Islamic minister completes first official visit to India

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.

Islamic university

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.


Government shuts down mosque due to congregation of “extremists”

Malé City Council has shut down the Dharumavantha Rasgefaanu mosque to stop unauthorised Friday prayers by a group described as “extremists” by the Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali.

A City Council notice posted at the mosque said that on the Ministry of Home Affairs’ request it was to be temporarily shutdown following yesterday’s morning prayers.

Minivan News observed at the time of A’sr prayers that the mosque did not have any group congregation, however the notice posted at the mosque was no longer visible. Only a few individuals worshippers were present.

A copy of the Home Ministry letter signed by Minister Umar Naseer – posted along with the notice –  requested the shutdown “as a first step” against unauthorised Friday prayers performed in the mosque.

The large congregation gathered at the mosque last Friday expressed their opposition through prayers asking Allah to weaken and current government and it’s leaders, CNM reported.

The worshipers at the mosque also prayed against the heads of the government, Islamic ministry and city council, asking for their ill-health and for a calamity to befall upon them.

The congregation asked Allah to destroy the government and to give victory against the “irreligious” government which attempts to obstruct the spreading of Allah’s message and to shut down mosques. Requesting victory, they also asked from Allah to destroy and send his wrath upon military and police officer who implement the government’s orders.


Following the Decentralisation Act of 2010, jurisdiction for all mosques falls under the island and city councils.

Malé City Councillor ‘Jambu’ Hassan Afeef who is in charge of managing the city mosques said the council will cooperate with the government, whether it is the police or the Islamic Ministry, in whatever measures needs to be taken to resolve the issue.

He said the Islamic Ministry had earlier sent a letter to the council regarding the mosque.

“We replied saying that the council’s mandate is to provide basic services for the public. If there is some irreligious activity going on, the ministry should get involved. And if something unlawful is going on, the Home Ministry and police should be involved,” said Afeef.

While police would not comment on the issue, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that the length of the mosque’s closure remains up to the city council and that the ministry has not yet decided on any future steps to be taken regarding the issue.

Minister Shaheem has previously stated that the ministry had no mandate to act against “undesirable activities” carried out in mosques. Shaheem and his Adhaalath Party have on various occasions demanded that mosques and Imams function under the Islamic Ministry’s authority.

“Broadening the role of mosques” was among the key eleven policy objectives recently revealed by the ministry.

Religious divisions and moderation

Umar Naseer has earlier acknowledged the existence of religious divisions in the Maldives and pledged to put an end to it. “Creating divisions in Islamic nations is the handiwork of enemies of Islam,” Naseer was quoted as saying in local media

Moderation was at the center of the Islamic Ministry’s recently revealed policies, while it was earlier criticised by members of the ruling coalition.

Minister Shaheem has earlier stated that the preaching at the Dharumavantha mosque can sometimes be “very extreme”.

Praying in congregations separate from the state-approved mosques under state-approved imams has often been described as a sign of Islamic extremism. Despite opposition from repeated governments, the practice has continued with the rise of religious extremism in Maldives.

An Azhar educated Islamic Scholar himself, President Gayoom has been accused of persecuting radicals and Wahhabis, including torturing religious scholars and groups who rejected the then-state approved version of Islam.

Commenting on the situation, a former member of the Dharumavantha mosque congregation told Minivan News that shutting down the mosque or arresting the members of congregation was unlikely to end it.

“You can’t change what people believe using force. Under Gayoom, I was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for weeks and sometimes months for praying in separate congregations and being involved with such groups. If anything, my convictions became even stronger and my thinking more radicalised,” he said.

He explained that many of his friends stopped going to the mosque around 2009 after being convinced it was wrong after dialogue with Islamic scholars.

“We are not one hundred percent happy about the way things are, but we realised we should be part of the community and not creating divisions. Now we are currently working with Islamic NGOs to create awareness – not just in Islamic issues but also social and even health issues,” he said.

