This government clearly has every kind of trouble imaginable when it comes to the religious front. We have extremists, conservatives, suspected missionaries, Taliban freedom fighters, Afghan parliamentarians, jihadists, and zealots of every denomination. So what is the government doing about it?
This government is led by some of the most liberal minds in the country. But that is to their detriment. They cannot make liberal policies because they will be attacked for it. They are constantly threatened, warned, and then shunned by the conservative community. The only reason Adhaalath tolerates MDP is because MDP has fundamentalists like Fareed, and Adhaalath is getting their own ministry as a result of that tolerance.
But that does not seem to be enough. So now, the only way to get these people (meaning conservatives and not just Adhaalath) on our side seems to be to ensure that there is no doubt as to the fact that we will not unduly prosecute them – even if justice demands it.
When the Himandhoo residents attacked the police with knives, batons, and rocks they crossed the line. They chose violence. We cannot tolerate violence in any form. If they had blocked entry and sat in front of the mosque in non-violent protest, then this would be a different story. But that was not the case.
I’ve written about the human rights which must be afforded prisoners and today I want to remind everyone that these rights apply to our police officers as well. We all know members of the armed services, and we know them to be diligent, caring and disciplined citizens. And though there are institutional problems, they deserve to have the support of the people for working towards the lawful protection of the nation. When the Himandhoo residents attacked them, they crossed the line.
Mr President, I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for you, but this is not something that members of the liberal community can find acceptable. Even though we understand the reasons for it, there needs to be more due process, if for no other reason than to honor the policemen who were forced to go up against them.
How can the Himandhoo residents just be released again? These are residents from an island which has been heavily influenced by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the largest terrorist group in our region. They constantly violate human rights, create a repressive environment, and allow child abuse in the form of underage marriage. They actually picked up arms against the government in defense of a radical and conservative ideology. Will a simple workshop convince them of the error of their ways? No.
Violence is okay
Instead we will send a message to the conservative community that their actions were okay. That it was understandable. I mean, they were only defending a mosque right? Only defending their holy place. So it is okay right? No. It is not okay. They blocked entry and threatened other Muslims. The police could have easily taken off their shoes and entered the premises in a respectful manner, but instead the Himandhoo residents chose violent confrontation.
Many specific mosques are becoming places that are forbidden to many of us now. Even in Male’ – many mosques are hostile to certain people praying in them and all forbid women from the main spaces. One of the first moves the Islamic Ministry made was to shut down all women’s mosques. And where was the backlash?
Those of us who do nothing are sending the message that this kind of action is okay. And this message is being spearheaded by government policy. Recently we released nine Maldivians who were arrested on the Waziristan-Afghanistan border.
When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was questioned about this, Shaheed said that “if we release anybody, it is because our laws require them to be released.” So then why were these people repatriated in the first place without any accompanying documentation of charges? If they have not been tried or convicted, then why are they not formally charged before being released? Why did Shaheed allow them to be brought to the Maldives without any investigation in their actions or collaboration with the Pakistani government? Why did he not seek information about the three Maldivians who died in Pakistani custody? And finally, why did he pass the buck to the Maldivian Police Service saying that the Maldives Police Service had determined that “the best thing to do was to release them to their families and put them under surveillance”, while their activities abroad were investigated?
So do the Police now have an international investigative unit? Do they have the money and capacity to pull off this kind of investigation? No. These people are the rest of our problem now. That we are repatriating our would-be jihadists is apparently of no concern. That Lashkar-e-Taiba is active in Himandhoo (and anywhere else in Maldives) is also apparently no big deal.
Though appeasement does seem to be rampant, at least we have been making some headway against fundamentalism. The rapidly formalised defense agreement with India was aimed at protecting our boarders from terrorism. The Maldives was a focus because Lashkar-e-Tabia, who was responsible for the Mumbai Terrorist attacks, as well as being linked to the Sultan Park Bombing and Himandhoo, is obviously active in our country. We have also objected, very mildly, to having Afghans come for official negotiations without informing the government beforehand.
All in all, we release violent jihadists and the Himandhoo residents. With Shaheem, from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, on the delegation who visited them, it’s quite obvious that this is a religious issue and not just a matter of the previous government “treating them unfairly.” It is an active policy of appeasement towards the conservative religious community. But toward what end? Maybe it is because there are so many of them that we can no longer stand against them. Maybe we are finally giving in to the threats and warnings. Maybe it is just so we have a little bit of support and cooperation. Or maybe it is so they don’t blow up the Holiday Inn once it finally gets issued its liquor license.
All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]