Sheikh refuse to preach at MDP Religious Council

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Religious Council’s Chair Al-hafiz Ahmed Zaki has said that many Maldivian religious scholars were invited last night to preach in a sermon organised by the council but the sheikhs refused to show up “because it was an MDP podium”.

“The scholars have decided not to preach to MDP members to try and let others believe that MDP members belong to another religion,” Zaki said, speaking last night. “However, MDP members are all Muslims and they do want to hear religious sermons.”

Zaki speculated that the scholars refused the invitation thinking that the series of religious sermons commenced by the MDP Religious Council was politically motivated.

“The religious sermons are not only targeted solely for MDP members but for all the Maldivians,” he said.

Zaki said the result of handing over the Islamic Ministry to another political party was that the party assigned to implement the MDP manifesto in upholding religion was not implemented.

“Despite the Maldives consisting of many religious scholars, it was a big challenge that there are many scholars that refuse to preach on MDP podiums,” he said.

He urged religious scholars to preach to everyone, from the President to normal citizens.

Former President of Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussein Rasheed told Minivan News that the Adhaalath Party has always cooperated MDP in its religious sermons.

“I don’t have any information that anyone among us received an invitation to go preach at last night’s religious sermon,” Shaikh Hussein Rasheed said. “Last year also we went to Seenu Atoll with MDP to preach, so we have always cooperated MDP in that.”

Sheikh Rasheed said that the reason why scholars refused to preach on an MDP podium might be that scholars think it meant getting involved in politics.

“Now many of the scholars are independent and they are not involved in any political activity or political party, perhaps that’s the reason why they won’t go on sermons organised by political parties,” he said, adding that Adhaalath had “no issues” with MDP.

In November last year, former Chair of MDP Religious Council Sheikh Adam ‘B. A’ Naseem resigned claiming that he was unhappy with the party’s religious policy.


Authorities investigate arrival of self-proclaimed ‘Messenger of Allah’

The arrival of a Canadian man in the Maldives claiming to be a messenger of Allah was “a false alarm”, said Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam.

”According to information we have received we have been unable to confirm that it is true,” Shiyam said.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the President’s Office was also informed of the man’s arrival.

”The Islamic Ministry requested police investigate the matter,” he said earlier today.

Local media reported that Hussein Iqbal, a Pakistani national who lives in Canada and claims to be a messenger of God, arrived in the Maldives on the invitation of Maldivians who follow him. A group was reportedly scheduled to leave for Sri Lanka on a pilgrimage.

Ibrahim Fauzy, President of local religious NGO the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives (IFM), told Minivan News that there were “hundreds” of Maldivians who followed Iqbal.

”I met last night with some of his followers in Male’,” Fauzy told Minivan News. “I learned that his call first reached the Maldives seven years ago and since then people have been joining him.”

Fauzy said that he also understood that Iqbal preached against the Sunnah and Hadith and encouraged his followers to believe solely in the Quran.

”Their original call comes from a person called Khaleefa Rashad who dismissed the Hadith and Sunnah,” Fauzy said.

He said Iqbal and his followers used verse 30 and 31 of the Surah Mudhassir to support their argument and try to convince others they were right.

”They use a mathematical formula and subtract some numbers from 19, and claim that the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) was the last Prophet but not last messenger,” he said.

Verse 30 of the Surah Mudhassir reads ”over it are nineteen” and 31 reads ”And We have set none but angels as Guardians of the Fire; and We have fixed their number only as a trial for Unbelievers, in order that the People of the Book may arrive at certainty, and the Believers may increase in Faith, and that no doubts may be left for the People of the Book and the Believers, and that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say, “What symbol doth Allah intend by this ?” Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth: and none can know the forces of thy Lord, except He and this is no other than a warning to mankind.”

Fauzy said that those following Iqbal were only praying three times a day. He also said that one of Iqbal’s followers  had a divorce case pending in the Family Court, contesting that his wife was a disbeliever, “which raises many complicated legal issues.”

Khalifa Rashad was an Egyptian-born, US-educated biochemist who claimed that the Archangel Gabriel had “most assertively” told him that chapter 36, verse 3, of the Quran referred specifically to him. He was stabbed to death in 1990 at an Islamic school in Arizona and his body drenched in xylol, a flammable printing solvent.


DRP proposes amendments to Religious Unity Act

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali has proposed amendments to the religious unity act.

Presenting the bill, Dr Afrasheem said that social unity among Maldivians was weaker than it had been in the past.

”One reason for this [disruption] is issues of  religion, particularly disputes over worship and (scholars) criticising each other,” Dr Afrasheem.

He proposed that the Shafi sect be enshrined as the basis of Islam in the Maldives.

”I selected the Shafi sect because it is the sect most friendly, most accepted and most widely followed sect in Islam,” he said.

People’s Alliance (PA) Party MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakuru said that the bill was necessary for the country.

”The Maldives used to be a country which was an example of social unity, but now we see cracks in that fort,” said Jamal.

Independent MP Ibrahim Muthalib also supported the bill.