“There is concern that things might be returning to how they were. But that will only make things worse. They should be educated and guided. I don’t agree with what they are doing either. But this is not how it should be dealt with,” he said.

Under President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration, regulation of religion was left mainly in the hands of conservative Adhaalath Party. More radical elements that strayed from the state-approved version of Islam were not persecuted at this time, despite their actions still being unlawful.

The government’s policy in combating extremism shifted to a rehabilitation model within this period.

Questioning the success of these efforts, the current Islamic Minister Sheikh Shaheem – who had earlier advocated for a similar model – has labelled it a failure.


ACC investigating business dealings of two cabinet ministers

The Chair of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Hassan Luthfy has confirmed that there is a case filed at the commission against Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad.

The case was filed after it came to light that a company named ‘ISI Investment Private Limited’ was registered in 2010 in the name of Sheikh Shaheem, Abdulla Jihad, and an Iraqi national named Ihusan S. El Sheikh.

Luthfy today told Minivan News that the commission had not yet looked into the case.

“So far we know that it was a company registered in 2010 before they were both appointed to the cabinet,’’ he said. “But what we have to find out is if the company had made any business transactions after they were appointed as cabinet ministers.’’

He said that this was a very common type of issue.

“We have come across this type of issue many times, like in the former government’s cabinet there were some ministers who had businesses registered under their names which was shared by foreign nationals, it becomes an issue if the company makes any business transaction after they were appointed to the cabinet,’’ he added.

The constitution’s article 136[a] states that “a member of the Cabinet shall not hold any other public office or office of profit, actively engage in a business, or in the practice of any profession, or any other income generating employment, be employed by any person, buy or lease any property belonging to the State, or have a financial interest in any transaction between the State and another party.’’

Sheikh Shaheem has told local media that the company was registered in 2010 and that no business transactions were made after he was appointed to the cabinet.

In March 2013, the ACC launched an investigation into an alleged business deal struck between Firoz Ghulam Khan – who promised to donate a sum of US$ 10,000 to the Zakat fund last year – and the wife of Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed, Fathimath Afiyaa.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, the business deal was struck on December 25, just three months after announcement of Zakat fund donation, and involved the formation of a company under the name ‘Pure Gold Jewelry Maldives Private Limited’, which intended to sell jewelry to resorts.

Citing a paper it claims to have received from the Ministry of Economic Development, Haveeru has reported that the company had 1500 shares in the name of Shaheem’s wife, while Firoz Ghulam Khan’s net share was 103,500. Kareem Firoz had shares totaling up to 45,000.

The ACC website had issued a statement confirming that the case of Shaheem’s wife had been sent to the Prosecutor General’s office to pursue charges against her for violating the Anti Corruption Act (Act number 2/2000 article 15(a)).


Islamic Ministry denies religious pressure on murdered Afrasheem, while police seek foreign help with case

Police have revealed that they are seeking international expertise in solving the case of the murder of moderate scholar and Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Dr Afrasheem Ali.

Police declined to provide any further details about the international help they are seeking, saying instead that they would provide information once the international actors arrived in the country.

Police also confirmed that they had arrested an additional suspect in relation to the murder case, once again declining to identify the arrested “due to the nature of the case”.

Four people have already been arrested in relation to the case, one of whom is female. The criminal court has extended the detention of all four detainees by 15 days.

Although the police have not yet identified any of the arrested individuals, lawyers representing “front-line activists” of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have confirmed that Mariyam Naifa and Ali Hashim were arrested in relation to the murder case.

The party has alleged that the arrests are politically motivated.

Afrasheem “not forced to apologise”: Islamic Minister

Prior to his murder on Monday October 1, Afrasheem had made his last public appearance on a live talkshow on TVM titled “Islamee Dhiriulhun” (Islamic Living).

In his last words, Afrasheem said that he was deeply saddened and asked for forgiveness from citizens if he had created a misconception in their minds due to his inability to express himself in the right manner.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed was quoted in local media as saying that the Islamic Ministry had not forced Afrasheem to offer a public apology for anything in his last television appearance.

