Domestic violence accepted and justified in the Maldives, says report

The proposed Domestic Violence Bill will nullify some “God given rights” that no man-made law should be allowed to take away, according to some of the objections raised by MPs when it was debated in the Majlis last week.

“Do not to call upon us to make haraam (forbidden) something that God’s law has permitted us to do. It is when we try to forbid things that God allows us to do that problems begin”, Thimarafushi MP Mohamed Musthafa said, according records of the debate.

Several MPs said various parts of the Bill were against the teachings of Islam, and criticised it for “unduly favouring” women while at the same time making life “extremely difficult” for men, who they said, were wronged by women.

A Ministry of Gender and Family study, the first comprehensive nationwide survey of domestic violence in the Maldives, showed that one in every three women between the ages of 15-49 has been a victim of domestic violence.

It also showed there is general acceptance of domestic violence across the country and among both sexes, as ‘normal’ or ‘justified’.

Seventy percent of Maldivian women believe, for example, that there are circumstances under which a man is justified in beating his wife. Infidelity and disobedience, most women accept, are valid reasons for taking a good beating from the husband.

A majority of women also accept that women have a subordinate role to men, according to the report.

One in every three Maldivian men who commit acts of domestic violence against women do so for ‘no reason’. One in four does it to punish the woman for disobedience, and one in five does it because he is jealous.

One in every ten man beats up his partner because she refused him sex, and the rest of them do it for any number of reasons  – lack of food at home, family problems, because they are broke or unemployed, because they are having problems at work, or because the woman is pregnant.

Seven per cent of the men do it when they are drunk or on drugs.

Continuing his objections to the Bill on religious grounds, MP Musthafa said the Bill would allow the legalisation of abortion, and something that would pave the way for ‘Satanist laws’ to replace the law of God, which the Maldives should be following.

“We are being swayed by non-Islamic people and their beliefs”, he said. He also told the Majlis that Maldivians are allowing the contamination of the society by marrying ‘foreigners from all sorts of places across the world,” he said.

“It is”, he said, “destroying our culture, our Islamic way of life, bringing in all sorts of poisons and viruses into society.”

Islam, he said, recognises the importance that women should be given in society, as is evident from the fact that “it forbids men to wear any jewellery at all while encouraging them to adorn their women with gold and silver”.

Other objections to the Bill were raised on similar religious grounds. MPs Ibrahim Muththalib was concerned that it would become an impediment to the Muslim practise of polygamy. “This is a right accorded to every man by Islam,”
MP Muththalib said.

MPs also expressed concern over what they described as the “unduly harsh” punishments proposed in the Bill.

MP Muththalib said that such punishments would mean the criminalisation of a man’s rightful actions against his wife’s infidelity.

Agreeing with Muththalib on the harshness of the penalties proposed in the Bill, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed said he feared being locked out of his own home for the day due to his objections to Bill.

“The Bill criminalises too much – the way it is, the particular way a man enters his house may be judged a crime. There are some situations where wives take other men as lovers. In such situations they may make false reports about their husbands – these are things that have happened in this society”, he said.

Hoarafushi MP Ahmed Rasheed, who also voiced strong objections to the Bill, said some of the injuries suffered by women were the result of accidents caused by cramped living conditions rather than the result of violence by men.

“A woman walks down a narrow alley. She trips over pots and pans. In reality, it is not that some one deliberately tripped her…The reality is the circumstances – how can a fat person walk on a two feet alleyway without tripping?” MP Rasheed said.

According to the Gender Ministry report, one in every three Maldivian women are subjected to violence – sometimes physical, sometimes sexual or, more often than not, both. Most of the violence is committed by the man they are married to, or are in a relationship with.

Much of the physical violence to which they are subjected is ‘severe’ rather than ‘moderate’ – they are punched, kicked, choked, or burnt. Most of the violence is also long term, some times life-long.  Many are often beaten into consciousness, and most victims never receive medical treatment for their injuries.

