New penal code will ‘bury’ Islamic sharia

A religious NGO has said the new penal code will “bury” the principles of Islamic sharia in the Maldives, as it does not criminalise apostasy or include punishments of stoning for adultery and amputation for theft.

“We note with regret that this law has been formulated on a secular, liberal basis that is alien to the purposes of Islamic sharia, after changing the whole shape of the Islamic sharia that should be enforced upon Muslims in an Islamic country,” the conservative Jamiyyathul Salaf said in a statement on Sunday.

Salaf’s statement was released shortly before the pro-government majority in parliament delayed implementation of the penal code by three months, a day before it was due to come into force.

Ruling party MP Ahmed Nihan said more time is needed to raise awareness among the public and address concerns of religious scholars.

The law was ratified on April 13 last year, nine years after it was first submitted to parliament.

The current penal code was adopted in 1968 and has been widely criticised as outdated, draconian and unsuited to the 2008 constitution. The new law has meanwhile been touted as the first time Islamic sharia has been codified while upholding minimum international human rights standards.

However, Salaf claimed attempts to portray the law as sharia-compliant were intended to “deceive the citizens of a 100 percent Islamic nation”.

As the law currently states that shariah punishments must be meted out only for crimes with a punishment fixed in the Quran, Salaf argued that it “completely does away with” the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions) under a “secular philosophy”.

The Sunnah is one of the “fundamental sources” of sharia law and specifies how punishments prescribed in the Quran must be enforced, Salaf said.

The law will also make it easier for criminals to escape punishment and encourage youth to offend, Salaf contended, claiming it was drafted by lawyers with a view to increasing their income.

The language of the law and criteria for constituting a crime are “alien to the principles of Islamic criminal jurisprudence,” Salaf argued.

The mandatory punishment for wrongfully accusing a chaste Muslim of adultery or homosexuality in the law is a jail term of no more than four years, Salaf noted, while meting out the sharia punishment of 80 lashes is left to the discretion of judges.

The offences of ‘murder and reckless manslaughter,’ ‘involuntary manslaughter,’ and ‘negligent manslaughter’ are based on English common law and is contrary to the degrees of murder in sharia, Salaf said.

Several punishments fixed in the Quran and Sunnah such as amputation of the hand for theft, death by stoning for adultery, death for highway robbery, and death or banishment for apostasy are not enforced in the Maldives.

However, flogging for pre-marital sex is implemented while the current administration has ended a six-decade moratorium on the death penalty.

Codifying sharia

In an op-ed published on newspaper Haveeru on April 7, former deputy prosecutor general Hussain Shameem stated that the Maldives is the first Islamic country to pass a criminal law in accordance with sharia and international standards.

While sharia punishments are specified in laws of other Islamic nations, Shameem said the Maldives’ penal code was drafted on the basis of codifying sharia.

“Therefore, the law will not include parts of principles contrary to Islam,” he wrote.

The law criminalises fornication, eating during daylight hours in Ramadan, consumption of alcohol and pork, and anti-Islamic activities, he added.

All crimes with punishments prescribed in the Quran are included, he continued, including the death penalty for murder.

“Therefore, the new penal code of the Maldives is in line with Islamic sharia and a victory for Islamic sharia,” Shameem asserted.

As a senior legal consultant at the Legal Sector Resource Centre established by the attorney general’s office with assistance from the UNDP, Shameem has been involved in training more than 1,100 individuals, including state prosecutors, lawyers, staff and members of independent commissions, customs officers, and 98 percent of police investigators.


President makes creative arts optional after pressure from religious conservatives

President Abdulla Yameen will make creative arts – including music and dance – optional subjects in the next year’s school curriculum after pressure from religious conservative organisations and political parties.

Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali tweeted his gratitude towards the president, though he was unavailable to comment on the news at the time of publication. President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz also tweeted about the decision.

Local media reported that religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf had met with the president to voice concerns as well as sending a letter identifying ‘anti-Islamic’ aspects in the new curriculum.

