NGOs and parents protest against education sector outside president’s residence

A coalition of NGOs have begun a series of protests outside the President’s residence to express disapproval of the education sector of the Maldives.

A spokesperson for the NGO coalition, Ibrahim Moahmed, told Minivan News that the protesters waited peacefully outside the presidential residence over the weekend to express their disapproval of the education minister and his policy.

“There were parents, NGOs and other concerned people of the nation regarding numerous issues concerning the education sector,” said Ibrahim. “A person came from inside and told us we would get an appointment with the President tomorrow, and we all dispersed.”

Ibrahim said the NGO coalition consisted “of 127 NGOs.”

“50-60 people joined the protest,” he said.

The Education Ministry’s move towards co-education across all schools in the Maldives – currently only four are single sex – has drawn considerable consternation from many religious conservatives. Education Minister Dr Mustafa Luthfy is again in the spotlight after protests were held outside his house earlier this year following a proposal from the Ministry’s steering committee suggesting that Islam and Dhivehi be made optional at A-level.

Currently only 2000 of the 10,000 students who sit O-levels each year pass enough subjects to continue to A-level studies. This troubling statistic, identified by Luthfy as one of the country’s key social problems, results in approximately 8000 disaffected 15-16 year-olds released onto the streets annually, with little hope of finding a job until they turn 18.

More recently a debate has been sparked over the merits and demerits of co-education.

Referencing “a World Health Organisation (WHO) report”, Ibrahim claimed that a rising number of sexual relationship “is more concerning for the Maldives than the issue of illegal narcotics.”

He noted that the NGO coalition had sought to file the issue of co-education with parliament’s national security committee today.

The NGO coalition says they have highlighted 22 issues concerning the education sector.

On 4 October, the Adhaalath Party said the government’s new co-education policy was “a failed Western concept inconsistent with the teachings of Islam.”

On the next day, religious NGO Jamiyyathulsalaf called for the resignation of Education Minister Dr Musthafa Luthfy, and claimed that Arabiyya was the only Maldivian school with an adequate education policy.

In the same strain, the minority opposition party People’s Alliance (PA), led by the former president’s brother MP Abdulla Yameen, strongly condemned the idea of introducing co-education.

Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


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.


Salaf dismisses feminist campaign to withdraw support for ”The Call”

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has hit back at feminist movement Rehendhi and the ‘Enough is Enough’ group after they called on sponsors to withdraw support from the upcoming Salaf-hosted event, ‘The Call’.

At a press conference today, Salaf said it did not consider the voice of an unregistered, underground NGO “as an official complaint”.

Mohamed Sobah, Secretary General of Salaf who spoke on behalf of the NGO, said that “all NGOs and all Maldivians support the event”, which will feature talks and lectures from visiting Islamic scholar Dr Bilal Philips.

”There might be a few people who are concerned that a professional western scholar is to arrive to the Maldivies,” Sobah said.

Sobah said that as Salaf was a registered NGO,  it did not have to deal with “unlawful, unregistered and underground” groups.

”No one has officially complained about the event,” Sobah said. ”It is surprising that they fear to face us, and it is confusing because they use the internet to raise their voice while we are accessible easily anytime.”

Sobah said that the two visiting scholars, Dr Bilal Phillips and Dr Abdul Raheem Green, would deliver seven lectures on different topics.

”We are working to enhance the security and solving some other technical problems,” he said. ”We hope this event will be a very successful event.”

On May 5 Salaf has announced it would host ‘The Call’, a series of religious sermons to which it expects more than 10,000 people to attend.

Dr Bilal Philips was brought to the Maldives by Salaf last year. Many people attended the sermon and reportedly more than 100,000 people watched it via media.

The Maldives’ self-styled ‘underground feminist movement’ Rehendhi last week announced joint letter writing campaign with the ‘Enough is Enough’ group in protest against Sonee Company’s intention to sponsor the lecture.

They issued a press statement condemning Dr Philips’ preaching at last years’ Call, accusing him of “preaching that it is Islamic to marry off young girls as soon as they reached puberty, irrespective of their age.”

Sonee Company, reported by Rehendhi as one of the targets of the campaign, said it did not wish to comment on the matter at this time.

Correction: The original press statement from the Rehendhi group referred to ‘Sonee Company’, not ‘Sonee Hardware’ as previously stated in this article. Minivan News apologises for any confusion caused.


Salaf sents letter to Islamic ministry to clarify concerned issues

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has sent a letter to the Islamic Ministry seeking to clarify issues concerning the Islamic Ministry and the  implementation of Shari’ah law in the Maldives.

The letter was sent to the ministry last Tuesday and was to the addressed to the Minster of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Baary.

There were more than 15 issues the NGO appealed the ministry to clarify, including:

  • Details of how the Islamic Ministry acted on the issue of appointing females as judges and president
  • The issue of massage parlours and how they are being dealt with
  • How the ministry is acting against people who form isolated congregations
  • Details of the conversation had with the residents of Himandhoo, after they formed an isolated congregation, and the result of that conversation
  • How much freedom [the ministry] has given the Imams to worship according to the Sunnah.
  • To clarify if the ministry had information that someone had tried or was trying to build a church in the country

Vice president of Jamiyyathul Salaf Sheikh Hussein Moosa Fikry said that the letter was signed by the President of Salaf on behalf of the NGO.

”The objective of the letter was to clarify some doubts we have concerning the ministry and the government,” Fikry said.

”We have noticed that the government including the Adhaalath Party and the Maldivian Democratic Party had approved some laws contrary to the Islamic Shari’ah.”

Fikry said that there were also some recent issues Salaf wanted the ministry to clarify.

”We have included many issues, such as we do not know what happened to the issue of the Quran translation,” he said. ”We also want find out if the ministry is trying to re-build the Arabiyya school building.”

He said that the NGO had noticed that some unIslamic news articles were also sometimes circulated and claimed the ministry was not taking any action.

The Minister for Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Baari said that he had no information about the letter sent by Salaf.

”I do not know whether if they sent a letter,” he said, ”I don’t know about it.”

Spokesperson for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadulla also said he also had no information concerning receipt of the letter.