Islam text books in Maldives breed hatred and fundamentalism, says NGO

Maldivian school text books, sermons and other published materials on Islam breed hatred and Islamic fundamentalism, says rights NGO, Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

The report, which is the first of its kind, analyzed text books used in Maldives for primary and secondary education in order to identify the prevalence of radical narratives in the mainstream academic discourse.

The report noted that the school text books cultivate anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and glorify Jihad or war against those who allegedly “obstruct” Islam.

All Maldivian students are required to take Islam as one of the four compulsory subjects, alongside Dhivehi, English and Mathematics from first grade through twelfth grade.

Islamic studies text books are prepared by specialists at the ministry of education and approved by the ministry of Islamic affairs.

The government is struggling to prevent an outflow of Maldivians seeking to join the civil wars in the Middle-East. The police in January said over 50 individuals have left the country, while the opposition puts the number at 200.

In addition to analyzing text books, the human rights NGO held public forums in several islands to ascertain whether the public view human rights and Islam to be compatible, and conducted interviews with Islamic ministry officials and heads of schools.

Glorifying jihad

In the eleventh grade Islamic studies text book, jihad is defined as “to endeavor greatly,” or “to bravely confront enemies,” and the definition is supported with verses from the Qur’an and prophetic verses or Hadith that stress the importance of a ‘Holy War.’

MDN noted that two whole pages of the book were dedicated to “fruits” of Jihad, claiming that the ultimate fruit of Jihad is martyrdom, for which the reward in Islam is an eternity in heaven.

The text book claims that Muslims who hesitate to perform this “obligatory religious duty have produced bitter results in the past and it will continue to do so if left undone.”

“These discussions fuel hatred an depict the religion as one that is set on building hegemony,” read the MDN report.

An autobiography of a Maldivian man, who was killed while waging Jihad at Syria posted by Bilad-al-Sham media group, claimed that many students studying at the main secondary school, Center of Higher Secondary Education, had chosen to engage in Jihad.

“Though it has a secular curriculum, so far from that very school has come out many shining stars in the path of Jihad and students whose hears filled with the love of Islam. Allah Akbar!” read the biography of Abu Dujanah, who reportedly died in battle in Syria in September 2014.

Us vs. Them

MDN noted that Islamic textbooks for grade one, two and three contain material instilling love for Islam and rarely incites hatred through xenophobic narratives.

“However, from grade four onwards the xenophobic material gradually increases to the point where the radical outweighs the moderate,” the report read.

In the grade five textbook, Jews are described as “devious people” who “do not hold any value to their promises”, leading to stereotyping and has made anti-Semitism the norm in the Maldives.

The text books also incite hate against pagan religions and other Abrahamic religions, and depicts all Islamic Sects expect the Sunni sect as “heresies.”

“For Instance, the grade nine text books dictates a lesson on “deceivers” or “liars” from the Muslim world or Ummah,” read the report.

The books describe the Ahmadiyya sect as a “plot by the British to destroy Islamic Unity,” and says Muslims educated in the West, or Muslims who speak for secularism are considered co-conspirators with the West to undermine Islam.

“Due to the prevalence of these radical ideas, the text books fail to primarily instill a positive interpretation of Islam that is manifested in the [2008] Maldivian Constitution,” concluded the report.

Meanwhile, the ninth grade text book appears to dismiss women’s rights and feminism as part of a ‘western agenda.”

The tenth grade textbook says “slaves must work tirelessly to fulfill their masters needs,” and the eleventh grade textbook outlines discriminatory penalties under Islamic penal provisions for victims of a crime if they are a slave or a non-believer.

“Such discriminatory and racialist attitudes in relation to religion should not be endorsed by educational literature in the modern world where slavery has been abolished,” the report read.

MDN recommends the removal of “discriminatory content” from school books in order to create tolerance and good will to all members of the globalized world.

The assessment was conducted with the assistance of Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives from December 2014 to March 2015.

 

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Rule of law, human rights “severely damaged” by Nasheed conviction, says MDN

The rule of law and human rights in the Maldives have been “severely damaged” by the Criminal Court’s sentencing of former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges, NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has said.

In a press release yesterday, MDN Executive Director Shahindha Ismail noted that Nasheed was denied legal representation despite repeated requests in every since hearing since March 9 when his legal team quit in protest of the court’s refusal to grant sufficient time to study the prosecution’s evidence and mount a defence.