Speaking to after the meeting, Jamiyyathul Salaf President Abdulla Mohamed said government ministers at the meeting denied the fact that creative arts was compulsory saying that it seemed unlikely that there would be any amendments to the curriculum.

The NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf put out a press statement last month describing the decision to make music and dance compulsory as an “insult to Islam”, contending that music is prohibited in Islam.

The meeting in question was also attended by the Islamic minister, education minister Dr Aishath Shiham, and the Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdullah.

The education minister had previously stated at a press conference of the Cabinet’s Social Council last week (October 23) that the whole curriculum was based on Islamic values and codes of behavior.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party declared last week that it had been working ceaselessly to ensure that music and dance are not included as compulsory subjects in the new curriculum.

Meanwhile, Shaheem noted that Quran was included as a compulsory subject in the new curriculum and declared his support for efforts to “broaden Islamic education and Arabic language”.

Earlier this year, Islamic ministry unveiled its policies and plans for the year, placing great emphasis on strengthening Islamic education by focusing on schools and the youth population. The ministry has also revealed plans for an Islamic University in the Maldives.

Plans included sermons at school assemblies, special Islamic workshops, and a monthly Islamic magazine which is to be distributed to all schools and public libraries.

Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed said the government will mainstream Arabic education in the Maldives, focusing particularly on Islamic education and the study of Quran.


Maldives’ peacekeeping troops to be deployed over next two years

The Maldives has signed an MOU with the UN, agreeing to actively contribute to peacekeeping operations as observers and infantry.

The agreement, signed in New York by the Maldives ambassador to the UN Ahmed Sareer last week, is the first of its kind to be signed by the country.

“This agreement marks a new era in relations between the Maldives and the UN,” said Sareer upon signing the agreement with UN Under Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous.

“With the maturation of the Maldivian State, we look forward to taking up the mantle of leadership in all of our international endeavors. No matter how small the nation, all have an obligation to maintaining and sustaining the security of populations across the globe.”

A small contingent of military observers and infantry personnel will be deployed over the next two years, explained a press release from the Foreign Ministry.

An Maldives National Defence Force statement added that the participation of the Maldives’ troops would decided upon by the government.

Under Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous commented that the Maldives assistance would be invaluable to the UN’s work.

“Maldives’ experience in protecting its incredibly porous border provides invaluable expertise in addressing modern threats, including the prevention of; piracy, trafficking and maritime conflict,” said Lasdous.

Shortly after assuming office last November, the government of President Abdulla Yameen revealed that the country’s foreign policy would involve promoting Islamic characteristics internationally, and increasing South Asian regional cooperation.

The initial parliamentary approval for Maldivian participation in UN peacekeeping missions was granted in October 2011 although there was some opposition at the time from those who argued that Maldivians ought not to be involved in foreign conflicts.

As well as 11 dissenting MPs, religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf expressed concerns that Maldivians would be forced to fight against fellow-Muslims.

“Taking part in the UN peacekeeping operations will force Maldivian forces to fight against Muslims which is unacceptable,” said a statement from Jamiyyathul Salaf at the time.

“Disregarding our own society and getting involved in these matters for the sake of earning respect from powerful countries shows how much the future of this nation is being disregarded,” said Salaf.

After approval by the cabinet in early 2011, the President’s Office expressed hope that the arrangement would enhance understanding of the international security environment as well as consolidating the country’s credibility internationally.

The ensuing two years since the approval of peacekeeping involvement has seen a series of damning UN reports  – notably on the Maldives’ judiciary and human rights record – often resulting in terse responses from the government.


Innamaadhoo island council asks Islamic Ministry to take action against Sheikh Shameem

Innamaadhoo island council, in Raa Atoll, has filed a complaint with the Islamic Ministry against Sheikh Ibrahim Shameem Adam after he allegedly preached inside the island’s Friday Mosque without first obtaining permission.

Speaking to Minivan News today Council President Ibrahim Fayaz said that Sheikh Shameem went to the island last Saturday and requested the council’s permission.