Several are brutally beaten up while pregnant, causing miscarriages or still births. Women who suffer domestic violence are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies than those who are not. Their children are also more likely to suffer long term psychological damage due to the violent environment to which they are exposed.

Women who have suffered domestic violence are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts than women have not. 14 percent of women who had experienced such violence have attempted to take their own lives. The prohibition of suicide in Islam, the Gender Ministry report says, is one the reasons why the suicide rate among such victims is not higher.

The violence is more common in long term, cohabiting relationships than in short-term or non-cohabiting relationships.  Almost half the women who are abused have never been to school or only have a primary level education.

Women who are divorced or separated are more likely to have suffered at the hands of their partners, suggesting that violence is an important cause of the large number of divorces in the Maldives.

Most women never complain, because there are no mechanisms available for them to do so. Or they feel that complaining would stigmatise them socially. Or they fear retaliation by the husbands if they do so.

Over ninety percent of the women who were abused had never gone to the police and almost fifty percent of the women said no one had ever helped them.

The Gender Ministry study also found that women only find the strength to escape, to leave the house and to leave the abusive relationship they are in when they felt they could not endure any more.

It is when they feel that they are in mortal danger that they manage to start the long drawn out process of finding a life outside of the home in which they had suffered for so long.

In the Majlis debate over the Bill, many MPs objected to what they perceived as a bias against men in the Bill.

“We accept that some husbands do beat their wives. But there are women who commit more extraordinary, bigger acts of violence against men. Violence is not always a physical fight. One woman wants to marry a younger man after she has had 10 or 12 children”, Vilufushi MP Rasheed said. “This is also violence”.

Despite the objections, MPs actively promoting the Bill, introduced by Opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam, told Minivan last week they were optimistic it will be passed after it is sent to a special committee to refine the particulars.

The Parliament is currently deadlocked after the Supreme Court granted the government a temporary injunction on Monday, blocking the endorsing of cabinet ministers until a ruling on the process can be issued.


Comment: Kitchen maids step out to business and up to leadership

It was 3:00 pm in the afternoon last Ramazan when someone called and asked me to do a translation. He said that I could charge for the work. I told him to mail it to me so that I could have a look.

What I got was a five page contract with legal terms to be translated from English to Dhivehi, and it had to be done by that night. I called up and quoted him my official price and he flipped out.

“Oh man,” he said, “you are crazy. I am doing this for a friend. Go to the kitchen. It is time to cook for breaking the fast.”

My mind raced! Would he have said something similar in the same tone to a man?

Kitchen maids step out to business and up to leadership!

I grew up with a mother who sold material and tailored to earn money. She worked from home. In many households while men are the official breadwinners, the women work from home to earn an income to make ends meet.

Today farmers in the islands are made up of 60 percent women. In other words, women in the Maldives have a long history of entrepreneurship. When I was growing up, there were a couple of ladies in trading and I saw them in the man’s world. I wonder how they felt and what kind of challenges they had. Today with Maldives advancing into the modern world, more Maldivian women have stepped out into the business world.

Globally, the 1920s were a turning point for women to move from traditional roles to modern ideas. In these years the role of women changed, with gender-defined work such as cooks, dressmakers and farm hands moving to professional and technical jobs like doctors, bankers, lawyers etc. Still today, even in the most developed countries, there are conservatives who find it hard to digest this and feel a woman’s place is at home.

The prevalent environment in Maldives is tough for a woman who wants to run a business. I am a social entrepreneur and I started out on my own in 1999. As a woman I have experienced many hurdles, and I am going to highlight here common issues enterprising women face in the Maldives.

Women entrepreneurs find it a big challenge to get people to take them seriously. Women seeking loans beyond micro-financing have difficulties obtaining funds, even with collateral. I know the case of a woman who offered collateral of her two houses to the Bank of Maldives (managed by women) some years ago and she was refused a loan. When her husband went to the Bank with the same business plan and same collateral (with mortgage rights signed over by the woman), it was accepted.