Shaheem went on to say that Afrasheem had been given the opportunity to appear on the show following a series of requests by the murdered scholar. He said that Afrasheem had asked for the opportunity on Monday’s program, and so the previously arranged guests had been replaced with him.

Shaheem also said that Afrasheem had visited the Ministry of Islamic Affairs on Monday afternoon, requesting a discussion on the topics to be covered in the talk show.

Shaheem furthermore said that in this meeting, Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Mohamed Gubadh AbuBakr, Afrasheem and himself had spoken about how religious disagreements had led to rifts between close friends, and said that he wanted to “escape from all of this”.

“[Afrasheem] said that he wanted everyone to know what his viewpoints were. And [he] wanted to share this on a channel watched by the largest audience, “ said Shaheem, sharing his discussion with Afrasheem in their last meeting together.

“I think this is a highly esteemed position that Allah has granted [Afrasheem] in timing this program in the midst of all that happened that night. It is fate that the show was arranged for the very night,” Shaheem said.

“Looking at the attack as a whole, it must have been planned for days and days. There’s no other way it could have been carried out under such secrecy,” Shaheem commented.

Shaheem said that he had no knowledge of anyone bringing about a situation where Afrasheem might have been forced to offer a public apology for his views.

Contradicting views on religious matters

Afrasheem’s moderate positions on subjects such as listening to music had previously attracted criticism from more conservative religious elements, who dubbed him “Dr Ibilees” (“Dr Satan”).

In 2008, the scholar was kicked and chased outside a mosque after Friday prayers, while more recently in May 2012, the religious Adhaalath Party released a statement condemning Afrasheem for allegedly “mocking the Sunnah”.

“After speaking to everyone, Afrasheem himself said that he was willing to apologise if the problem was in his statements. That he wanted to make clear what his stands were if he were to speak at any forum or place. That he does not call for wrong beliefs or things,” Shaheem explained.

Regarding the contradicting views on religious matters that had led to criticism of Afrasheem by other local scholars, Shaheem said that Afrasheem had approached him to find a solution.

“(Afrasheem) himself came to me and said Usthaz (scholar) Shaheem, you are the one person who can do this. So help me become one with everyone else. And so, it was under his request that the scholar’s dialogue was organised,” Shaheem was quoted as saying in local media on Sunday.

Although Shaheem said that at the end of the meeting the scholars were “happy with Afrasheem”, local media reported last month that the meeting had ended without reaching a general agreement.

At the time, Shaheem had said that the main focus of the meeting were the disagreements between Afrasheem and other local scholars on certain religious issues.

He had also stated then that the scholars involved had been unable to reach a consensus at the end of the meeting, and that he hoped Afrasheem would align his views with that of the other scholars.


Islamic Ministry calls for ban on mixed-gender dancing

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has sent a circular to all government institutions banning the holding of any mixed gender dance events.

The circular, which was sent to all government offices, council offices and media, also calls for adolescent girls to be banned from activities requiring them to dance.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed called on the government to cease including activities such as dancing and singing to mark various occasions.

The administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had included such dancing in official celebrations to promote and preserve traditional Maldivian culture. However Shaheem said such activities contravened the disciplinary guidelines and customs of Islam. It is unclear whether the call in the circular is legally enforceable under existing regulations.

The Ministry said it was acceptable to hold performances which fall within the boundaries of Islamic customs and disciplinary norms. Events such as children’s activities, performances exhibiting military skills, parades, playing the national anthem, boy scouts and girl guides performances, and the folk dance ‘Thaara’ were acceptable forms of entertainment, according to the Ministry.

‘Thaara’, dhivehi for ‘tambourine’ is a folk dance where performers sit in parallel rows, singing and dancing. This is performed specifically by men. The traditional songs sung during ‘Thaara’ are mostly in Arabic and the activity itself is said to have entered Maldivian culture through Arab influence.

The Islamic Ministry stated that its mandate is to provide religious counsel to the government, to plan state-organised initiatives of spreading and strengthening islamic values among Maldivians, and to teach citizens the righteous ways outlined in the religion.