Before receiving a response from authorities, however, Shameem held a sermon on the island, said Fayaz.

“They announced that there will be a sermon that night on the topic of sports and entertainment and held the sermon without our permission and we did not do anything about it because then they say Innamaadhoo council had obstructed religious activities and that we are anti-Islamic,’’ he said.

He said that the first 50 minutes of the speech was very good before beginning to resemble a political campaign meeting.

“He started talking about politics and the upcoming parliament elections and people inside the mosque came out, only a few were waiting inside,’’ Fayaz said.

“More than 200 people gathered outside the mosque in protest to the speech he was giving because it was supposed to be a religious sermon and not a political rally.’’

Fayaz said that islanders came and complained to the council, warning that if the council was not able to stop him the islanders might have to do it.

“So I then went inside and turned the loudspeaker and microphone off, but he did not stop,’’ he said.

“I asked him who gave him the permission to conduct a sermon inside the mosque and he replied by saying that the ‘Higher Authorities’ gave him permission. I do not know who higher authorities were.’’

Political sermons

Fayaz said that Shameem indirectly criticised both Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives’ parliamentary candidates.

“He criticised them in a way that everyone knew who he was talking about, but did not mention the names,’’ he said. “We even called the police that night because there might have been unrest on the island – and five councilors will not be able to stop the islanders.’’

He said that police asked the council to take a statement from Sheikh Shameem, but that Shameem refused to come to answer questions.

Furthermore, Fayaz alleged that the Islamic Ministry would not take any action against him because he was sent by the Adhaalath Party.

Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed today told Minivan News that he had not received any information of the incident.

In December last year Omadhoo island council stopped Sheikh Shameem from delivering a religious lecture at the local mosque, fearing it might “disrupt the stability and social harmony of the island”.

At the time, Haveeru reported that when the council asked for a formal request for permission, the organisers sent a text message to the council president saying the lecture would go on with or without the council’s permission.

In May 2013 Sheikh Imran Abdulla and Sheikh Ilyas Hussein were obstructed from preaching in Vaikaradhoo, in Haa Dhaalu atoll, whilst Kamadhoo island council in Baa atoll prevented Sheikh Nasrulla Ali from preaching.

In Vaikaradhoo the sheikhs continued with police protection in the presence of local opposition activists.

In September 2013, Maldives Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told a parliamentary sub-committee that the commission had stopped religious sermon ‘Andhalus’ conducted by Sheikh Shameem for violating the state broadcaster’s guidelines.

The MBC chairman,along with members of the commission, were summoned before the independent institutions committee following complaints by MDP MPs that the sermon by Sheikh Shameem infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

“We definitely do not consider [televising the sermon] as anti-campaigning against a particular candidate using religion. [But] around 11:35pm, because his talk was changing a little, we stopped the live [broadcasting],” Manik told the parliament committee at the time.

Current laws and regulations require religious preachers to obtain permission from local councils in order to preach at mosques in their administrative areas.


‘Help Syria Through Winter’ campaign raises over MVR600k

A fund raising campaign dubbed ‘Help Syria Through Winter’ conducted by local NGO ‘Help’ has raised MVR605,907 (US$39,294) in three weeks.

According to Sun Online, a delegation from the NGO recently departed for Istanbul, Turkey to deliver the funds, which are to be used to purchase four ambulances.

Fund raising activities that took place across the Maldives included selling T-shirts and placement of fund boxes as well as religious workshops and sermons.

The fund raising efforts were led by NGO Salaf preacher, Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim.


Comment: Democracy derailed

This is a brief sketch of how over a period of 10 years, one set of background assumptions has been replaced by that of another.

How that of system building & primacy of democracy has been replaced by seizure of power by any means necessary and scorched earth tactics, regardless of impact on democratic institutions.

How reverence for democracy has been replaced by deceptive cynicism and manipulation.

How an old idea about an objectified, malleable subject has returned with a vengeance in a new form to replace active, vigilant, citizenry.

These combine together to create two different sets of values that are in conflict for supremacy. There are many different versions of this story. This is the version I find most compelling and convincing.

