Majority of Maldivian jihadists ex-military, claims former President Nasheed

The vast majority of Maldivians jihadists fighting in Syria are former officers of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), former President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed, warning of the rise of Islamic extremism in the Maldives.

In an interview with the Independent newspaper in the UK during a visit to London, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) president claimed that up to 200 Maldivians were presently fighting in Syria and Iraq.

“Radical Islam is getting very, very strong in the Maldives. Their strength in the military and in the police is very significant,” the opposition leader was quoted as saying in a story that appeared online today.

“They have people in strategic positions within both. Of the 200 people who have gone to jihad, the vast majority are ex-military. What’s happening is they are taking people in for training and they will go away [to fight abroad]. They are using the Maldives military to train their people.”

In May, the MDP claimed that extremist ideologies were prevalent in the security services and that most militants traveling abroad were ex-police and military officers.

The Ministry of Defence and National Security dismissed the allegations at the time as both “baseless and untrue” and intended to “discredit and disparage” the military.

Condemning the MDP’s statement, the defence ministry called upon the opposition party to “stop spreading misinformation in ways that could confuse the public”.

At least four Maldivians have reportedly been killed in the Syrian civil war.

Growing radicalism

Nasheed meanwhile blamed an influx of Saudi Arabian funds for the conservative turn of Maldivian society in recent years and suggested that President Abdulla Yameen might tacitly encourage radicalism.

“President Yameen feels he can deal with the Islamist threat later but first he wants to consolidate power,” Nasheed explained.

“He has the Islamists with him and he can’t do away with them. He would deny that but I don’t see the government taking any measures against the Isis flag being displayed on the street and all the indoctrination going on. They have allowed the military to grow beards.”

“They are very short-sighted. Their thinking is that Islam has a lot of support and you can whip up more [political] support with religion.”

Nasheed warned that the government’s position was untenable.

“If you look at how at how Mosul fell – the top brass ran away because Isis had already infiltrated the rank and file,” Nasheed said.

“I have a feeling that our police and military are already taken. Eventually the Islamists will create havoc in the Maldives. I have no doubt about it.”

However, there was no direct threat to tourists who visit the Maldives, Nasheed said, as the extremists did not want to draw attention to a fertile recruiting ground.

“The government wants the money out of tourism. Everybody wants the money out of that. How the tourists behave on their uninhabited islands is nothing to do with us apparently,” he said.

“They are not worried about the hypocrisy of it. Not all worried – they think it’s very clever, and it is. They have two tracks going. You have your money on one track and then you have religion on another track. They think they have found an excellent model.”

Nasheed also suggested that people were afraid to speak out due to death threats and intimidation.

“They are afraid to talk about it because the minute you mention Isis you get death threats,” he said.


On September 5, a protest march took took place in Malé with participants bearing the Islamic State’s (IS) flag calling for the implementation of Islamic Shariah in the Maldives.

‘We want the laws of the Quran, not the green book [Maldivian constitution]’, ‘Islam will eradicate secularism’, ‘No democracy, we want just Islam’, and ‘Shariah will dominate the world’, read some of the placards carried by protesters.

In late August, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon condemned “the crimes committed against innocent civilians by the organisation which identifies itself as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”

Dunya’s remarks followed Islamic Minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed’s declaration that the ISIS would not be allowed to operate in the Maldives.

“ISIS is an extremist group. No space will be given for their ideology and activities in the Maldives,” Shaheem tweeted on August 24.

The MDP, however, promptly put out a statement questioning Shaheem’s sincerity, suggesting that the words had not been backed up with concrete action by the government.

A Facebook page called Islamic State in Maldives promoting IS in the country was discovered last month, which shared photos of protests calling for a ban on Israeli tourists where protesters carried the IS flag.

A new site called Haqqu (truth) and Twitter account meanwhile sprang up recently featuring IS-related news as well as Dhivehi translations of a sermon by self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other IS publications.


Revised penal code will “destroy Islam,” insists Sheikh Ilyas

A draft penal code under consideration by parliamentary committee will “destroy Islam” in the Maldives if the bill is passed in its current form, Sheikh Ilyas Hussain of the Adhaalath Party (AP) repeatedly insisted at parliament today.

The chair of the religious conservative AP’s scholars’ council and member of the Fiqh Academy was summoned to the committee after claiming that the draft legislation (Dhivehi) did not include Shariah penalties for fornication, apostasy and violent robbery.