Shaheem told Minivan News today that the directives in the circular were intended for both state bodies and individual citizens. He made no further comment.

The call for gender segregated performances comes after the government held a belated Independence Day celebration on September 9. The event was held at the National Stadium and featured dances and other performances by school children and the security forces.


Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem reiterates calls for control of mosques to return to Islamic Ministry

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has continued to call for the control of Maldivian mosques to be returned to his department from the country’s island councils.

Local media has reported that Sheikh Shaheem used social media this week to reiterate his hopes that the Islamic Ministry would reclaim control of the country’s mosques following the failure of one scholar to obtain permission to speak on the island of Fuvahmulah.  Sheikh Shaheem was unavailable for comment when contacted by Minivan News today.

Local authorities in Fuvahmulah said today that the decision not to grant permission for Sheikh Idhrees Hussain to preach at a mosque in Maadhandu Ward on the island was the result of an administrative oversight rather than a personal “grudge” against the scholar.

However, in referring to the issue of granting permission for Sheikh Idhrees to preach during his visit to Fuvahmulah on Facebook yesterday, Shaheem stated that he hoped the country’s mosques would be soon back under the legal control of the Islamic Ministry.

“This is the result of handing over mosques to Councils. God willing, all mosques in the country will be brought under Islamic Ministry,” Sun Online reported Shaheem as stating on his Facebook page.

In the meantime, the Islamic Affairs Minister said that his department would continue to work with island councils who were presently responsible for local mosques to ensure order in the nation.

Following the failure of Maadhandu Council in Fuvamulah to grant permission for Sheikh Idhrees to preach at the mosque, island officials said that about 15 people gathered at the council’s offices to protest at the decision yesterday. The protest was claimed to have lasted for around 15 minutes.

Ahmed Wafir, a member of Maadhandu Council today told Minivan News that the issue arose after Sheikh Idhrees visited Fuvamulah on a personal trip and wanted to preach in a mosque in Maadhandu Ward without the permission of Maadhandu Council.

“He [the sheikh] apparently asked the Atoll Council instead of Maadhandu Council, and the Atoll Council informed four councils in the island that he had requested for permission to preach in some of the mosques in the island,’’ Wafir said.   He noted that there was a total of eight councils in Fuvamulah representing different wards.

Wafir claimed that the Maadhandu Council President responded at the time that he alone cannot give such permission to the scholar and therefore, a council meeting had to be held to grant the permission to preach. According to the council’s rules, Sheikh Idhrees was then required to send a letter to the council along with a copy of his preaching license.

“Some of the islanders got angry about this and the next day total 15 persons came near Maadhandu Council Office to protest, but after 15 minutes they left,’’ he said.

Wafir claimed that the council knew of Shikeh Idhrees and had previously permitted the scholar to deliver sermons at the local mosque  when he had requested to do so according to the rules.

“It’s not that the council has any grudge against Sheikh Idhrees, but everyone has to follow procedures and rules,’’ he said. “Sheikh Idhrees later changed the schedule and delivered the sermon in another mosque not in Maadhandu.’’


Raajje TV runs footage of Sheikh Shaheem and alleges sex scandal

Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, chief spokesperson of the religious Adhaalath party and former State Islamic Minister, has been accused of sexual misconduct in a video broadcast by local media Raajje TV, in which he is seen speaking with a figure in a hijab before leading her through a doorway.

“The video shows Shaheem with a woman who is not his wife, talking and holding hands and going into a bedroom,” said Raajje TV’s Assistant News Editor Dhanish Nasheed.

When Minivan News expressed doubt that it could be accurately concluded that the room was a bedroom, Nasheed claimed that the corner of a bed was visible in the video.

Nasheed said Raajje TV obtained the video from the video-sharing website Daily Motion, however it has since been removed from that site.

Broadcasting the video as evidence of a “sex scandal”, Raajje TV claimed the station could not release further footage in the interest of public decency. Today media was speculating that the woman in the video was the daughter of a senior member in the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), however her face was not visible in the footage.