At times these sets have been shared across the political spectrum by various degrees, but as I write, the contrast could not be any sharper. A few days ago, a JP coalition partner speaking at the H.Kunooz podium hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend elections, until they complete their inquiry into the process, as progress for democracy.

If we take this event as an isolated instance, it may seem to an outside observer that we should not be worried about a fair judicial inquiry in to the process. This was perhaps the United States’ stance, when it declared that all should respect the “judicial process”.

But we cannot isolate that instance from everything else that has happened, and is happening. It is hard to accept for us that Supreme Court has accepted a case with outrageous and ridiculous claims in good faith. The Supreme Court is not a wholly independent institution. It too has a history, a memory, and power relations, that it cannot extricate itself from. The same goes for every other democratic institution in the country.

We must also learn to recognise the fundamental shifts that have taken place – of behaviours, attitudes and values, driven by ideology – to a position where previous agents of democracy now wish to dismantle the entire framework. We must understand how things came to be. I write this because there are choices to be made, choices that will shape our future to come.

The last decade

Our story begins 10 years ago on a sunny September day like this, when we struck by the news of murder and killing in Maafushi Prison installation. The shock was followed by rioting and civil unrest in Male, as disenfranchised citizens took to the streets to torch & burn. In retrospect, this may be hard to understand, but if you were there, born in that system, felt the weight of oppression, of a present without a future, of walled enclosed horizons, it was hardly a matter of choice. This was perhaps not the beginning of voices calling for democracy, but provided the impetus for action, and represents a turning point in our history.

That September day led to the formation of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in Sri Lanka, and their campaign to bring democracy to the Maldives. By June of 2004, just seven months into the MDP’s campaign, President Gayoom had shuffled his cabinet, brought in some fresh blood – known then as New Maldives (Hassan Saeed, Jameel and Ahmed Shaheed) – and then went on TV to give a very brief statement. He claimed “… [I] too were a reformer”, followed by a list of things he wished to change.

What followed was a long drawn-out process. Under constant pressure from the MDP, Gayoom conceded on a number of issues and new democratic spaces opened — a Special Constitutional Majlis was assembled for drafting a new constitution, political parties were allowed to operate, and for the first time in our history a free press was allowed.

This process of democratization has been described, following Huntington, as “transplacement” – a process of negotiation between actors in the establishment and those challenging that establishment. But for our purposes, I think it is important to understand the motivations and specific strategies employed by Gayoom’s regime to ward off the MDP’s threat of destabilizing the autocratic regime.

Gayoom bolstered the police with a new division called Special Operations to counter the threat of street protests. For the Majlis and Special Majlis, he had the advantage of using his network of loyalists across the atolls to elect the candidates he wanted. All in all, his overall strategy was to absorb demands made by citizens, make cosmetic changes and render them passive long enough for him to survive – known in Gramscian terms as “transformism”. Interestingly, the group called New Maldives would move on to other activities that would closely resemble Gramscian tactics, like recruiting intellectuals to their cohort.

Gayoom campaign poster from 2008 / image from flickr — sujaa

The motivations for the Gayoom programme seem to have been to make as minimal changes as necessary, survive as long as possible, re-invent his image as father of democracy, and win the presidential slot. Underlying these is a fundamental shift in behaviour and attitude towards politics. Whereas pre-2003 Gayoom did not need to reinforce and bolster his democratic credentials (brute force did the work of convincing), now he had to refer back to democratic values and associate himself with it, however minimal his interpretation of democracy was.

Prior to 2003, his ideological platform was built on a strong cohesive, homogeneous version of religious nationalism – of harmony and unity – which left little room for diversity of opinion. Now he had to concede that freedom of speech was fundamental to the creation of a modern state.

In effect, Gayoom was responding to a set of assumptions he had — that Maldivians wanted a democratic state, that democratic values were on the ascendancy and gaining primacy, and that his autocratic regime was no longer sustainable in its current form because his ideological notions of nation and religion (Islamo-Nationalism hinged on his version of modernist Islam) were losing ground. Democracy and its related set of values were values he had to respond to, even if he had not assimilated them.