“If it is passed, there is no doubt that there will be no religion in this Muslim society that claims to be 100 percent Muslim. There will be no Islamic punishments,” Sheikh Ilyas stated in a sermon delivered at the Furqan mosque in Male’ on March 23.

Sections of an audio recording of the sermon were played at the committee meeting today.

Ilyas however stood by the assertion and pointed to the bill specifying two years banishment as the punishment for fornication, instead of public flogging as prescribed in the Quran.

“Refusing [to incorporate] a single Hadd [fixed punishments specifically mentioned in Quran] is destroying Islam,” he said.

Other hudud crimes include murder, theft, highway robbery, consuming alcohol, apostasy and defaming a chaste woman.

Responding to Ilyas’ allegations, MP Ahmed Hamza, chair of the committee, noted that the draft penal code specifies as offences zina (fornication), theft, alcohol consumption and illegally toppling the government.

Following tense exchanges between Ilyas and MPs in a question and answer session, Hamza however conceded that “some [hudud] punishments” were not included in the draft legislation.

Hamza explained that a provision (article 1205) was added by the committee after the draft penal code was opened for public comment, under which sentencing persons convicted for premarital sex to 100 lashes is left to the discretion of judges.

Hamza also observed that a high degree of certainty is required in Islamic Shariah to convict a person of a hudud crime, such as four witnesses to prove fornication.

The hudud punishments were not incorporated because the Maldivian judiciary does not have the competence and public confidence to deliver fair judgments, Hamza said.

“I believe that our justice system has not developed to the level of establishing hadd,” he said, adding that the Prophet’s (pbuh) sayings advised against meting such punishments if there was the slightest doubt.

The six-member select committee reviewing the revised penal code includes MPs Ahmed Hamza, Imthiyaz Fahmy and Nazim Rashad from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), MPs Abdul Raheem Abdulla and Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and MP Ahmed Mohamed (Vice Chair) from the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).

A revised penal code was submitted to parliament in late 2009 to replace the existing law put in place in the 1960s. The bill has since been at committee stage.

The initial draft of the penal code was prepared by legal expert Professor Paul H Robinson and the University of Pennsylvania Law School of the United States, upon the request of the Attorney General in January, 2006. The project was supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Professor Robinson’s team have published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft legislation.

“The author’s review suggests that the Maldivian criminal justice system systematically fails to do justice and regularly does injustice, that the reforms needed are wide-ranging, and that without dramatic change the system and its public reputation are likely to deteriorate further,” Professor Robinson wrote in his summary conclusion.


At today’s meeting, MDP MPs accused Ilyas of “lying” and misleading the public when he swore by God during his sermon that Shariah punishments were not included in the revised penal code.

MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said he deeply regretted Ilyas’ remarks in his sermon that implied that members of the committee were not Muslims.

“I am aware that I am a Muslim, not because of any relation between myself and Sheikh Ilyas,” Imthiyaz said. “I am a Muslim because of a connection from the bottom of my heart to God.”

Inciting religious hatred was a crime under both domestic and international law, he added.

DRP MP Ahmed Mohamed said that the first draft of the bill was in conflict with Islamic Shariah but the committee has made significant changes at the advice of religious scholars.

He went on to defend the committees’ efforts in reviewing the bill in consultation with state institutions, religious scholars, legal experts and the Islamic Ministry.

PPM MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur meanwhile asked Ilyas why he chose to make allegations in public and sow discord instead of sharing his concerns with the committee.

He stressed that the review process was ongoing with the input of experts and religious scholars.

“When you say this is a law intended to destroy Islam, what happens is that we face threats,” he said. “People who love religion even called us kafir (non-believers) at the time. So this is a dangerous matter.”

The PPM MP for Laamu Maavah also disputed Ilyas’ claim that the bill did not specify consensual sex between adults as an offence.

In response, Ilyas said it was his duty to inform the public after the committee invited views and comments as most people were not well-informed on religious issues.

Ilyas also objected to a provision (article 411) exempting a woman from being lashed even if she confesses to fornication, if the man denies it and four witnesses are not produced.

“This is definitely against Islamic Shariah,” Ilyas said, adding that a confession at court should lead to punishment.

Sheikh Ilyas argued that such provisions contravened the constitution as article 10 stated that no laws contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.


Juvenile Court denies fornication charges filed against 15 year-old girl

Judicial authorities have denied that a 15 year-old child abuse victim is facing charges of fornication at the Juvenile Court, despite media reports to the contrary.

