Adhaalath Party expresses concern over situation in Egypt

Former State Islamic Minister and Adhaalath Party member Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed has called on Maldivians to pray for Egyptians following civil unrest in Egypt.

”We are very concerned over the civil unrest in the Egypt, we are with the citizens of Egypt and we take part in their work to gain their rights,” Sheikh Shaheem said in a statement. ”But it is very grieving for us to hear the news that many Egyptians have lost their lives and the peace and harmony of the country is lost.”

Any such loss in Egypt was “a loss to the entire Muslim community” Sheikh Shaheem said.

He called on all Maldivians to put embrace the brotherhood of Muslims and to pray to God that he may protect the peace and harmony of the country and protect the state and citizens.

”Egypt is a very important pillar of the Muslim community, and it is a centre of educational heritage for Muslims and Islamic Culture,” said Sheikh Shaheem. ”It is the land of Jaamiulazhar, a land that defended the Islamic community for decades and a land that many Muslims admire.”

Sheikh Shaheem said that Egyptians had sacrificed themselves using their chests as a shield to defend the Muslim community, adding that the stories of Egyptians were “written in the history in golden letters.”

”They are generous and noble. Many citizens of Egypt and many Egyptians scholars have died in defense of the Islamic community,” he said. ”It is a country that has kept and is keeping a close relationship with the Maldives.”

President Mohamed Nasheed has also pledged support for Egypt, specifically the democratic movement.

Speaking in an address on Hulhudheli in Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed claimed that “no other country in the Muslim world granted more freedom to people, including freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful political activism than in the Maldives.”

He also added that there was “no other country in the global Muslim community aside from the Maldives that granted full freedom to Islamic scholars to give their good religious advice and provide counsel,” claiming that the Islamic community could not uphold its honour and dignity unless its scholars had full freedom.


Adhaalath party welcomes Shaheem’s resignation action

The Adhaalath Party, led by Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, has welcomed the decision of former State Islamic Minister, Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed to resign from his position.

Sheikh Shaheem resigned from his position last Thursday after reportedly accusing the government of being “irresponsible” in trying uphold the religion of Islam and even attempting to erase the religion from the country, according to Miadhu.

”Sheikh Shaheem fulfilled his responsibility with integrity,” a statement issued by Adhaalath Party said. ”He put forth the interest of the nation and religion more than his self-interest in fulfilling the national duty.”

The Adhaalath party stated that ”by divine will, it is sure that although Sheikh Shaheem was not in a senior position of the government, his contribution to the party and the people will be still ongoing.

The party said it was very fond of Sheikh Shaheem and hoped that his work will be written in history.

”All the council members and party members will be with Sheikh Shaheem in whatever danger he would have to face with.”

Minivan News was unable to get any official word from Sheikh Shaheem.

President Mohamed Nasheed has appointed the Adhaalath party’s own president and former State Home Minister, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed in the vacant State Islamic Minister’s role.

Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari is also a member of Adhaalath Party.


Religious Extremism: Causes and Solutions

In ‘Religious Extremism: Causes and Solutions’ Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed repudiates violent Jihad and defines extremism as deviation from the authentic teachings of Islam and its cardinal value of moderation in favour of personal prejudices and arrogance, which leads to “excessive stringency” in religious matters.

Extracted below are the final chapters of the manuscript. Translated from Dhivehi by Ismail Nizam.

Characteristics of Extremists

1- Deficiency in the knowledge of Islam: This is the most recognizable feature of such people. In the least, they will not be converse in Arabic language. They will also not be to understand the meaning of an Arabic writing. Nevertheless, they will try to challenge the scholars of Ummah, issuing verdicts concerning Qur’an and Sunnah, producing CDs, publishing writings on Islam and lecturing on various topics.

2– Open denial of the belief of the Ummah: This is the second most distinguishable attribute of extremists. These people would refuse issues on which scholars have reached consensus, and would prioritize their personal judgments over the consensus. For instance, refusing to join prayers in congregations is something that they do against the belief of the ummah. Following a specific school of thought does not mean bowing to the thought and the leader of that school of thought. There are few differences among the four major schools of thought, yet the scholars of Muslims world have reached consensus and considered all these four school of thought as the Sunnah of the Prophet. Therefore, from a fiqh perspective, following a specific school of thought is not an issue. The problem is egoism and stubbornness, denial of Prophetic traditions and holding solely onto the school of thought. It is compulsory upon each and every believer to hold onto the book of Allah, Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet. The basis of the schools of thought is also the same. It is not the words of the leaders of the schools.