”This is a very important bill,” said Muthalib, recommending several amendments to article 2(d) and article 2(e), after observing that the bill could potentially narrow the opportunity for foreign scholars to preach in the Maldives.

DRP MP Ahmed Mahloof also supported the bill.

”I recall during the last presidential elections, the Adhaalath party – which claimed to be promoting and protecting religion – tried to make (people believe) that former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was a Christian,” said Mahloof. ”This is the situation of our country today.”

He said that it was very important to resolve disputes among people.

Chairperson of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and MP Mariya Didi thanked Dr Afrasheem for presenting the bill to amend the Religious Unity Act, observing that “our forefathers have protected the religion for 800 years.”

In May the Islamic Ministry announced that it had completed the new religious unity act, and has sent it to the government’s gazette for publication.

However when the new regulations were completed many organisations expressed concern over the regulations and it was held by the president’s office for amendments.


Sheikh Nasrulla signs with MDP

The Secretary General of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Ahmed Shah has confirmed that Sheikh Nasrulla Mustafa has signed to join the party.

Shah said Sheikh Nasrulla was “a well educated and very capable person”, and that his decision to sign with MDP was a major progression for the party.

”He signed the application form last week and it has now been sent to Elections Commission (EC) for approval,” Shah said. ”Then he will officially be a member of MDP.”

Sheikh Nasrulla declined to comment on this story, instead recommending that Minivan News clarify his application with the EC.

”If I applied and if the EC approved [my application] then I will be a member of MDP,” said Sheikh Nasrulla, when asked to confirm his application.

Religious website Raajjeislam reported that Sheikh Nasrulla had recently declared that the purpose of forming political parties and NGOs was to create splits in a society, and these institutions were therefore against the principles of the as-salaf as-saliheen (the earliest converts to Islam).

The website also said that Sheikh Nasrulla has in his sermons claimed that voting was not allowed in Islam, and that it was an ‘enmity’.

Raajjeislam’s report claimed that the government was attempting to trying to displace the Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari  and State Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed from their posts.

According to daily newspaper Haveeru, the Islamic Ministry has recently restricted Sheikh Nasrulla from using microphones inside mosques to deliver sermons, which Sheikh Nasrulla claimed was preventing him from preaching.

Haveeru reported that the restriction was put in place by the Islamic Ministry because of “numerous complaints” the Ministry had received.

Sheikh Nasrulla  has reportedly disputed the lectures of other prominent Islamic scholars during his sermons, including Dr Zakir Naik, who recently visited the Maldives.


Islamic Ministry expresses concern over isolated congregations

The Islamic Ministry has expressed concern at the rising number of privately-held, unsanctioned congregations.

The ministry said it was “advisable” for such congregations to immediately cease worshipping in isolation and conducting sermons administered by scholars not licensed by the ministry.

The Islamic Ministry said that private congregations were against laws protecting religious unity.

”The Islamic Ministry does not believe that there is any reason to perform isolated congregations as the state is based on Sunni Islam, and formal congregations in the mosques are approved,” the Islamic Ministry said in a press statement.

The ministry advised Imams not to dispute religious issues or get into disputes over ‘Madhab’ (way of thinking, persuasion) , and to instead follow the Sunnah of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) and to believe and return to the way that trusted Islamic scholars had advised.

Sheikh Ali Zahir said that the issue could be spoken about for a long time, but that the Islamic Ministry was the authorised department and had said its word.

However, a man who follows Islam in a private congregation told Minivan News on condition on anonymity that his group had decided to isolate themselves “because the current government is following a law established in 1982 by the former government, a law protecting religious unity which is contrary to the tenets of Islam.”

He said that according to the Constitution Article 10[b], “no law can be enacted contrary to the tenets of Islam.”

”So we do not have to follow the law protecting religious unity,” he said.

He said that according to the tenets of Islam there were no different ‘Madhabs’ on the Sunnah of Prophet Mohamed (PBUH).

”They force all the Imams to pray according to the Shafi’e Madhab, so we cannot follow the Imams who pray according to a Madhab, we follow Prophet Mohamed (PBUH),” he said.

He said another reason for the isolated congregations was that the former government ordered the Imams not to read ‘Gunooth’ during the fajr prayers.

”Now they read Gunooth when the Imams feels like it,” he said.

Furthermore, he said, the three powers of the government had been divided and Shari’ah Law had not been implemented in the Constitution and Penal Code, contradicting the tenets of Islam.

”According to Islam all the powers should be in one  hand,” he said.


Human rights NGOs criticise spread of “perverse thinking and ignorant practices”

A coalition of human rights NGOs have issued a statement noting “with concern and regret” that certain preachers “have recently begun to portray Islam as a religion that demeans women and children.”

“Religious sermons that portray and speak of women as people who exist simply to gratify the sexual desires of men, on earth and in paradise, fail to take into consideration the respect and honour granted to women in Islam,” the NGOs claimed.

“We believe that the message perpetuated through sermons that the purpose of achieving paradise is to engage in sexual acts forbidden on earth, and to enjoy pleasures forbidden on earth, is the work of some people to impress upon the public that Islam is a backward religion.”