Local newspaper Haveeru reported yesterday (January 6) that the Prosecutor General’s (PG’s) Office pressed charges of fornication against a female minor from Shaviyani Atoll Feydhoo at the Juvenile Court following the conclusion of a police investigation.

Director of the Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Maajid however told Minivan News today that no case against a minor for fornication had been submitted to the court at present.

The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has meanwhile confirmed that it had forwarded a case to the PG’s Office against a 15 year-old female for undisclosed reasons.

Back in June 2012, the same minor – a school student at the time – gave birth to a baby later discovered buried in the outdoor shower area of a home on Feydhoo. The discovery led to the arrest of four people, including the 15 year-old girl’s mother and step father.

Haveeru reported yesterday that the victim’s mother and step father had been charged with the murder of the baby. According to the newspaper, the girl’s step father also faces charges of possession of pornography and sexual abuse of a child.

Under the Child Sex Offenders (Special Provisions) Act of 2009, the penalty for child sex abuse is 10 to 14 years but can be extended to 15 to 18 years if the accused was in a position of trust with the children he or she abused.

The girl’s mother meanwhile faces charges under the 2009 law of deliberately concealing the alleged sexual abuse.


Department of Judicial Administration Director Maajid claimed that while no case had as yet been filed against the 15 year-old at the country’s courts, he understood that she faced criminal charges on a separate matter not related to the death of her child.

“As far as I know, the girl is being charged over a separate case of fornication, unrelated to the issue of the baby found buried,” he said.

Maajid claimed that although minors could not be charged for any crime under Islamic Shariah, Maldivian law did allow suspects under 18 years of age to be tried in the country’s Juvenile Court depending on the individual circumstances of each case.

“A minor is exempted from criminal liability in Islamic Shariah. Under Maldivian law, a minor of 15 to 18 years of age may be tried as a juvenile offender,” he said.

Maajid explained that juvenile offenders could be generally charged for any type of criminal offence.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed today that a case had been filed against the 15 year-old girl, but was unrelated to the discovery of her dead child last year. However, Haneef said that further details on the charges could not be given at present due to the child’s status as a minor in the eyes of the law.

The Police spokesperson referred the matter to Prosecutor General (PG) Ahmed Muizzu, who was not responding to calls today. Minivan News was awaiting a response from the PG’s Office at the time of the press.

Dr Mariyam Shakeela and Dr Aishath Rameela, the respective Acting Minister and State Minister for the Ministry of Gender, Family and Human rights were also not responding to calls at time of press.

In September last year, a 16 year-old girl was sentenced to house arrest and 100 lashes after being found guilty of fornication with a 29 year-old man.

Desperate measures

There have been a number of recent incidents reported in the media where pregnant women have been forced to take desperate measures such as self-induced abortions, infanticide or abandoning infants.

On December 26, 2012, police announced that a baby had been discovered abandoned on the side of a road in the Maafannu Ward of Male’.

Earlier the same month, a 26-year old male and 20-year old female were reportedly arrested in connection to the discovery of a five month-old foetus buried on a beach on the island of Maradhoo Feydhoo in Seenu Atoll.

Over the last two years, three other newborns have been found dead in the country.

Over the same period there have been two separate incidents where newborn children were discovered abandoned but alive.

Two foetuses were reported discovered during this two year period, one hidden in a milk tin and the other at the bottom of Male’s municipal swimming pool. Another fully-developed baby was thrown into a park having apparently been strangled with underwear tied around its neck.

The Centre for Community Health and Disease Control (CCHDC) has previously described these incidents, as well as the figures detailing an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases, as evidence of a sexual health crisis in the Maldives.

Nazeera Najeeb, head of the reproductive health unit of the CCHDC, told Minivan News in an interview last year that the centre was witnessing an “alarming” increase in cases of underage and unplanned pregnancies, where some girls are getting pregnant “without even knowing it”.

“These unwanted pregnancies are subsequently resulting in more unsafe abortions, baby dumping or infanticide,” she noted.


Supreme Court backs down from issuing ruling on legality of selling pork and alcohol

The Supreme Court has rejected the government’s request for a consultative opinion over whether the Maldives can import pork and alcohol without violating the nation’s Shariah-based constitution.

Pork and alcohol are prohibited items under Shariah law.

The judges unanimously rejected the case on the grounds that the matter did not need to be addressed at the Supreme Court level.