Although the only identifying features visible in the video were a profile of the woman’s nose, her watch and a white-cased phone, Raajje TV claimed she was not a wife of Shaheem.

Local media Haveeru reported the alleged scandal on January 7, but the story was removed within an hour of its publication online.

Shaheem has spoken several times to the media in recent weeks expressing Adhaalath’s discontent over the government’s reaction to demands made by religious protesters on December 23, 2011.

Asked whether the tape might be a set-up engineered for political purposes, Dhanish Nasheed insisted that it was not a set-up and that the station believed “something was definitely going on.”

In the video, currently available on Raajje TV’s YouTube channel, a camera at hip-level captures Shaheem speaking with a woman in a black hijab. Aside from her phone, watch and black bag, as well as a brief profile of her nose, no identifying features of the woman are visible during the film.

Shaheem smiles throughout the meeting, raising his eyebrows a few times in a playful fashion, and the two check their respective phones.

At one point the girl is directed to a water bottle behind the camera. The camera moves when she rises to take the bottle.

The meeting concludes when Shaheem takes the girl’s hand while circling around to sit next to her, just behind the camera’s view. The footage of the two holding hands appears to have been repeated several times, implying a longer grasp.  The two subsequently rise and leave the room.

Shaheem, who has been identified as one of the world’s top 500 Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, told Minivan News he would issue his comment on the matter at a later date.

“I do not wish to comment on matters regarding my private life while I am waiting for evidence. I will issue my comment when the time is appropriate,” he said.

Shaheem indicated that his work with Adhaalath Party has not been interrupted.

Police officials did not wish to comment.

In early 2011 a series of sex scandal videos were released implicating members of Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and the former Cabinet Secretary.

A police investigation was launched in response to the videos and several arrests were made, including minors. They have since been released, however the cases have not yet been prosecuted as the investigations are ongoing.


Government plans to sell alcohol at Fuvahmulah city hotel, claims Adhaalath

The government has declared two areas of Fuvahmulah uninhabited islands for airport and tourism development in order to allow the sale of alcohol at a city hotel, yet to be opened on the island, the religiously conservative Adhaalath party has alleged.

President Mohamed Nasheed signed decrees on Friday declaring the “Bilhifeyshi” and “Thoon’du” areas of Fuvahmulah – two strips on opposite ends of the island – as uninhabited islands to be utilised for tourism purposes.

At a press conference yesterday, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, Adhaalath Party spokesperson, said that the decrees were part of a “Satanic plot” to sidestep legal prohibitions to selling alcohol in inhabited islands.

“We are not opposed at all to building a city hotel for the development of Fuvahmulah,” he said. “But you don’t have to sell alcohol at every city hotel. Adhaalath party sees the declaration of uninhabited islands within Fuvahmulah as an absurd move, as an act of madness.”

The decision was “disrespectful” in light of the public’s opposition to the sale of alcohol in inhabited islands, Shaheem continued, referring to a large demonstration in February 2010 that forced the government to withdraw controversial new regulations that would have allowed sale of alcohol to non-Muslims from city hotels.

Fuvahmulah“If the government wants us to let them hear the voice of the people again, we are ready to do it,” Shaheem said, calling on citizens of Fuvahmulah and the public to “raise your voices against this decision by the government.”

President’s Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair however dismissed Adhaalath’s allegations today as intended to “seek political recognition and cast the government in a bad light.”

Zuhair said the Adhaalath’s claims were “very insincere” as the party did not make any inquiries, request a meeting with the President to express concerns or “even sent a letter to relevant authorities before giving a press conference and making these claims in the media.”

The remarks by Adhaalath leaders were “regrettable,” Zuhair added, as the party remains a coalition partner of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and its senior members included the Minister and State Minister for Islamic Affairs.

Meanwhile at yesterday’s press conference, Adhaalath Party Vice President Dr Mauroof Hussein claimed President Nasheed “pressured” Fuvahmulah councillors to approve a resolution for developing the city hotel.

