“Huge support” for halal certification, says Islamic Ministry

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs’ has claimed that the new halal certification program for local fish products is receiving “huge support” from local fish processing companies, the ministry has said yesterday.

Denying reports published in local news outlet Haveeru of a lack of support for the programme , the ministry said that issuing halal certificates for five different products from ‘Felivaru’ company is in it’s final stages.

The ministry also stated that “famous Maldivian fish processing companies such as MIFCO” are also in the process of submitting necessary documentation in order to acquire the halal certificate

Training of halal assurance officers to inspect factories has begun, and ministry teams have made visits to “successful” halal industry countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

The Haveeru article in question – published yesterday – quoted Permanent Secretary of the Islamic Ministry Mohamed Didi as saying that Felivaru was the only company to have shown an interest in acquiring the certification.

Didi was reported as saying that the reason for this could be that such a certificate is not important for their export markets.

According to the article, a team from the ministry had travelled to the Felivaru fish processing factory to check if the process and ingredients used are ‘halal’, with Didi saying that certification would open doors to export Maldivian fish products to middle-eastern markets and would increase the value of such products.

After the EU declined to extend duty-free status on Maldivian fish exports last November, the government has been seeking alternative markets for Maldivian fish products.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon at the time said the decision was connected to Maldives’ reservations towards freedom of religion and other conventions before noting that the Maldives is “not running out of friends in the international community”.

Since then, the government has said it is analysing new markets for such as middle-eastern and Malaysian markets for Maldives fish exports.

Earlier this week, Vice President of the Maldives National Chamber Of Commerce and Industry Ismail Asif said that Maldivian fishermen intended to stage a protest against the EU’s trade policies.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Ministry’s ‘Fiqh Academy’ issued a fatwa this week stating that kosher meals, while halal, are inadvisable in Shariah. The ruling suggested that the import of such goods would “introduce and spread such a religious slogan of the Jews into an Islamic country like the Maldives”.


“We will celebrate liberation of airport on February 7”: Sheikh Imran

Adhaalath Party President Sheikh Imran Adbulla has said that the people of the Maldives will celebrate the liberation of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on the first anniversary of the resignation of the previous government – February 7, 2013, local media has reported.

The comments were made at a press conference held by a coalition of NGOs and political parties opposed to the deal with the Indian infrastructure company GMR – signed by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration – to develop and manage the country’s international airport.

Imran predicted there would be “some unrest and damage” on the day the deal is annulled, but urged people to come out and support the calls for nationalisation  – although the GMR deal is actually a 25 year lease arrangement and the airport still belongs to the government.

Minivan News was unable to gain further comment from the Adhaalath Party members at the time of press.

Imran said the Maldivian population would be able to endure economic hardship should the deal be annulled, before threatening “a completely different activity” should the government fail to resolve the issue to the coalition’s satisfaction.

“February 7 this year should suffice to make this clear [to the government],” Imran was quoted as saying by Haveeru.

“We were talking about a particular thing and a particular person completed it. Therefore, when the Maldivian people carry out these activities, too, in a certain way, the people who completes it will decide it a certain way. I hope the President has the courage, ability and steadfastness to take such a measure on behalf of the people,” he continued.

Imran’s comments are symptomatic of the incendiary rhetoric surrounding the airport, the nationalisation of which the Adhaalath Party has previously described as a “national jihad”.

The Civil Coalition of NGOs joined with the seven now-government aligned parties to campaign against the former Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led administration, most famously gathering on December 23 last year to defend Islam against what it perceived as irreligious tendencies in the Nasheed government.

The Coalition explained that it was to conduct a week of activities between November 3 – 9 in opposition to the deal, referred to as “airport week”, rather than the mass protest that had previously been planned.

Sun Online reported that the decision had been made owing to clashes with school exams and the government’s plans to celebrate the anniversary of 1988’s attempted coup on November 3.

The paper also reported that the week would be accompanied by the launching of songs and a special logo in support of the movement.

A large balloon has appeared in recent days over the skies of Male’ reading “GMR go home.”

However, previous attempts to organise demonstrations in opposition to the development met with disappointing results when a September protest was poorly attended.

One government-aligned party, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), refused to join the September protest, arguing that the dispute ought to be resolved through the courts.

DRP leader Ahmed Thasmeen Ali has previously expressed his concerns that reneging on the GMR deal might have detrimental effects on investor confidence in what is already a perilous financial situation for the Maldives.

Abdulla Jabir, Deputy Leader of the Jumhoree Party (JP), has also been vocal about the economic impact of politicising the deal, criticising the Adhaalath Party.

“Sometimes they are religious experts, sometimes they are financial experts. But everyone loves Islam here. Right now, foreign investors are finding it difficult to understand the climate here,” Jabir told Minivan News earlier this month.

“This is not a perfect time for this issue to be happening with GMR,” he added. “I think these protests [against GMR] are unrealistic.”

The JP were, however, represented at the press conference, with State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Fuad Gasim reportedly suggesting that senior government figures were being pressured into silence over the deal.

Official government opposition to the deal is currently taking the form of investigations of the $511million deal via the country’s Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) as well as through a Singapore court of arbitration as agreed in the original contract.