The Court did note, however, that pork and alcohol have been imported under provisions of the Contraband Act and that there is a regulation in favor of the trade. As no law has declared the regulation unlawful, the import of pork and alcohol is indeed legal, the court claimed.

Meanwhile, Article 10 of the Constitution states that “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

The Constitution also states that any law not struck down by the courts is valid.

The government last week requested a consultative opinion from the Supreme Court on the matter to level a heated debate over the compatibility of resort tourism and Maldives’ national religion Islam, prompted by protests on December 23, 2011 in defense of Islam.

Responding to demands made of the government by the protesting coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties, the government issued a circular closing spas in all resorts and announced it was considering a ban on pork and alcohol, in a move to align government policies with Islamic standards.

While the trade of alcohol is not conducted by the government, the government receives a significant profit of the trade from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

In particular, opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) Leader and MP ‘Burma’ Gasim Ibrahim owns Villa Hotels resort chain and is allegedly one of the biggest beneficiaries of the alcohol trade.

A tolerant society with a dependent economy

Since resorts first opened in the Maldives in the 1970s, tourism has been the core of the island nation’s economy. To accommodate the industry as well as the national Islamic faith, in 1975 the Ministry of Economic Development regulated the sale of pork and alcohol to tourist establishments (Act 4/75).

While there is no regulation or set of guidelines specific to spa operations in resorts, Article 15(a2) of the Goods and Services Tax Act stipulates that spas are legally accepted in the Maldives as tourism goods, and therefore may be operated in compliance with tourism regulations.

After its formation in 2009 the Parliament had nine months to reject any legislation which did not conform with the Constitution.

Parliament did not reject the regulation on the sale of pork and alcohol in 2009, thus allowing it to stand by default.

Speaking to Minivan News last week, Attorney General (AG) Abdulla Muiz believed that although the regulations were clear, legal clarification would mitigate concerns. He suggested that the recent debate has had more to do with internal politics than the oft-cited public preference.

“We are quite a tolerant society, although there a few elements which walk a hard line,” he observed. “I don’t think there is a public concern over the sale of alcohol and pork in resorts.”

The AG pointed out that the majority of the nation’s citizens are primarily interested in the quality of their daily life. He added that the population of 350,000 is annually trumped by the over 700,000 tourists would come to- and invest in – the Maldives.

“If there is a decision prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the tourism sector, it will have a great impact on the economy. The 2012 State Budget of Rf14 billion [US$946.8 million] is very much based on the estimated revenue from the tourism sector. And the government has obligations to investors–it has leased 100 resorts and awarded 5o to 60 islands for development. I hope the Supreme Court will take the economy into account,” he said prior to the Court’s decision.

Muiz said a court ruling would assure investors that the current system is valid.

A problematic profile

Two months ago, protestors demanded that UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay be “slain” for her comment against flogging as a punishment for extra-marital sex. One month ago, the coalition formed by religious groups and opposition parties for the “defend Islam” protest called for stricter regulations in keeping with Shariah law, notably stricter regulations on the sale of pork and alcohol and the closure of massage parlors “and such places where prostitution is practiced.”

International media subsequently reported the story with varying degrees of accuracy, presenting a Maldives starkly different from widely-marketed white sand and turquoise waters.

Noting that the tourism sector had suffered many cancellations in past weeks, MATI Secretary General Sim Ibrahim Mohamed previously pointed out that “people get jittery when you talk about fundamentalism, radicalism, extremism–since 9/11 these have been very sensitive words.”

Speaking to Minivan News last week, religious conservative Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said, “Maldivians are very nice people, you don’t see any country like the Maldives in the Islamic world, so why would we want to damage these people? These are Muslim people and they like moderate views.”

Calling tourism “the backbone of our national economy”, Shaheem said he was “100 percent sure there is no prostitution in the tourism industry here. It is very professional, it is the most famous tourism industry in the world and is accepted by the international community. Why would we want to attack ourselves?”


Protests leave government and coalition awaiting next move

In the wake of the December 23 protests, coalition members who defended Islam and ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members who called for a continuation of the nation’s moderate tradition await each others’ next move while attempting to articulate the differentiate between religious and political motives.

At an MDP rally held on Saturday night, party Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik claimed that he would not let President Mohamed Nasheed listen to the any of the demands without party approval.

“If you note down the demands and submit it to MDP, we will look into it and forward any demands we see worthwhile to send to the President,” Moosa noted.

He claimed that MDP is well aware of the Islamic history and government will not be forced into doing anything whenever a person says something or protest.