“Should Nasheed appeal this decision, we strongly urge the higher courts to ensure that the blatant contraventions of human rights and fair trial standards by the Criminal Court are not condoned or accepted,” said Shahindha.

“We urge the Judiciary, together with other relevant institutions, including the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the Parliament, to act immediately to stop the backslide in the rule of law and human rights in Maldives, which has been severely damaged by yesterday’s verdict.”

She also pointed to several instances when judges answered for the prosecution and state witnesses during cross examination.

Moreover, MDN noted that the three-judge Criminal Court panel ruled that two of the judges did not have a conflict of interest in presiding over the case despite having provided witness statements during the investigation.

Nasheed was accused of ordering the military to arrest Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Shahindha meanwhole noted that two of the judges who refused to recuse themselves were “allegedly involved in the incident for which Nasheed was charged, and have been among the witnesses requested by Nasheed,” adding that Nasheed was also denied admission of witnesses to counter the prosecution’s case.

“The right to freedom of expression and media freedom, as well as the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, have also been suppressed in the context of the persecution of Nasheed,” MDN noted.

“On 8 March 2015, Rajje TV journalists were arrested and forced to delete the video footage after they videotaped an alleged meeting at a café in Malé between a presiding judge in the trial and the Prosecutor General. Key media outlets were also denied access to the courtroom during Nasheed’s trial. Over 50 Nasheed’s supporters have been arrested for protesting against the arrest and trial of Nasheed since his arrest on 22 February 2015. Many of them were released by the court on the condition that they do not attend a protest or rally for 60 days.”

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Respect Criminal Court verdict, says President Yameen

President Abdulla Yameen has called on all parties to respect the Criminal Court’s verdict against former President Mohamed Nasheed.

In a statement released by the President’s Office last night, President Yameen noted that the opposition leader has “a constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal” to challenge his conviction on terrorism charges at the High Court.

“The government calls on its international partners to engage constructively, based on mutual respect and dialogue in consolidating and strengthening democratic values and institutions in the country,” reads the brief statement.

“The government remains steadfast in ensuring the separation of powers as stipulated under the Maldivian constitution and upholding the rule of law in the country.”

In the wake of the Criminal Court sentencing the opposition leader to 13 years in jail on Friday night (March 13), the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union expressed concern with the lack of due process, while Amnesty International said Nasheed’s conviction “after a deeply flawed and politically motivated trial is a travesty of justice.”

Domestically, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives said the former president was denied fundamental rights that guarantee a fair trial in line with the Maldives’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Moreover, human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network urged the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges to intervene in order to prevent a “slide back to autocracy,” whilst Transparency Maldives expressed “grave concern” and stressed that Nasheed was denied legal representation, the right to appeal, and sufficient time to mount a defence.

However, President’s Office Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News yesterday that he believed the Criminal Court “would have afforded due process in the conduct of Nasheed’s trial.”

“If you study this case, from the beginning to the end, it is clear the charges are not politically motivated,” Muaz insisted.

President Yameen as head of state could not “interfere in judicial proceedings and is not to blame for court proceedings,” he said.

Intervention

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma released a statement yesterday noting that the intergovernmental organisation would continue to closely follow the judicial process after the verdict.

The Commonwealth urged restraint and advised peaceful resolution of “differences of view” through dialogue.

“The Foreign Minister of Maldives, Hon Dunya Maumoon, has made recent public comments welcoming constructive and close dialogue with international organisations,” the statement read.

The Commonwealth assured its commitment to working with the Maldives to address issues of concern.

“All societies should have the space and opportunity for dialogue in order to ensure that universally shared values are advanced, and to create a stable and harmonious future,” the statement continued.

“All societies should also have national institutions that enjoy the confidence, trust and respect of the people they serve. The Commonwealth is committed to offering practical support in a collaborative partnership to achieve these goals in an enduring way.”

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has meanwhile called on the UN to hold an emergency session on the situation in the Maldives.

The ACHR “urged the members of the UN Security Council to take necessary measures to seize assets and freeze accounts of President of Maldives Mr Abdulla Yameen, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon, Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin and the three judges overseeing Nasheed’s trial i.e. Abdulla Didi, Abdul Bari Yoousuf and Sujau Usman and other key officials of the regime, impose travel restrictions and trade embargo, and withhold financial assistance and technical cooperation to the Maldives until the release of Nasheed.”

