Salaf would remind the Speaker of Parliament and all MPs that those who formulate such laws and those who assist them will without a doubt have to bear responsibility before Almighty Allah,” the Salaf statement warned.

It adds that there is consensus in the Islamic ummah (community) that “stealing property by compulsion with laws on taxes, duties and pension imposed on a Muslim’s property is definitely haram.”

Salaf warned that those who claimed personal property “for entertainment or as a sport” would face their old age with “no one to care for them.”

If the state believed that there was no other way to manage its finances but to “take taxes and duties from the halal income of Muslim citizens,” Salaf said that it implied “corruption and a failed economic policy” and was the sign of “a philosophy of enslavement.”

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair observed that there were many civilised Muslim nations that had introduced direct taxation as well as import duties.

“Salaf should refer to the parliament on this issue, because the parliament cannot make any law against the tenets of Islam,” Zuhair suggested. “I believe that parliamentarians will keep to the tenets of Islam in drafting any law.”

Zuhair added that as Islam was the most modern of the three monotheistic religions, he did not believe taxation could be haram.


Salaf to take youth on ‘Hijra’ to distance them from sin

Religious NGO Jamiyyathulsalaf is offering youth the opportunity of a two day ‘Hijra’ to distance themselves from sin and form closer relations with religion.

‘Hijra’, a religious camping retreat on the island of Thinadhoo in Vaavu Atoll from November 18-20 where, for the price of Rf300 (US$32), participants can ‘move away from sin’.

Salaf said priority will be given to those who are at ‘beginner’s level’ in their religious education and, or, are experiencing doubts about their belief.

Successful applicants will be instructed in religious teachings by scholar Skeikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim and will also be encouraged to form close friendships and foster a spirit of brotherhood.

‘’As the camp will be held for two days, having fun and playing different games will also be a part of it”. The fun and games will be organised according to religious teachings, Salaf said.

Participants will also have the opportunity to take part in some serious religious education through lessons and sermons.

“Moving away from sin”, is the slogan of the camp. Hijra refers to the migration of Prophet Mohamed from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE to escape persecution and found the first Islamic state.