Mahlouf accuses Maldives history website of promoting other religions

Undersecretary at the President’s Office Fareesha Abdulla has said she intends to file a defamation case against Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Mahlouf, after he appeared on DhiTV’s ‘Habaru Therein’ (In The News) and accused her of trying to introduce other religions to the Maldives.

“I have asked the Maldives Police Service on January 11, 2012 to investigate this case,” Fareesha said in a statement.

Mahlouf told Minivan News today that “Fareesha, and her husband, I think he’s a foreigner, run a website called Maldives Culture promoting other religions in Dhivehi.”

“Her husband was [previously] deported and Fareesha stayed away from the Maldives for a long time. Under this government, she is now working in the President’s office,” Mahlouf said.

Maldives Culture is a website run by Fareesha and her husband Michael O’Shea, containing English translations of documents about the history, culture and society of the Maldives.

“There’s no Dhivehi in the site – it’s all in English,” Fareesha said. “There’s nothing about other religions, and Michael was never deported.”

Fareesha told Minivan News that while she could laugh off Mahlouf’s allegations, “they have serious ramifications for me. He is a member of the Majlis and people do trust what he says – they may not check the truth for themselves. I am concerned for my physical safety – I may not be able to walk on the streets without being attacked.”

Mahlouf meanwhile claimed that the government was using the police “to try and stop us talking.”

“There’s no way they can stop us,” he said.

Documents available on Maldives Culture cover topics ranging from Maldivian art, history, social customs to historic photographs and maps of the Maldives, and a Dhivehi-English dictionary.

The site also includes translations of the works of famous explorers who visited the Maldives throughout its history, including the Ibn Battuta, François Pyrard de Laval and HCP Bell.


Maldivian arrested in Hong Kong for murder of 64 year-old retired missionary

A 29 year-old Maldivian man identified as ‘Fareed’ has been arrested in Hong Kong for the alleged murder of a 64 year-old British woman.

The Hong Kong Standard reported that police discovered the body of Janet Gilson inside a sofa in a flat belonging to her niece, Julia Fareed, the estranged wife of the murder suspect.

The Standard reported that the suspect had a history of violence and had been banned from approaching his ex-wife following their divorce.

The South China Post reported that the couple met while she was working in the Maldives.

The suspect was arrested by police on Hong Kong pier after finding Gilson’s body during a second search of the flat after she went missing on March 15, 10 days after arriving in Hong Kong. The body was reported to have severe head injuries.

Local media in the UK reported that Gilson was a long-serving Major in the British branch of the Salvation Army, an international Christian institution with a quasi-military structure known for its charitable work and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts, and had worked for 40 years as a Christian missionary.

“She had stopped the missionary work but she was still active and in a very high position [in the Salvation Army],” Gilson’s neighbour in her home of Leigh-on-Sea told local media.

Gilson’s niece, who reportedly has a three year-old daughter, told the UK press that her murdered aunt “was like a second mother to me”.

The Maldives Foreign Ministry confirmed it had received information regarding the incident, and that the country’s embassy in Beijing was looking into the matter. No motive for the killing had been identified, the Ministry said.


Salaf sends immigration list of alleged missionaries deported by former government

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has sent a letter addressed to the Immigration Controller requesting further information on expats who were deported during the previous administration, most of them for alleged missionary activity.

In their letter, Salaf requested the immigration department clarify why some of the deported alleged missionaries were missing from the immigration’s black list, and asked the department to clarify whether the issue was acted upon and when the deported expats were removed from the black list.

The letter, published by Salaf on its website, contained names of people “most of whom were deported for alleged missionary  activity,’’ claimed the NGO’s president Abdulla Bin Mohamed Ibrahim.

“We confirmed the names and the information we have, it is from very relevant sources,’’ said Abdulla. “They were deported by the previous government and we want to know why they were removed from the black list, and when they were removed from the list.’’

Immigration Controller Ilyas Ibrahim said it was the power and duty of the immigration to look after such matters, and that Salaf was “not in a position to raise questions over the department’s duties and responsibilities.”

”They can go to the courts if they wish,” said Ilyas. ”No person on our watch list will enter the country, and if we allow them in, it means that either their deportation period is over or they were granted clemency.”

He repeated that no person on the immigration department watch list would enter the country.


Alleged missionary departs with four Maldivians

Daily news paper Miadhu has reported that an alleged missionary named ‘Thomas’, has left the Maldives along with other four Maldivians who allegedly supported Christianity.

The newspaper reported that Thomas, during his times of stay in the Maldives, met with some Maldivians who supported Christianity.