“The trial is a travesty of justice – Judge [Abdulla Mohamed] who claims himself to have been illegally detained for which former President Nasheed was charged under terrorism charges still heads the Criminal Court trying Nasheed and effectively allowed his deputy, Judge Abdulla Didi, to convict Nasheed in a kangaroo trial. If the United Nations and international community fail to intervene now, democracy may never return to the Maldives,” said ACHR Director Suhas Chakma.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia) also condemned the verdict and noted that Nasheed was “never investigated for the fresh charges of terrorism before trial.”

“The trial of Nasheed was riddled with numerous violations of basic human rights and fair trial standards, and his conviction must be condemned. This is a clear case of political persecution and therefore the verdict is not surprising, considering the manner in which the court has conducted the trial,” said Forum-Asia Executive Director Evelyn Balais-Serrano.


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33 protesters barred from protests for 60 days

The Criminal Court has conditioned the release of 33 opposition protesters arrested last week on their staying home from further protests for 60 days.

Human Rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the move as unconstitutional, arguing the condition violated the right to freedom of assembly and expression.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Fayyaz Ismail was remanded for additional 15 days when he refused the Criminal Court’s condition on Saturday.

Supporters have commended Fayyaz’s “bravery,” and called on protesters to follow his example.

MDN Executive Director Shahindha Ismail said a fundamental right could only be limited by a law passed through the People’s Majlis.

“This is not a limitation of rights, but a violation of [the detainee’s] rights to assembly, expression, and free will,” she said.

“The Court can enforce conditions on detainees to ensure a person’s attendance in court. For example, having to obtain a permit from the court when travelling. However, they cannot place a condition asking them to not go to a protest,” she said.

According to the Maldives Police Services, a total of 77 individuals have been arrested from opposition protests since February 27. If individuals released with conditions are seen at protests, the police will take action, a spokesperson said.

The opposition continues to hold nightly protests demanding the release of former President Mohamed Nasheed, imprisoned ahead of a trial on terrorism charges over the military detention of Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

The opposition leader has denied ordering the judge’s arrest. If convicted, he faces a jail term or banishment between ten and 15 years.

The MDP in February allied with former ruling coalition partner Jumhooree Party (JP) against what they call President Abdulla Yameen’s repeated breaches of the Constitution.

Nasheed was arrested on Februrary 22 after Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin alleged he may abscond from the unannounced terrorism trial scheduled for the next day.

Police arrested 26 individuals on March 6 alone. In addition to Fayyaz, MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz and former MP Ilyas Labeeb were arrested.

Two journalists from Villa TV and CNM were also briefly detained for allegedly obstructing police duties.

Of the 26 arrested, 21 were brought for remand hearings the next day. The Criminal Court released 18 on the condition they do not participate in further protests.

Shahindha, who also served as the President of the Police Integrity Commission from 2009 to 2012, accused police of using disproportionate force in making arrests, using pepper spray at close range and verbal abuse.

“This is not humane treatment at all, and should not be allowed. The police are reverting back to old times by being brutal and forceful,” she said.

The former police integrity commissioner also expressed concern at reports of police officers refusing to use any identification at protests.

“The alleged reasoning behind this is to prevent personal attacks against individual officers,” said Shahindha. “But there should be some sort of identity on the individuals so independent commissions will be able to hold them accountable, even if it’s a number code.”

She also claimed police were setting up barricades and closing down streets at random. Barricades had been set up outside of green zones in which protests are prohibited.

The police have banned protests near the Malé City Hall until March 15, claiming businesses in the area had been complaining over protesters allegedly disrupting business.

The PIC and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) must investigate alleged violations, Shahindha said.


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Police regulations do not adequately protect constitutional rights, says MDN report

Current policing regulations do not adequately address and protect the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, says the Maldivian Democratic Network (MDN).

After reviewing the relevant laws, MDN’s ‘Review of the legal framework of Maldives Police Service’ found “worrying signs of an erosion of the democratic policing framework enshrined in the Constitution”.

“The police are being vested with greater powers and discretion without the prerequisite checks,” read the report released yesterday. “Alarmingly, these dangerous trends are being written into law.”