Dr Mauroof argued that the President’s decree set a disturbing precedent: “Tomorrow they can announce that President Nasheed has decreed the inner walls of Holiday Inn [now Trader’s Hotel] is an uninhabited island. Or the plot west of the army headquarters is an uninhabited island and demolish the Islamic Centre to build a bar there,” he said.

The government was pursuing an agenda to “spread irreligious activities” in the Maldives, Dr Mauroof warned.

Economies of scale

Speaking at a function in Fuvahmulah on Friday, President Nasheed expressed confidence that the construction of an airport in the island would be completed by November 10.

Nasheed said that the government understood the people’s longstanding desire for an airport but insisted that the investment should be sustainable.

In addition to operating costs, said Nasheed, about Rf500,000 would have to be spent “on interest [payments] alone.”

“It is not clear to me that we can recover this money with about 30 people flying to Fuvahmulah from Male’ every week,” he explained. “With development, especially national development, we have to consider that every project has to be sustainable, well-rounded and feasible.”

In order to ensure financial sustainability for the airport, he continued, the government intends to build a tourist hotel in Fuvahmulah in collaboration with a business partner.

“We don’t want to criticise, meddle and try to profit [from the hotel] in Male’,” he said. “When the facilities are used for your development, the whole population of the Maldives will benefit from it. A number of things that can be done to ensure feasibility of the airport can be seen in the environment of Fuvahmulah, in its natural resources.”

President Nasheed said the decision to declare the two areas non-inhabited was made following deliberations by the cabinet and consultation with Fuvahmulah councillors.


Gaddafi is “a wicked, cruel, evil man”: Former State Islamic Minister

Former State Islamic Minister and member of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has called on the international community to help stop the “violent inhumane actions” of Muammar-al-Gaddafi.

”Gaddafi is wicked evil man whose cruelty has reached to an extreme level,” said Sheikh Shaheem in a statement. ”He has used excessive force over the citizens of Libya.”

Sheikh Shaheem said that today all the Muslims should pray for the citizens of Libya, ”and should pray that he gets destroyed by his own evil actions.”

Prominent scholars in Palestine, Sudan, Egypt and other religious councils have consistently condemned the actions of Gaddafi, said Sheikh Shaheem.

”Some scholars have permitted [to have] his blood due to his evil actions,” he said. ”And I would like to take this opportunity to assure the citizens of Libya that we are with them.”

He called on the international community on behalf of the Adhaalath Party to help the citizens of Libya.

Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed yesterday also called on the international community to “strengthen measures to realise the aspirations of the Libyan people to fundamental rights and freedoms.”

“The right not to be tortured, the freedom to speak your mind, the ability to choose your own government… these liberties are not the preserve of Western nations but universal values to which everyone aspires,” Nasheed said. “These are the forces that are being played out on the streets of Libya and other countries of the Middle East.”

The Foreign Ministry has lost contact with six Maldivians in Libya, although it has not received reports of any injuries.

“We were checking on their condition until yesterday when we were unable to contact them via phone. Their phones would not ring, either,” a Foreign Ministry official told newspaper Haveeru.

“We are trying to contact them and are looking into any possible way that we could contact them through Dhiraagu. We are also trying to contact the Maldivians through an embassy in Libya of a friendly nation.”

The Libyan President yesterday vowed on national television that he will not step down from the country’s leadership, and was ready “to die a martyr.”

Speaking in the third person, Gaddafi said “I am not going to leave this land. I shall remain, defiant. Muammar is leader of the revolution until the end of time.”

US President Barack Obama has meanwhile broken his silence over the Libyan situation and outright condemned Gaddafi’s tactic of using violence against the demonstrators. The US President has sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Europe to attend a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop,” said President Obama said.

Minivan News has meanwhile obtained a copy of Gaddafi’s ‘Little Green Book’, entitled “The Solution of the Problem of Democracy”, copies of which were reportedly gifted to a generation of Maldivian school students under former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.