Other religions will not be allowed under MDP government, says Nasheed

Religions other than Islam will not be allowed in the Maldives under a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, former President Mohamed Nasheed reiterated on Friday (November 1).

Speaking at a campaign event in the island of Velidhoo in Noonu atoll, the MDP presidential candidate said Islam has always been accorded “the highest place” in the hearts of the Maldivian people who “hold sacred the noble principles of Islam.”

“There will be no room for another religion in this country under an MDP government. This is very clear,” Nasheed asserted.

Allegations suggesting otherwise by rival political parties “to play with the hearts and minds” of the public were sowing “discord and division” in Maldivian society, Nasheed added.

Last week, a group of local religious scholars from the Maldives Society for Islamic Research released a 48-page book titled “The word of religious scholars concerning Nasheed,” calling on the former president to “repent” and “return to the true path.”

The scholars claimed that Nasheed demeaned the Prophet’s Sunnah (way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammed), rejected tenets of Islamic Shariah, and tried to foster public debate over the enforcement of compulsory Shariah punishments.

Regardless of the winner in the upcoming presidential election, Nasheed assured that there was no possibility of other religions being introduced to the Maldives.

“That is not something that we should doubt. But the doubt is created because our rivals are constantly using these words. Something that does not exist will exist when you continually talk about it. A lie becomes the truth when you keep repeating it. It enters our hearts as the truth,” he said.

The religious faith of Maldivians was actually threatened by the MDP’s political opponents, Nasheed contended, because they were “creating suspicion and doubt.”

Addressing the people of Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani atoll earlier in the day, Nasheed reportedly said faith should not be “shaken so easily” because of what one hears or sees, adding that it was the five pillars rather than “backbiting” (gheeba), spreading rumours, and defaming others that were needed to uphold Islam.

Nasheed’s remarks follow persistent accusations by the MDP’s political opponents concerning the party’s alleged “securalisation agenda” and anti-Islamic policies, contending that the 100 percent Muslim status of Maldives would be threatened under an MDP administration.

Political record

Among Nasheed’s alleged transgressions, the scholars listed the “idolatrous” monuments placed in Addu City, efforts to legalise sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, remarks suggesting addicts should be able to use drugs, and a speech in Denmark in which he allegedly criticised the Sunnah.

On December 23, 2011, a coalition of eight political parties and an alliance of NGOs rallied at a mass gathering to “defend Islam” from Nasheed’s allegedly liberal policies and conveyed five demands to the then-MDP government.

The mass gathering followed the release of a pamphlet titled “President Nasheed’s devious plot to destroy the Islamic faith of Maldivians” alleging that the MDP was working with “Jews and Christian priests.”

Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party – presently allied with the Jumhooree Party and backing its presidential candidate business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim – released a press statement on Thursday (October 31) claiming that the MDP would amend the constitution to allow religious freedom if the party gained a majority in parliament.

The Adhaalath Party referred to an amendment to the Drug Act recently proposed by an MDP MP to shorten the jail sentence for the offence of refusing to provide a urine sample to police from one year to 15 days.

“Therefore, in the ‘Other Maldives’ that Nasheed wants to bring, the punishment for a person caught redhanded using drugs is only a 15-day detention. Drug use cannot be encouraged any more than this,” the press release read.

The Adhaalath Party contended that, with a larger majority in parliament, the MDP would not hesitate to “decimate” Islam in the Maldives and “open up the country to other religions.”

With the provisional support of nine Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party MPs, the MDP currently has a simple majority of 39 votes in parliament. However, a two-thirds majority or 52 MPs is needed to amend the constitution.

In the face of religion-based attacks, the MDP has maintained that rival parties were using Islam as “a political weapon to sow discord.”

In a press statement in September, the MDP reiterated that the party would not allow other religions to be introduced in the Maldives.

The statement referred to the MDP’s achievements in government: establishing a Ministry of Islamic Affairs, allowing freedom to preach for local scholars, building 42 mosques as well as a number of prayer rooms in schools, training 150 Islamic teachers, strengthening the National University’s faculty of Shariah and law with foreign assistance, opening of an Islamic Bank and the construction of a new government-funded building for Arabiyya School in Male’.

The party’s 2013 manifesto meanwhile includes the construction of an “Islamic Knowledge Centre” in Male’ for MVR 200 million (US$13 million) that would include a library, lecture halls and a mosque with a capacity 5,000 worshippers.

Among other policies for the next five years include conducting an international Islamic conference in the Maldives at an estimated cost of MVR 25 million (US$1.6 million) with the participation of renowned foreign scholars, training 300 Quran teachers to first degree level, and allocating MVR 36 million (US$2.3 million) for renovating mosques across the country.

“We note that all these projects are costed and budgeted and the manifesto includes details for implementation,” the press release stated.