The NGOs’ statement, signed by the Maldivian Detainee Network, Transparency Maldives, Rights for All, Maldives Aid, Madulu, Democracy House and Strength of Society, claimed that “all Abrahamic religions uphold the dignity and respect of all human beings, and Islam in particular provided protection and safety for women and children who were being abused in Arab societies, [that were] entrenched in the ignorance of dark ages.

“Hence, to render commonplace the perverse thinking and ignorant practices of those days in the name of Islam would be to facilitate similar ignorance and malice.”

The NGOs criticised the Ministry of Islamic Affairs “for not working in their full capacity to regulate or halt the views and acts propagated by those who endorse extreme views,” and requested that government play its “important role” in countering these types of views “propagated in the name of Islam.”

The statement comes after President Mohamed Nasheed was heavily criticised by the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party for “trying to convey irreligious views to the beloved Muslim citizens of the Maldives” during his weekly radio address.

In his address, the President noted that “a large number of young women and young men are requesting that the government obstruct and stop these things from happening.”

“We have freedom of expression; if you are unhappy with views expressed by one group, in my mind the intelligent thing to do is for another group to express the contrary view, a second opinion, or alternative views,” he said. “People can then choose the path they believe.”

However a statement from the Adhaalath party said that the president’s remarks about giving public space to views opposed to the tenets and commandments of Islam were tantamount “to a call for allowing them.”

“In this 100 per cent Islamic country, for the president to call for views opposed to Islam is something that the Adhaalath party is extremely concerned about,” the party said.

“People should only talk about Islam with full religious knowledge. Talking about religious tenets and judgments without proper knowledge is prohibited in Islam.”

The Adhaalath party called on the president to “not be swayed by those who believe irreligious philosophies or the anti-Islamic rhetoric of those opposed to Islam, and not to give opportunity for any religion other than Islam in this country.”

In his opening address to the Maldives Donor Conference 2010, President Nasheed revealed he had “often been criticised by liberal Maldivians because I refuse to censor religious groups.”

“My point is this: the ends do not justify the means,” he told the donors. “People with broader viewpoints must become more active, to create a tolerant society.”

The president revealed that a group of 32 concerned young people had recently visited him, “furious about the rise in extremism.”

“To my mind, these are just the sort of people who need to reclaim civil society, if they want to foster a more open-minded society,” Nasheed said. “Liberally-minded Maldivians must organise and reclaim civil society if they want to win this battle of ideas.”

Sheikh Abdulla Jameel told Minivan News today that when giving a sermon, “we have to tell it as it is.”

”Whether people like it or not, we can’t add or remove anything,” he said. “Nobody can change something stated in the Qur’an, and in the Qur’an it says that no one can [challenge] the orders of God or the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).”

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs declined to comment in the absence of Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, who is currently visiting Saudi Arabia, and State Minister Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, who is in the United States.

Local Islamic NGO Jamiyathul Salaf also did not respond to Minivan News’ enquiries at time of press.

Politics and religion

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) issued a statement yesterday in support of the President, condemning the Adhaalath party for “using religion as a [political] weapon”.

“For the Adhaalath party to falsely accuse the president after remaining silent when the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) obstructed and stopped a religious sermon organised by MDP last Thursday night, 25 March 2010, causing a disturbance and spilling the blood of many Maldivian citizens, casts doubt on their intentions,” the party said.

The MDP acknowledged that Article 1 of the Religious Unity Act, stating that Maldivian citizens are followers of Islam, belonging to the same sect and sharing one nationality, was “essential for protecting Maldivian independence and sovereignty and ensuring peace and security”, and that promoting religious unity among Maldivians “is obligatory upon both the government and the people.”

Regarding the President’s comments in his radio address and speech at the donor conference, “the party believes that [the president’s] intention was to share some people’s opinions with the public and give an opportunity for religious scholars to clarify the issue.”

Instead of addressing the opinions expressed by the young people who visited the President, the MDP said, “the Adhaalath party falsely accused the President of expressing views contrary to Islam and made political rivalry their main concern.”

The statement concluded by advising the Adhaalath party “to stop casting aspersions” on the president and “cease using religion as a tool to achieve political ends.”


Zuhair says government is not trying to stop religious lectures

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair has said that the government does not prevent any authorised scholar from lecturing the public on religious matters, reports Miadhu.

There had been reports of the government putting pressure on Sheikh Ilyas Hussain so he would not speak at a special ceremony hosted by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) on the anniversary of the Maldives’ conversion to Islam.

Zuhair said it was not the government’s policy to stop any licensed sheikh from speaking and they were not trying to stop Ilyas from speaking at the ceremony.

According to Miadhu, both Sheikh Ilyas and a local religious website had said the government was refusing to allow Ilyas from lecturing at the ceremony.

The Adhaalath Party said there were political reasons behind the cancellation of the Sheikh’s lecture.

Licenses to deliver religious lectures are issued and cancelled by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Majeed said his ministry had not cancelled Ilyas’ license and it had not even been proposed.