Adhaalath party officials / image from

Meanwhile, the MDP’s camp attracted a diverse range of actors with disparate backgrounds — victims of the autocratic regime, the disenfranchised, the educated middle-class, etc. All perhaps, bound through by one nodal point – one basic idea — that Maldives needed democratization , and that was the discursive centre around which much of debates happened. There certainly were differences within MDP and it’s associates, but that basic idea remained primal.

This back and forth between MDP and the autocratic regime opened up the space for other actors in the Maldives as well. Among these were Salafists and similar groups, which had long been victims of Gayoom’s oppression. The opening of participatory politics, paved the way for Islamist parties, with the formation of Adhaalath party.

Though Islamist groups appreciated their new-found freedoms, some radicals remained skeptical of democracy itself, which they take to be an unsustainable ‘Western’ product that needs to be dislodged and replaced as soon as possible. These radical Islamists believed, and continue to believe, that there is no inherent value to sustaining a democracy – it’s value is only as a means for a theocracy to come.

Dr. Mauroof with George Galloway / image from twitter

There is always a danger in speaking of Islamist groups as one monolithic bloc that we stereotype and associate with anti-democratic radicalism and extremism. This would be fundamentally wrong. Even among the Salafists and Islamists there remain quite a large number of people who see an inherent value in democracy, and democratic values like freedom of press and speech.

This could hardly be true for Adhaalath, and its ideologists. Between 2003 and 2008 – on websites like Dharuma, and Noorul-Islam – Adhalaath’s main proponents continued to bash democratic values, human rights, and what they saw as ‘westernization’. This was at a time when Adhaalath remained quite marginal politically. Their numbers hardly registered in elections. But since they comprised of all the educated elite within the Islamist discourse, they had direct impact on public opinion on Islamic issues. Adhaalath combined this with the ideological notion they popularized, that Islamic matters must be addressed only by Islamic scholars – giving them a small but significant foothold from which to shape politics.

Yet, in Adhaalath’s strategy there was a momentary dialectic tension — even as they bashed democratic values and human rights, they were tacitly affirming democracy in their practice, by giving sermons and speeches, by forming associations, by forming parties, by holding debates, and opinion forming councils. More explicitly, they were embracing a limited form of democracy – a polyarchy within themselves where the educated elite or sheikhs were freely forming opinions , and debating and dispersing those opinions, which could be described in Islamic terms as shura. This was hardly possible before, under Maumoon’s brutal regime. There were perverse limitations to this opinion forming process, of course, but that is another article altogether.

“Wathan Edhey Gothah” Coalition from 2008 / image from flick — firax

In addition, Adhaalath’s position was conflated with struggles over identity (“West vs. us”, “true Muslim”, “modernity vs. a return”, etc) and struggles between Islamic discourses. What this means is that, at any given moment, they must factor in multiple variables in their calculation, of which being democratic or not, is just one variable. Hence Adhaalath’s position is not simply reducible to the binary, anti-democratic vs. pro-democratic.

In the second round of the 2008 presidential elections, Adhaalath joined up with the MDP as did Hassan Saeed, Ibra, and Gasim. The MDP won the elections and Mohamed Nasheed took over as president in a smooth transition of power. This was the first free and fair elections to take place in the Maldives, and an important step forward for democratic consolidation.

Even though the MDP, the main proponent of democracy, had just 25% of the popular vote in this first round, this show of solidarity by the various parties, with different ideologies against the autocratic regime, was important ideologically for democracy itself.

Progress stalled

In the ensuing years much of the debate would be framed through the language of liberal democracy, debates centered on the issue of whether that certain problem was of nature democratic, constitutional, corruption, etc. In the background, democratic ideology had been asserted as primal — that which shapes values, behaviours and attitudes.