Speaking at the launch ceremony yesterday, Deyvika Prasad from the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) did note that, even though there are problems with the Maldives’ police regulations, it was good to have such procedures in place.

Prasad said that the Maldives was the first in the South Asian region to come up with a policing strategic action plan, and that the 2008 Maldives Police Act is the only national police legislation in the region which is not a colonial-era Police Act.

The review’s stated intention is to “identify legal gaps” within the current legal framework to ensure compatibility with both the Constitution and international standards.

It noted that as the police regulation came only three months after the ratification of the new constitution in 2008, “there was a lack of practice or practical experience among the law enforcement agencies relating to implementation of these procedural rights and the boundaries of such rights”.

Among the issues described in the report, the procedures in the police regulation regarding the powers to arrest and detain without a court warrant were called “highly problematic” and in contradiction to Articles 46 and 49 of the Constitution.

The NGO recommended that regulations be reviewed and rewritten in order to “ensure safeguards in the constitution are maintained”, and to review the provisions relating to arrests and detention in light of the Supreme Court’s decisions and relevant interpretations provided by the judiciary.

MDN Executive Director and former President of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) Shahinda Ismail said the report had been compiled after consultations with various stakeholders including the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives, Transparency Maldives, and the UNDP.

The Maldives Police Services and the Police Integrity Commission had been invited to participate in the consultations but the MPS did not respond to the invitations while the PIC declined to take part.

Police earlier this year labelled a report published by MDN into the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan “politically motivated” and “irresponsible”.

The review was produced as part of the police reform project by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) conducted in South Asia. Former Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu’s law firm Muizzu and Co LLP acted as the local consultation for the review.



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Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon resigns

Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon has given her letter of resignation to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), reports Haveeru.

Shujoon, a founding member of Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), was recently re-elected to UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.

Earlier this month, the seven member Civil Court bench condemned the removal of two Supreme Court Judges, including the chief justice, saying the JSC was “forced” to deem the two judges unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

A subsequent case challenging the decision was removed from the Civil Court’s jurisdiction by the Supreme Court.

In February, JSC launched an investigation into Shujoon after she announced on state television that she was once offered a US$5 million bribe, which she refused.

Source: Haveeru; Sun Online

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28-year-old man stabbed to death in gang-related violence

A 28-year-old was stabbed to death in the capital Malé in the early hours of this morning (December 7) near the People’s Majlis.

Local media identified the man as Ahmed Mafaz also known as ‘Masodi Mafaa’ from Seenu Maradhoo Island. Haveeru reported Mafaz as belonging to the Masodi gang.

A Maldives Police Service (MPS) media statement read that Mafaz died at ADK hospital while being given emergency treatment for numerous stab wounds including fatal cuts in his neck and shoulders.

An MPS official told Minivan News that the stabbing case was reported to the police at around 1.45am and that the police officers at the scene took Mafaz to the hospital after stopping a taxi on the street.

An eyewitness told online news outlet Vaguthu that he saw two men stabbing and beating up Mafaz near the Alora furniture store while another group of people wielding machetes and other sharp weapons were banging on door of  a building used by the Masodi gang’s nearby, threatening to kill everyone inside.

Haveeru commented that the injuries appeared to be even more severe than those inflicted upon Ungoofaaru MP Dr Afrasheem Ali, whose brutal murder shocked the Maldives in October 2012.

In a tweet today, former President Mohamed Nasheed accused the President Abdulla Yameen’s government of failing to investigate violent crimes.

“Over 20 cases of knife attacks and 7 murdered in such attacks this year. President Yamin’s Govt has failed to investigate these crimes,” read the tweet

While speaking at a rally held to celebrate the first anniversary of the current government, President Yameen said that his administration has established peace and order in the country.

“We have peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives. We have peace. However, this is not to say that isolated and significant dangerous crimes do not occur,” said President Yameen.

“Saving the Maldives from these big atrocities is the biggest aim of this government,” he added.

He also pledged to implement the death penalty – reintroduced under his government – for the sake of human rights and dignity.

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over rising insecurity while claiming that the current administration has failed to protect right to life and security during its first year in office.

The MDP highlighted Yameen’s failure to find missing Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan. An investigation into the disappearance by a UK based private investigation firm concluded that radicalised gangs were the most likely suspects in his disappearance.