3- Polytheistic labeling of people who commit major sins: According to the belief of the people of the Prophetic traditions, those committing the major sins cannot be regarded as Non-Muslims. The door of repentance is open for them. If they die without repentance, their case is for Allah to judge. If Allah wills, they will be pardoned. He is just in His judgments. Those sinners will not abide in the hell forever. Equating major sin committers to Non-Muslims is the way of extremist groups such as Khawarijun, Mu’tazilin and those have crossed the limits of Islamic principles. These groups of people believe that the hell is the eternal abode of such sinners. This kind of beliefs contradicts with the consensus of the Ummah. This is because the judgment of our deeds in the Hereafter is for Allah.

4- Breaking relationships with people and preferring isolation.

These are the four major characteristics of extremists.

How to Safeguard Society from Extremism

There are various alternative methods to safeguard society from extremism. The methods include religious solution, social solution and use of media.

A) Religious Cure

Ø  Educating the society about the contents of the Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet without any furnishing or censoring, and reforming the actions to match the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Ø  Increasing the awareness of the principles of moderation in Islam.

Ø  Instead of giving severe punishments to extremists, they must be debated intellectually and counseled to reach a solution.

Ø  Scholars who lecturer in the mosques should give their lecturers addressing these issues.

B) Social Cure

Ø  Teaching and practicing religion within the family from childhood.

Ø  Recognizing the effort to overcome extremism as a duty of everyone in the society, and standing together to achieve status of extremism free society.

Ø  Youths must be provided with facilities to engage themselves in something constructive during the free times.

Ø  Scholars must do a collaborated effort to teach the true teachings of Islam.

C) Media

Ø  Radio and TV stations can play a prominent role in overcoming extremism by airing programs about these issues with the help of qualified scholars and intellectuals in the society.

Ø  Increasing religious publications in magazines and newspapers to raise the awareness.  The most effective solution could be collaborated efforts of scholars in the community. One of the factors that lead to extremism is disputes among the scholars. A platform where all scholars can gather to debate and discuss religious issues can be arranged so that individual differences can be avoided and consensus can be made in the form of official fatwas.

D) Legal Cure: In the efforts to curb extremism, a legal cure is necessary. This means making laws concerning extremist activities, amending the Religious Unity Act and terrorism laws, and enacting laws that facilitate rehabilitation while in detention.

E) Establishing Rehabilitation Centers

In the international efforts to overcome extremism, the most successful method in overcoming extremism is rehabilitation. The experts also advise the use of knowledge and reason to change the belief of extremist. Therefore, establishing a Rehabilitation Center in Maldives is very important.


Comment: Playing God’s Advocate

‘Ambiguities’ are stalling the speedy passage of The Regulations to Protect Maldivian Religious Unity. If this document does not get on the government gazette ASAP, this country will degenerate into religious chaos.

Evidence clearly shows Maldivian religious unity to be a perilous façade, having managed to endure without legal enforcement (apart from the small matter of the constitutional stipulation that every citizen be a Muslim for only 800 years).

As citizens who are so closely consulted in the open and democratic lawmaking process of the country, it is our duty to highlight the problem areas so the Ministry can move rapidly to pass The Regulations and pre-empt the imminent religious war.

What is unambiguous about The Regulations is that The Ministry of Islamic Affairs is The Supreme Entity. Omniscient, but not omnipresent, it will choose a learned group to act as its eyes and ears in society. This select group, or The Board, will report to The Ministry any utterances, actions and opinions expressed or held by unlicensed-scholars, citizens and/or visiting aliens/infidels deemed to possess the potential for creating religious disunity.

Recognising the gravity of The Board’s responsibility, The Ministry has set the appointment criteria very high indeed. Members must: (1) be at least 25 years old; (2) possess at least a first degree in Islamic Studies or law; and (3) should not have committed an act defined as a punishable crime in Islam.

Given how difficult it would be to find a 25-year-old graduate who has not fornicated, The Board has the potential to become one of the most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in the world.

The Regulations states as its raison d’être ever-increasing disputes between religious scholars that threaten to tear the country apart (Article 1.2). The Mullah to Mere-mortal ratio has not yet been tallied in the Maldives, but evidence suggests it could easily be 1:2.

