After concluding his official visit to India – the first by a Maldivian Islamic minister – Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has said that building a close relationship with the Indian Muslim community will be beneficial to the Maldives.
“I saw that the Indian Muslim community is a community of service. As per information I have received officially India has, after Indonesia, the second biggest Muslim population in the world. There are 140 million Muslims living there. So I think having a close relationship between the Indian Muslim community and Maldives will be a very good move.” He said.
Shaheem said that his trip had brought solutions were found for many concerns, particularly to “comments made by some people in the international community stating that there are Maldivians who support religious extremism”.
He said building relationships with countries with Muslim minorities will improve the image of the Maldives, and that neighboring countries will be relieved when the Islamic minister visits them and explains the policies of the ministry.
During the visit Shaheem met the Vice President of India Shri Mohamed Hamid Ansari, discussing ministry policies. Shaheem assured the vice president that the Maldives is a peace-loving nation and that there is no space for extremist ideologies within the Maldivian community.
During the trip, the Indian government assured that higher education scholarships would be made available for Maldivian scholars at Indian universities.
Islamic universities through which these scholarships will be provided include Delhi based Jamia Millia Islamia (National Islamic University), Osmania University in Hyderabad, and Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh.
Indian Imams who have by-hearted the whole Quran, will be visiting the Maldives to recite Quran at Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan, Saheem said.
Minister Shaheem also met the Union Minister of Minority Affairs Dr K. Rahman Khan – head of Central Waqf Council – along with leaders of the Indian Muslim community, discussing the management and development of Waqf properties, Zakat funds, and Hajj corporations.
Muslim leaders assured the minister that businessmen and members of India’s Muslim community will be interested building mosques as a service to the Maldives.
Shaheem said that both parties agreed on academic exchanges between the two countries, particularly in providing the assistance of Indian scholars’ with experience required to establish the Maldives’ Kulliyyathul Dhiraasathil Islamiyya (College of Islamic Studies) as an Islamic University.
“It is a government pledge included in the manifesto, so the government is working towards that goal now,” said Shaheem – who is also the chair of the special committee on establishing the Islamic University formed by the cabinet’s Social Council.
He said the project would be implemented jointly by the Education Ministry, Islamic Ministry, President’s Office, and the Kulliyyaa.
“We have been talking about it [the establishment of the an] at all our trips. There are two ways in which we require assistance. One is technical assitance to change the Kulliyaa in to an Islamic University – things such maintaining the quality, number of faculties, development of the curriculum and strategic plan,” said Shaheem.
“The second form is financial assistance in improving the status the place.”
The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) will take lead in the development of the curriculum and other technical support for the establishment of the University.
According to Shaheem, official communications have already started with IIUM, with all the necessary assistance to be provided.
“One of the main targets is to make this university in Maldives an institution which provides Islamic education for the entire region as well,” Shaheem said.
In the acquisition of financial assistance, Qatar and Kuwait have given a positive response after the Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed’s requests during his recent visits, and the issue will be raised again during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, Shaheem revealed.
While a specific date has not been announced for the establishment of the university Jameel has said it will be established soon.
Speaking Kulliyyathul Dhiraasaathil Islamiyy’s graduation ceremony on Friday, Jameel said that the government believes that development and progress in the Maldives should come within Islamic principles and the Islamic code of conduct.
He said that in this regard the government has begun work to bring major reforms to the education system, under which arabic language and Islamic values will be introduced through the new curriculum next year.