Chief Supreme Court Justice Faiz / image from Raajje News

Meanwhile, other institutions of democracy were making progress. There were multiple free newspapers, magazines, TV channels, radio stations, civil society groups were forming, independent commissions were formed, and most importantly a free and fair election had been completed. Yet, within three short years there would be a dramatic reversal.

Gayoom left behind a vast network of loyalists that still paid him tutelary respect within the government machinery, police and military. In addition, the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – Gayoom’s party – and it’s allies would make inroads by taking the majority in the Majlis elections which was to affect the composition of the Supreme Court, where the majority is held by old Gayoom loyalists. In effect, Gayoom still cast a vast grey shadow over Maldives, and had indirect control over institutions.

Civil Service protest / image from Minivan News

Nasheed’s reform efforts were hampered from the very outset due to the worsening global economic crisis in 2008/2009. Tourist inflows slowed, and the government was left holding a huge deficit. At the recommendation of the IMF, Nasheed would initiate plans to reduce and control civil service costs — his first run-in with a major Gayoom clientele.

Nearly 40% of all employment in the Maldives is created within the civil service, and it’s rumoured that no government has ever been able to gauge its true finances. Because of this large bureaucracy, some have described Maldives’ situation as a Rentier State.

A Rentier State is a state with a large source of revenue from natural resources, such that it is not dependent on tax from its citizens. The corollary to that is the government uses this inflow to create a dependent bureaucracy for employment, and a large military to pacify its citizens. Thus the theory says, because the government does not tax its citizens, citizens cannot make direct demands from the government, and in case they do, the government will use the huge military to silence their voices. This amounts to a very persuasive explanation of the long and stable thirty year dictatorship of Gayoom.

Following the economic crisis, attempts to change the civil service salary structure would backfire as the civil service association took the government to court. The economic crisis also affected small businesses, civil society, and the free press, and as media sources dwindled, the gap would be filled by media funded by resort owning oligarchs, primarily Haveeru, Sun, DhiTV, DhiFM & VTV.

Dollar transaction / image by @subcorpus

These resort-funded media outlets, and Gayoom’s political parties, worked hand-in hand and together would leverage the disaffection during the dollar crisis to form a bulwark against Nasheed & the MDP. Working with the media, using the Majlis and the Supreme Court as instruments, Gayoom’s loyalists would manufacture issue after issue, to which the MDP could not adequately respond. We can recall here a number of issues like the introduction of GST, Aasandha, and many others. In the worsening crisis – economic and political – the MDP lost crucial voting blocs, most significantly in Male’ (as has been evident in the first round of 2013 Presidential elections).

It’s important to note the transitions in background values, behaviours and attitude that occur at this point with the consolidation of media sources funded heavily by the resort owning oligarchs, and in the way these media were used, between 2009/2010.

DhiTV screenshot showing EC members, with their heads upside down / image from twitter @mideyalvarez

With the twilight of Gayoom’s oppressive era circa 2003, a number of media outlets came into being. What these new sources brought was the idea of an active citizen, who would inform themselves of issues, join debates, and challenge the status quo. The background idea was of liberation from chains, awakening from darkness, and activity against passivity, apathy and lethargy. The idea hinged on the potential capacity of these citizens to free themselves, to know right from wrong and decide for themselves.

What the resort owning oligarchs brought back circa 2009/2010 was the idea of a top down bullhorn – a blunt object to manipulate an objectified, malleable, subject, but with a slight twist that was different from Gayoom’s. The notion was that listeners or viewers had no independent capacity to form opinions of their own, and would be receptive to the way media primes and conditions them with their language. They were careful to use the language of democracy, to manipulate conditions in favour of the resort owning oligarchs.

In this way they would demand action against Nasheed’s administration. In other words, they were mobilising crowds to protect the status quo that benefits the resort owning oligarchs. They would manufacture crises in order to claim that such and such were “unconstitutional”, against “free speech”, etc. Unlike Gayoom, they were no longer demanding passivity, but using liberation language to undermine democratic institutions. They were undermining democratic institutions, but were using the language of democracy. It was blatantly cynical and manipulative.