On Friday night, Moosa led an enervated crowd at Haruge in a protest against the demands and those calling for them.

The demands have not been formally presented to the government, President’s Office Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair confirmed. He added that Moosa’s demand for a party review was in keeping with standard protocol.

Meanwhile, Adhaalath Party chief spokesperson and former State Islamic Minister Sheik Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed hopes the President “will accept the people’s voices.”

Furthermore, religious coalition spokesperson Abdullah Mohamed said no deadline has been set for the government to meet the protestor’s demand, however the coalition will meet this week to discuss the government’s reaction and next steps.

“We will observe very closely how much the government is doing to meet our demands. We will try to peacefully resolve the issues by discussing with the government,” he said, warning of another mass protest should the talks fail.

Meanwhile, no party has said it will formally submit the demands as requested.

The coalition of opposition parties and religious groups made five key demands of the government at Friday’s protest: to formally condemn UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay for her comments on Shari’ah law; to deny El Al and other Israeli airlines service to the Maldives; to remove the SAARC monuments in Addu; to reverse the decision on declaring areas of inhabited islands uninhabited in order to permit alcohol sales; and to close Male’ brothels.

In a significant shift from the Maldives’ tradition of moderate Islam protestors also called for the full implementation of Shari’ah law, including hand cutting and stoning. These requests have not been officially endorsed by any party.

While all demands stem from Islamic principles, Zuhair believes they have been made “for political gain and recognition by political leaders, not by religious scholars and for religious purposes.”

“This is actually deceit on a grand scale. We are all Muslims, and as such share that part of our identity. But each and every political party can compete politically under separate identities.

“Then, the opposition takes a side and calls on all Muslims to come over. It’s political trickery, and the people will be aware of it.”

Zuhair suggested that financial advantage was also part of the mix, pointing out that the religious scholars who accused former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of not being a Muslim during the 2008 Presidential campaign were the “same people now speaking on the same platform as the former president.”

He claimed that the end goal was political and financial profit.

“The sheiks have been brought to the public as a people who say one thing for political gain during one period, and then change during another. Everyone has an agenda. The mullahs are taking the businessmen for a ride, Gayoom is taking the mullahs for a ride, it’s a win-win situation,” Zuhair said.

The loss, Zuhair suggested, could come on the international platform.

“In today’s interconnected world, information is disseminated by foreigner partners and concerns are raised beyond the government’s reach,” he said.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem noted that few foreign reporters were sent to cover the protest due to its collision with the holiday season, but that foreign media outlets had picked up the event. “All governments are concerned,” he said. “I don’t believe this was good publicity for the country.”

However, the peaceful execution of both protests had reassured many, he concluded.

Minivan News asked DRP leader and MP Ahmed Thasmeen whether the protest was religious or political.

“It was organised by religious and civil society groups for issues concerning them, it was not a political event,” he said. He added that the protest would have no bearing on the 2013 presidential election, but said that the demands made must be discussed by political parties.

The purpose of the protest, according to Thasmeen, was to point out that the government’s habit of pursuing policies which “undermine religion” have created a “growing fear among the Maldivian people.”

Minivan News asked whether a distinction could be made between religion and politics. “The protest was organised by a variety of groups,” he responded, “and has achieved its goal of showing that the Maldivian people are deeply concerned.”

Minivan News inquired of Thasmeen, a resort owner, whether the demand to recall the resolution over selling alcohol on uninhabited islands would damage the tourism industry.

If approved, Thasmeen said the demand “would only impact tourism in a few locations. We are requesting that the government stop using technical loop holes to sell alcohol on these islands.”

Meanwhile, MDP party members spoke out against Thasmeen and Gassim at an impromptu party rally late Friday evening, calling for their arrest as well as the execution of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Thasmeen today accused the government of labeling the protest as “radical–which is not a label that fits in with the people who attended.”

Officials agree on one thing: the December 23 protests brought significant issues to the table, which both sides will be hard-pressed to ignore.


Comment: Be religious, Prince – lessons from Machiavelli

Is there anything to doubt about the government of President Mohamed Nasheed’s commitment to protecting Islam in the country?

There is a full-fledged Islamic Ministry, granted almost limitless freedoms to go about its work – which is hitherto unseen in the country. There is also a minister from the religious Adhaalath Party sitting in cabinet meetings, provided at least one day a week to raise issues with the president and his cabinet.