Meanwhile, ruling Progressive Party of Maldives have submitted amendments to the law prohibiting possession of dangerous weapons – a move which some civil society groups say violates constitutional rights such as the right to remain silent and to retain legal counsel.

A joint statement by Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) urged the parliament to withhold from passing the amendments saying that it would “absolutely violate rather than limit fundamental rights of the people”.

The amendment bill states that suspects arrested for assault with sharp objects or dangerous weapons will not be able to exercise the right to remain silent “to any extent”.

Police could also question the suspect if he or she is either unable to have an attorney present within six hours, or waives the right to retain legal counsel.

Moreover, the suspect could only consult a lawyer in the presence of a police officer for the first 96 hours after the arrest.

The government’s intention to narrow constitutional rights came after a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said were a series of gang reprisals.

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Suspect in Rilwan’s disappearance released from house arrest

The Criminal Court has released the last remaining suspect related to the disappearance of Minivan News journalist Ahmed Rilwan from house arrest (December 1).

A police media official told Minivan News that the suspect was released after the criminal court deemed it was unnecessary to keep him under house arrest any longer.

The suspect was kept under house arrest in relation to what is believed to have been an abduction at knife-point from outside Rilwan’s Hulhumalé apartment on the night of August 8.

Rilwan’s family and local NGO Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) have filed two separate cases at the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) accusing the police of negligence in the investigation.

An MDN commissioned private investigation by a UK based security firm outlined several lines of inquiry into the disappearance with pointing out radicalised gang related abduction as the most likely explanation for the disappearance.

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Civil society groups condemn proposed restrictions to constitutional rights

Civil society groups have condemned proposed amendments to the law prohibiting possession of dangerous weapons, which would restrict the rights to remain silent and to retain legal counsel

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) have urged parliament to withhold from passing the amendments.

A joint press statement by the two organisations stated their belief that the amendments to the 2010 law “absolutely violates rather than limits fundamental rights of the people” and that, if passed, “will seriously hinder the democratic system Maldives has transited to”.

The statement also expressed concerns that the amendments’ use of the phrase ‘..although the Constitution states such..’ appears to bring in laws above the Constitution, opening space for similar amendments to be made which also violate the Constitution.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil revealed the government’s intention to narrow constitutional rights at a press conference in October after a spate of violent assaults in the capital – which police said were a series of gang reprisals – saw three young men stabbed to death.

While presenting the amendments to the Peoples Majlis earlier this month, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ibrahim Didi said special measures were needed to curb increasing violent assaults, to ease the public’s fears and anxiety, and to establish public order and safety.

The amendments bill states that suspects arrested for assault with sharp objects or dangerous weapons will not be able to exercise the right to remain silent “to any extent”.

Police could also question the suspect if he or she is either unable to have an attorney present within six hours, or waives the right to retain legal counsel.

Moreover, the suspect could only consult a lawyer in the presence of a police officer for the first 96 hours after the arrest.

MDN and CHRI argued that such amendments would eventually result in the “subversion of the Constitution”. Opposition MPs have also described the changes as unconstitutional, suggesting that the government was blaming a lack of legislation for its own failure to curb violent crime.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy has said that the actual obstacle to securing convictions for violent crimes was “incompetency and corruption within the criminal justice system”.

The MDP has condemned the growing insecurity within the country after the current government’s failure to adequately address public fears following a rise in violent crimes.

However, President Abdulla Yameen said that his administration has achieved “peace and order in Malé and all regions of Maldives” while acknowledging that “isolated and significant” dangerous crimes do occur.

Speaking at a PPM rally this month, President Yameen reiterated the government’s resolve to implement the death penalty for the sake of human rights and dignity.

“I want to say tonight as well in your presence, this government will have no mercy at all for those who slaughter Maldivian citizens with no mercy,” said Yameen at the ‘Successful 365 Days’ event held in Malé on November 21.

While speaking at a seminar on strengthening the criminal justice system yesterday (November 30), Vice President Mohamed Jameel – formerly justice minister under the presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – said that the hands of investigating officers were tied by the Constitution.

“The changes we brought to our legal system are very good. They are very complete. However, they have not been implemented in a very good manner,” Sun Online reported Jameel as saying.

“In completing the desired results of those changes, many have been negligent, and the society is becoming frustrated as a result. The people have begun questioning about the reliability of laws and the protection that should be guaranteed by a judicial system.”



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