Sheikh Imran / image from Haveeru

Democratic reversal

The next turning point in our story would come late in 2011, with Adhaalath leaving Nasheed’s administration, joining the opposition and the formation of the 23 December Ithihaad. This turn brought with it a whole new language, and would fundamentally change and eject the primacy of democratic ideology. The battle ground would shift from a terrain where “democracy was the only game in town” to one where democracy itself had to battle an anti-democratic Islamo-Nationalism.

The new Islamo-Nationalism that was emerging was nothing similar to the old Islamo-Nationalism of Gayoom. One has to make the distinction here, that this ideology that was emerging was quite different from all the things that had inspired it. It was in a sense determined by a number of movements, histories and trends, and situated firmly within the particularities of our politics. Adhaalath brought with it the language of globalist Salafism, and political Islam. Yet, what they preached on the podiums had little to do with Salafism – it was addressing a Maldivian subject, within the confines of a Maldivian history, promoting a particularly Maldivian political project — that of challenging Nasheed.

Gayoom’s progeny, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) & DRP, brought with it the memory of a stable thirty years, and used the language of nationalism — sovereignty, independence, militarism, harmony, unity, etc. The 23rd December Ithihaad that emerged used our collective memory and fears, promoting xenophobia and isolationism. The movement was in continuity with a certain history, also a discontinuity, and a break from our past.

Police and military inside the state broadcaster compound posing for a picture on 7th February 2012 / Image source unknown

The December 23rd Itihaad’s anti-democratic turn would come after the 7th February 2012’s coup d’état. Up until then, they were still using the language of constitutionalism, democracy and so on. But after the coup, not having much to rely on after pulling off an anti-democratic coup, and firmly challenged by the MDP, they would drop all pretense of being democratic, and rely solely on Islamo-Nationalism — that language of sovereignty, unity, harmony, Islamic identity, etc. They must  have realized that it was a losing battle, and needed to alter the board itself, to survive. What we are left with is a severe reversal of the democratic project.

After the coup, Hassan Saeed was caught on tape saying that this was a “unique coup”. But there is nothing unique about the reversal of fortune for democracy in the Maldives, and it follows quite closely with cases studied in democracy consolidation literature. According to scholars who have studied democratic consolidation, where democratic transition takes place not through direct replacement, but in a negotiated transfer of power, old regimes continue to hold vested interests in state institutions and perverse informal institutions, as a guarantee against persecution. At times these old dictators have used these institutions to upend the democratic project. This is exactly the case in Maldives, where Nasheed was given a poisoned chalice.

Presidential Candidate Mohamed Nasheed speaking after runoff elections were halted by Supreme Court / image from flickr @dyingregime

In this post-election debacle today, what we are witnessing is an attempt by the members of the 23rd December Ithihaad at a systematic destruction of the last standing democratic institution — the electoral system.

The election was monitored by international bodies, the counting was done in front of party representatives. There are no significant issues with the voter’s registry. Yet, the counting was followed by VTV’s campaign to create doubt about the election results, as these media funded by resort owning oligarchs have done similarly in the past. The Supreme Court, infiltrated by Gayoom’s loyalists, has intervened and is deliberately delaying the runoff election. Adhaalath is using its ideological tools to campaign against Nasheed and Elections Commission. How this is a religious message is beyond me. The police and military are being deployed to pacify those demanding for an immediate runoff election.

The conclusion writes itself. We demand our right to vote!

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


Jamiyyathul Salaf ask PPM and JP not to use its religious sermon except for religious purposes

Religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf has today said that the NGO had received information that Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Jumhoory Party (JP) coalition was using the recent lecture delivered by Salaf’s lecturer Sheikh Adam Shameem, against the purpose of the lecture.

The NGO said that the lecture and the name of the NGO was not to be used for anything other than its actual purpose, which was to remind the people to be careful of those trying to destroy the independence and Islam in the country, and to remind the people not to let those people achieve their goal.

Salaf said the NGO appeals to the members and leadership of PPM and Jumhoory Party and the coalition of parties aligned with JP not to use the NGO’s sermons and name for any other purpose.