Religious intellectuals also have a free reign in preaching and practicing whatever interpretation of Shari’a they deem is valid. This is new too.

There is a thriving religious civil society with dozens of highly active and wealthy religious NGOs; NGOs that could hold mass rallies with a days notice. We have also seen the largest religious gatherings ever in the country’s history entertained by such popular and high-profile figures as Zakir Naik.

A whole subculture, with apparently increasing outward religious symbolism and traditionally unusual practices, has been made available in the country.

Now, there is no reason why all the above should not be the case. After all, under a chapter entitled “Social Justice” the Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) election manifesto, there is a whole section devoted to “Protection of Islamic Faith”. [1]

Yet from a modern liberal democratic point of view, some of those policies are chillingly discriminatory and well beyond the legitimate role of a democratic state.

If so, one wonders what has gone wrong with the government’s religious policies?

One explanation can be gleaned from nothing other than Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. Besides the book’s dizzying insights into the existence of different values systems, chapter XVIII of the book shows great wisdom about the power of religion in politics.

In the book’s characteristic style, Machiavelli says:

“And you have to understand this, that a prince, especially a new one, cannot observe all those things for which men are esteemed, being often forced, in order to maintain the state, to act contrary to faith, friendship, humanity, and religion. Therefore it is necessary for him to have a mind ready to turn itself accordingly as the winds and variations of fortune force it…

For this reason, a prince ought to take care that he never lets anything slip from his lips that is not replete with the above-named five qualities, so that he may appear to him who sees and hears him altogether merciful, faithful, humane, upright, and religious. There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality….” [Emphasis added]

While for many people Machiavelli’s advice can be nothing but realpolitik, there is a double lesson here: insights into the fact that morality is not reducible to a single overarching value.

That is, our life is a sort of moral multiverse with several different values and considerations that could sometimes conflict with one another, forcing us to sacrifice one good value for another.

For instance, for a government, “survivability” and “stability” are extremely important values. Yet survivability or stability can conflict with the “right to privacy”, “political legitimacy”, or “liberty”. This can be the case when, for instance, a government eavesdrops on the private telephone conversations of opposition MPs, subscribes to a highly undemocratic interpretation of the Constitution on cabinet confirmation, or arrests an MP without due process.

We ask: unless you are a sort of fundamentalist monist, why should one value always override the others?

Government stability (for example, having a functioning cabinet) can conflict with due process, such as running parliament. Yet, seven out of the president’s 12 cabinet nominations were rejected!

We ask: what can be always more important: process or outcome? To what extent can a president let processes run their course and let outrageous outcomes result from them?

That is the first lesson from Machiavelli.

The other lesson is that although it is not the only value, religion is extremely important in politics.

History teaches us that a state cannot and should not try to downplay religion when religion is a key marker of social identity. Shah-era Iran was an example.

For the majority of Maldivians, identifying with Islam is part and parcel of being a national citizen. Religion is a key marker of our social identity. Like it or not, conservatism still runs deep. Islamism is on the rise.

The perceived downplaying of religious salutations and symbolism in public speeches, the perceived closeness with Jews and Christians and distance to Islamic countries, the public display of play, fun, “relaxation” and dance, the attempts to change regulations and traditions without popular legitimacy, all mean there is a perceived anti-religiosity about the work of government. This includes president Nasheed himself.

So what lessons can we take from Machiavelli? Well, for one:

There is nothing more necessary to appear to have than this last quality [i.e. religiosity]

Sheikhs Fareed and Shaheem do it masterfully – although, for instance, rumours about their secret affairs and secret riba-incurring bank accounts abound.

Gayoom was almost flawless at that too – although, for instance, he led a brutal autocracy.


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].


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.


President speaks of Shari’ah law in the Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed marked the occasion of the Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday and spoke of the history of Shari’ah law in the Maldives during his weekly radio address on the Voice of Maldives.

President Nasheed said Shari’ah law has a unique position in the Maldives, as it’s among the few countries that have practised Islamic law uninterrupted for a long period of time.

“Since the conversion to Islam about 900 years ago, the Maldives has continuously practised Shari’ah,” said President Nasheed.

He said other Muslim countries have practised limited Shari’ah, like Egypt, who adopted the Napoleonic Code after Napoleon’s invasion, and Malaysia, adopting English common law.

The president also mentioned the importance of Islamic scholars who served as chief justices in the Maldives. Historically, they have been the highest authority of Islam, and ensured the continuity of the practise of Shari’ah.