In such a situation, The Regulations will prove invaluable in helping us distinguish the ersatz scholar from the genuine Sheikh. Besides, ‘the liberals’ have long agitated for the government to muzzle over-zealous Mullahs, so it is now time to make a gracious retreat on the issue, happy in the knowledge that your local Mullah is not just any Mullah, but a bona fide Mullah With a License to Preach.

Chapter 4 states that it is a requirement of every Maldivian citizen to actively protect Islam (Article 4.21). Is this a legal requirement? And what does the duty entail? What exactly is it that we need to peel our eyes and cock our ears for? And how do we go about reporting our suspicions and findings? Would there be a 24-hour Infidel Alert hotline manned by a Licensed Mullah?

The Regulations bans any religion other than Islam from all public discourse. Being citizens active in protecting Islam, should we from now on categorically deny other religions exist, or is it sufficient to regard Them with condescension and/or loathing whence acknowledgement is required? Article 6.32 bans any utterance or action that is insulting to Islam in any way. What is the definition of the term ‘insulting to Islam’? Would, say, leaving out the PBUH after Prophet Mohamed be deemed an insult? Or does it have to be material such as those published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 before it is found to be insulting? What is an utterance that constitutes an insult against a mosque? Would criticism of its architecture – say the suggestion that its dome would have looked better if elevated five inches more – amount to an insult, or would the criticism have to take in the state of its badly landscaped garden, too, before it is deemed an Offence Against a Mosque?

Non-Muslim expatriates in the Maldives – best wean yourselves off the habit of holding garage sales to sell religious memorabilia at discount prices like you invariably do every Sunday ‘back home where you come from’. Any such sale in the Maldives would flout The Regulations (Article 34.a), so resist the temptation to make a quick buck, and firmly turn away the Maldivians queuing outside, desperate to get their grubby apostate hands on your old rosary beads or your Krishna statue for a Bai Rufiyaa.

You should also be aware that even though religion is most likely to have been your favourite conversation starter and probably the source of your best pick-up lines back home, it will not aid your hectic social life on this island paradise in a similar manner. In fact, Article 34.b makes it safer to drop religion from your vocabulary altogether. As a precautionary measure, before The Regulations are passed, you should try and remove any reflexive exclamations that may have embedded themselves in your oral register over the years such as ‘Oh my God!, ‘Jesus!’, ‘Harey Raam!’, etc. If you are more accustomed to saying ‘Jesus [insert expletive] Christ!’, however, it might help your plea of mitigation. Remember, though, a precedent is yet to be set, so proceed with caution.

Article 6.35 is a veritable quagmire of ambiguity. What constitutes a television programme or a written publication that is offensive or insulting to Islam? Where do we look to for guidance? The Taliban? The Emirates? Saudi Arabia? Insulting to whose version of Islam? Can a woman be shown wearing a bikini, or should a burqa be superimposed on her image before she appears on our airwaves? Does every shot of a church, temple and/or synagogue have to be removed from any film that a Maldivian watches? What does it mean that all advertisements should be ‘respectful of the beautiful customs of Islam’ (6.35c)? Apart from beauty being an entirely subjective concept, does this mean that only veiled women can appear in advertisements now? What if she is selling shampoo? Will all Gillette advertisements have to be axed? Books, too, are to be screened by The Board before it is available for Maldivian consumption (Article 31). If this gives us some reprieve from ‘literature’ such as The DaVinci Code, such a regulation might not be entirely without merit, but hardly justifies a group of 25-year-old male graduate virgins deciding our choice of reading matter.

Can The Ministry please clarify why it is necessary to burn the house down to roast the pig?

It has been a surprisingly risky business highlighting the ‘ambiguities’ in The Regulations. This article contains the p-word; names someone whom over a billion non-Muslims regard as the Son of God; allows Lord Krishna a cameo appearance; speaks of women in bikinis; discusses an instrument of shaving for men; and mentions places of worship other than a mosque.

Would The Regulations be applied retrospectively? If Sheikh Shaheem of The Ministry is to be taken at his word, the consequences may not be too dire. Even if found guilty of the Offence of Mockery, he has assured, the author will not be imprisoned, but will receive ‘counselling’. Whether ‘counselling’ involves a psychiatrist’s couch, one-on-one preaching sessions with a Licensed Mullah, or water-boarding, remains undefined and open to interpretation. As is much of The Regulations.

Criminalising (dis)belief will never be free of ambiguities.

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