Jamiyyathul Salaf also stated that the NGO is not affiliated with any political party and that the NGO is an independent civil NGO.

The NGO said that it could not stop the way people feel about a sermon delivered and also that sermons being an advantage or disadvantage for political parties was not an excuse to stop the NGO from fulfilling its responsibilities.

Salaf said that the NGO does not consider the timing when holding their religious events.

Meanwhile, yesterday Salaf issued a statement accusing Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of misleading the public over the purpose of the sermon ‘Andalus’, as the sermon was “receiving huge support from the public”.

On September 18, The Maldives Broadcasting Corporation chairman along with members of the Maldives Broadcasting Commission were summoned before the Independent Institutions Committee’s sub-committee  following complaints by MDP MPs that the sermon by religious NGO Jamiyyathul Salaf preacher Sheikh Adam Shameem Ibrahim infringed the rights of the party’s presidential candidate.

Maldives Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Ibrahim Umar Manik told the Independent Commmission’s sub-committee that the live feed of the sermon was cut off around 11:35pm that night after the editorial team noticed that the sermon was heading to a direction which was not its original objective.

The sub-committee decided to forward the issue to the Independent Institutions Committee.

In December 2010, Salaf called on the then-government to “provide military training to all Muslim Maldivians and familiarise citizens with the use of modern weaponry” before “Jews take over the country”, days before a controversial visit by a team of Isreali surgeons to offer free-of-charge eye camps in Male’, Gaaf Dhaal Thinadhoo and Addu Atoll Hithadhoo.


Religious NGO Salaf to hold children’s evening

Religious NGO Jamiyythul Salaf has announced the organisation is planning a special event next Thursday for children, hosted by former singer Ali Rameez and Ahmed Simau.

The NGO said that the event will be named ‘Banoon’ and will be held at the Artificial Beach from 4:00pm to 5:30pm.

The event includes religious poems, advice from Sheikhs, dramas and stories. In addition, during the event children will be given gifts and the opportunity to show their talents on stage.

Salaf has appealed to all parents to participate.

On the same night, Salaf said there will be Q&A program for adults based on the topic ‘Faith and Salah’.

The program will start at 9:00pm and will end at 11:00pm. Five Sheikhs will be on the panel to answer the questions by attendees.


Salaf rejects President’s invitation to “peacefully resolve” rising religious tension

Religious NGO Jamiyathul Salaf has rejected an invitation extended by the President Mohamed Nasheed, to discuss and peacefully resolve the rising religious tensions in the Maldives.

The President’s Office said that the invitation was sent to the President of Salaf, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim, requesting he attend a meeting scheduled for Sunday.

However, according to the local media, Sheikh Abdullah rejected the offer in a letter he sent to the President Office, claiming the President Nasheed wants to meet and “defend” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay’s call for a moratorium and debate on the practice of flogging for extramarital sex.

Minivan News could not get his comment at the time of press.

Abdullah bin Mohamed Ibrahim was quoted in local news paper Haveeru, saying that he “does not want to debate Islamic penalties” clearly stated in Quran and revealed by Prophet’s Sunnah.

He also reportedly urged the President to end his “calls for religious debate on Islamic penalties.”

Following the explosive reaction against Pillay, President Nasheed argued that “our scholars lost the chance to showcase Sharia’s compatibility with human rights, by reacting in a provocative and ‘Jihadi’ manner.”

Speaking on the same issue in last week’s radio address, President claimed that in the name of protecting Islam, the real call of religious protesters was to initiate the implementation of Islamic penalties such as stoning, hand-cutting and execution in the Maldives.

He noted that in consideration of all its actions to date, it is evident that the state has a tradition of pardoning strict punishments for criminal offences committed against Islamic Law – however, he said that in the exercise of penal flagellation, the government has not exempted any convicts charged with adultery from punishment.

President also reaffirmed that all actions taken by the Government in matters involving Islamic jurisprudence, the Government will base its course of action only on the “consensus and counsel of Islamic scholars”.