“Anti-Islamic work is becoming widespread and people are concerned that it may spread further unless the responsible sources do enough to prevent it,” Miadhu said.

Miadhu reported that missionary activities are now “widely conducted” in the Maldives.

Correction: A previous version of this article translated Miadhu’s article as saying that “many people are concerned that religious unity among Maldivians is becoming weak”. Miadhu informed Minivan News that a more accurate translation is: “Anti-Islamic work is becoming widespread and people are concerned that it may spread further unless the responsible sources do enough to prevent it.”


Four expats arrested for missionary activity

Four expatriates were arrested yesterday for suspected missionary activity, police have confirmed.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the four men were arrested yesterday afternoon, but he could not give further details as the case is still under investigation.

A teacher at Maafannu Madharusa, Aishat Rameeza, told Minivan News that four men entered the school office at around 10:00am and gave a book to a teacher and a parent, while she was present.

Rameeza said that they asked if the teachers knew a place called “Higher Education.”

”We said there are many higher educations,” Rameeza said. ”We thought they were asking about the faculty in old Jamaluddeen School, so we told them how to go there.”

She said the men then asked them where the local market was.

”When they were about to leave they gave a book to a teacher and a parent who was here, called ‘A story of redemption and steps to Christianity’, and said ‘here is a nice gift for you.'”

”We immediately informed the police but they did not seem to care,” Rameeza said. “We still have the book.”

Deputy Principal of Maafannu Madharusa Ahmed Farooq confirmed that four men came to the school yesterday and gave a book “of about 470 pages” to a pre-school teacher.

He said the school immediately informed the police.

”I heard they were arrested yesterday,” Farooq said. “They looked like they were Japanese or Chinese.”


American to be deported for alleged missionary activity

Maldives police have said they are seeking the deportation of a foreigner who allegedly sought to spread Christianity on the island of Kinbidhoo in Thaa Atoll.

Missionary activities are illegal under Maldivian law, as is the possession of non-Islamic religious materials beyond those ascribed for ‘personal use’.

Police sergeant Ahmed Shiyam said while no charges had yet been laid, it was normal practice “to send a person suspected of this to their country of origin while the case is under investigation.”

Shiyam declined to reveal specific details of the allegations “as the case is still under investigation”, but noted that “the whole community is very concerned about this.”

Kinbidhoo islanders identified the man as David Balk, and said he had been living on the island for the past several years with his wife and three children, aged 10-13 years old.

“They all speak fluent Dhivehi and generally keep to themselves, but are very helpful and involved in social activities like beach cleaning,” said Island Councillor Mohamed Naseem, adding that media reports describing the man as English “are wrong because he has an American passport.”

Naseem said the islanders believed he was the managing director of a travel agency in Male, and that “whatever they were doing must have been secret because nobody here has complained about him [spreading religion].”

He added that the police investigation had been going on for some time “and only now have the media picked it up.”

Another resident of the island, Ahmed Rasheed, said Balk’s neighbours had seen inside his house and claimed he had never spoken to them about religion. “I’ve mostly seen him out fishing,” Rasheed said. “He always helps out islanders and at times has even given financial help to people.”

Rasheed said he doubted many of the Kinbidhoo islanders “would even know what a bible looks like.”

“The day the police came David’s wife went to the neighbours house to ask them to take care of a plant. She told them police were there ‘saying we are spreading Christianity’, and that while they had a bible, it was for their personal use,” he said.

“The islanders’ attitude is that while [the Balks] never talked to them about religion, they are suspicious of why the family have lived on island for a couple of years without an ulterior motive. But they say the feeling is not enough reason to throw somebody off the island.”

Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim, president of Islamic NGO Salaf Jamiyya, told Minivan News “we have been watching these people for a long time. We have known of them since 2003.”

He said Salaf’s investigation was still ongoing, but that the NGO was “certain” Balk was a missionary.

The missionary group has a “rotating membership” that comes to the country and settles, he said.

“They are working under a long-term plan. They have given their children Dhivehi names and some even have tattoos in Dhivehi.”

Ibrahim said Salaf was aware of missionary activity in the Maldives, and of missionaries approaching people to proselytise.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry for Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Didi, said that so far there had been no involvement in the case by the Ministry and “officially we don’t know anything.”

“If anyone complains we would ask the police to investigate,” he said, and if suspicions were confirmed, “basically the foreigner would be deported.”

Minivan News tried to contact Balk but was only able to speak to him briefly, as he said he was “going to spend time with my kids.”