The Adhaalath Party, led by State Islamic Minister Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, has hit back at unnamed government officials who described Sheikh Illyas and Sheikh Fareed as “hate preachers” in an interview with India’s magazine ‘The Week’‘.
The party claimed that senior officials of the current government, including former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed and Home Minister Hassan Afeef, made false allegations against a number of the country’s religious leaders, including the vice leader of the Adhaalath Party’s religious council, Sheikh Ilyas Hussein.
Afeef is not acknowledged as a source in the current version of the article, and Shaheed’s comments to The Week concern the potential involvement of Maldivians in the attacks of Mumbai by Pakistani terrorist group Laskar-el-Taiba (LeT).
In the article Ahmed Muneer, Deputy Commissioner of the Maldives Police, acknowledges that “our radical preachers are enjoying street credibility and radicalisation is visible at the street level. It’s a problem for us, but things would aggravate if the radicals get integrated into Maldivian politics.”
The Adhaalath party claimed that during the interview, “Dr Shaheed said that scholars were delivering lectures with the intention of earning money, and that only a few people attended religious protests because they wanted to go to heaven.”
The Adhaalath Party contends that is is moderate rather than extremist. It is in coalition with the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and fills most of the ranks of the Islamic Ministry.
”As a result of this [article], religious scholars in the Maldives will face many obstacles locally, and it will also affect Maldivian families living in India,” said the Adhaalath Party.
”Sheikh Ilyas is one of the best scholars in the Maldives of recent ages, and many citizens enjoy attending his sermons.”
In retaliation, the Adhaalath Party accused the government of establishing and spreading extremism in the Maldives, and misleading the West in its desperation for money.
”Due to irresponsible comments by senior officials of the government, tourism in the country will also be affected,” warned the Adhaalath Party, accusing the President of “fabricating” earlier statements concerning scholarly freedom in the Maldives.
‘The Week magazine article reports that the LeT has been eyeing the Maldives since early 2000, when its headhunters travelled to Male’. India’s Intelligence Bureau estimated that there were more than 3,000 LeT facilitators and instigators in the Maldives, it reported.
In the article, Mohamed Hameed, head of the internal intelligence department of the Maldivian police, claimed that several hundred Maldivian youth had left the island nation “and their families have never heard from them since.”
”Hameed said ‘recruitment is taking place all the while.’ Radicals like Yoosuf Izadhy — a militant jihadi who is said to have ties with al Qaeda, according to leaked diplomatic cables prepared by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice—are roaming free. Izadhy was planning to create a terrorist base in the Maldives with support from a Waziristan-based group. He and Hasnain Hameedh had operational aspirations,” the magazine reported.
“The spread of an extremist belief system is fueled by hate preachers like Sheikh Fareed and Sheikh Ilyas. Both are [under surveillance],” the magazine reported a “Maldivian intelligence official” as saying.
Speaking of the 2007 Sultan Park bombing in Male’, in which 12 tourists were injured, Dr Shaheed told The Week that “the ringmaster [prime accused] of the Sultan Park bombing was allowed to leave the country. The incident wasn’t fully investigated. The ringmaster was a young boy. We need to find out who was behind the ringmaster. I think there are unanswered questions.”