However, the Attorney General has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether the matter might be dealt with within the Maldivian court system.

Earlier this month, INIA CEO Andrew Harrison told Indian media that the company had received no official word from the Maldivian government concerning a resolution to the dispute.


Planned Maldives Islamic channel launch to be reviewed next year

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has said it will review the possibility of launching a Maldives-based Islamic television channel next year to ensure that the technical demands required for the endeavor can be met.

Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Didi, told Minivan News that the postponement of plans to begin broadcasting an Islamic TV channel in the country were not so much an issue of budgetary limitations – but that of human resources.

“If we were to start this channel we would need human resources and the technical staff to support it,” he said. “We have spoken to the Maldives National Broadcasting Corperation (MNBC), who can supply this, so we have the technical capacity, but we need to think how we will move ahead.”

Didi said that broadcasting a new tv channel in the country was “not an easy task” and there were concerns that the project needed more extensive planning.

“If we rush [starting the channel], we might not be able to sustain it so that is why we are waiting until next year,” he claimed.

Didi added that the exact nature of how the channel would operate and the duration of its programming on a daily basis had yet to be finalised and would be a key part of any ongoing talks.

Meanwhile, Miadhu has reported today that Islamic Affairs Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Baari believed repeated postponements of forming the channel were related to low budgets and ongoing legal action regarding the control of state media.

According to the report, Rf2 million from the Zakat fund had been allocated to fund the proposed Islamic channel, but the money has now been transferred instead to a scholarship programme.


Hajj attendance continues to rise among Maldivians: Islamic Ministry

A growing number of Maldivians are showing interest in taking part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage that kicked off yesterday, meaning both big business and a few logistical headaches for the private groups selected to oversee the holy visit to Saudi Arabia, says the Islamic Ministry.

Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Mohamed Didi, told Minivan News that the 1402 pilgrims travelling from the Maldives to Mecca in Saudi Arabia represents a year-on-year growth of local people present during the fifth pillar of Islam – a key requirement of the national faith.

A total of 1142 pilgrims travelled from the Maldives last year for the Hajj, with Saudi officials estimating that about 2.5 million participants were in attendance overall during the 2009 pilgrimage.

Didi says that after originally obtaining a quota for 1000 Maldivians to travel out to Mecca this year, the Islamic Ministry has since been granted an additional 500 places at the last minute after requests to Saudi Arabian authorities to help meet what he says has been increasingly strong interest in attending the event.

However, the last minute nature of this extension has caused some challenges for organisers, according to the ministry. Considering the need for the eight private groups entrusted with arranging pilgrimages from the Maldives to secure transport, accommodation and other travel services, the Permanent Secretary claims that not all this quota has been filled this year due to insufficient planning time.

“Normally a group will rent an apartment [for the pilgrimage] two to three months ahead of Hajj,” added Didi. “This creates an extra burden [for organisers]”.

Alongside the private groups and business that are selected to organise and oversee the Hajj pilgrimage, the government is itself allocated 10 spaces to select participants from across the civil and public service sector to travel to Mecca. Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari is leading the Maldives’ delegation at present.

The Hajj, as one of the five pillars of Islam, is viewed as key a religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out by all able-bodied followers at least once in their lifetime, should they be able to afford the trip. According to Didi, the cost per person for taking part in this year’s pilgrimage is thought to be about Rf 65,000 (US $5000).

For those not able to make their way to Mecca this year though, Didi says that the country will be spending the day fasting and praying ahead of Eid Al Adha beginning tomorrow, an event that will see a number of roads around the capital being closed to accommodate worshippers.

Half of the ground floor of the Islamic Centre by Republic Square in Male’ will also be set aside exclusively for women during prayers, the Ministry added.


Dhiffushi divided: islanders concerned about anonymous man preaching Islam from bedroom

People living on Dhiffushi in Kaafu Atoll have expressed concern about an anonymous man living in the island preaching Islam to an isolated and growing congregation.

A authority familiar with the matter told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that the man claimed to be a resident of Male’, and said he had moved to Dhiffushi with his wife and two kids ”because he liked the island.”

He claimed the man “preaches Islam to people and convinces them to form an isolated congregations and to join him.”

”There are youths following and protecting him,” he said, ”he leads all the prayers, including Friday prayers, in his bedroom.”

He said the man claimed he is living the way Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) lived.

”He uses a mop stick as his staff,” the source said. ”People one day spied on them while they were doing the Friday prayers and found out that he gives the Friday speech standing on his bed with his crowd surrounding him,.”

He said the man and his followers had claimed that the imam of the government mosque was a sorcerer, and that there was a corpse buried under the mosque.

”Islanders are really angry with his behavior,” the source said. ”Some people have already told him to leave the island immediately.”

He said the man’s his acts were dividing the society of the island.

An official at the Island office said that the case had been reported to the Islamic Ministry and the Atoll Office.

”At first they did the Friday prayers in his room,” he said, ”now they do it secretly in other room.”

Spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadullah and Permanent Secretary Mohamed Didi said they had no information on the matter.