When women hold meetings, many men do not listen to the business idea a woman is selling. Horrendous suggestions such as meeting late at night and in private environments are an indication of this lack of seriousness among men. It is often seen in the light of a favor she is asking. If I am accompanied by a male to a meeting, I still find him being addressed more than me though it is my business.

Sense of guilt

My female colleagues and entrepreneurs also speak of the “guilt issues” that come into play and which limit their success. Guilt for investing time away from the family, guilt for becoming more financially secure than family and friends, guilt for earning more than a spouse and guilt for being successful.

To make it worse, husbands and partners who cannot digest the success of a woman accuse her of receiving favours. Some people (men and women, friends and family) actually think that a woman who wants to start a business is just looking for something to do as a “hobby”.

Women are trained since childhood to work behind the scenes, to not make a fuss, and to take care of others first. Girls grow up in “female” roles with housework prioritised above studies, and the notion that she will marry a good man to have a life.

The contribution of women to financial stability is treated of secondary importance especially when that money is generated at home. Women’s contribution is not documented in the national statistics either. Women in entrepreneurship struggle to improve conditions that support enterprise development at national level.

The Women Entrepreneurs Council (WEC) was initially under the umbrella of the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and was dissolved three years ago without the WEC itself being notified. The move was part of a calculated change in the Executive Board to push out chamber board members, including distinguished and dedicated men committed to economic development of the country. and who supported the Wec.

The media (including Minivan News) ignored the case (with evidence) that the WEC presented, and the report did not appear in the daily newspapers or on the television. The Registrar of the Home Ministry at the time ignored the evidence. The Attorney General (on a personal level) made an aimless attempt to look into the issue that compromised women. Today the documents lie on the table of the present Chamber President who considers an internal audit of the time (with the last five years) possible but has not had the time to look at them.

The documents are in the Ministry of Home Affairs waiting for the present Registrar’s attention. Three registrars have changed since the documents were submitted and the present Registrar has promised to lend us an ear.

The WEC was just beginning to stand on its feet with a successful trial record of development and half a million Rufiya in its account, a solid development plan for four years and a potential contract with UNDP, when the Council was crippled by the Board of the time.

Earlier this year, His Excellency the Vice President listened to the story but it remains one without an end. The President’s staff have been scheduling a meeting with the leadership of the ex-WEC for the last two and half years.

Women experience sexist banter, demeaning comments and exclusionary behavior and continue to push for conditions where they can do business in a politically and socially fair environment.

Assumptions about women, such as in my introductory paragraph, view women as inferior business professionals. Expectations on pricing and wages – with the implication that women lack professionalism – are abusive.

Women tend to devalue their skills, abilities and experience more than men do. Women must value their offerings in order for customers and prospects to value them. The ability to be compensated well for the value a woman provides lies squarely on her ability to look the customer/prospect in the eye and state, with confidence, that it’s worth the price she is charging. So my fees remain… discounts come only after quotation.

Ownership and control of an enterprise by a woman is a big thing. Most women entrepreneurs are very compassionate and caring people, thus bringing complimentary value to business. While women want to express their skill and talent to the world, they should also possess the qualities of devotion, innovation and the capabilities of management and control, lessons that can be learnt from enterprising men. Women are great networkers, tenacious, and are great at relationships, so there is no hurdle too big to overcome.

Once on an interview, a producer of a VillaTV program wanted the presenter to question me about whether a woman would have time to take care of her family obligations if she was engaged outside home. In my opinion, the word obligation puts conditions on women that are interpreted by someone else. A woman should define her priorities and balance her life between work and family. This is one of the hardest challenges for a woman entrepreneur even in developed countries.

To break the ice, women have to put themselves forward and overcome a lifetime of behavioral training – a daunting task for many of us. Men remove one hat before putting on another. Work is work, play is play and family is family. Women insist on wearing all their hats at once and are determined to balance them all. When we enter into business mode, we are still mothers, wives and friends. We are easily distracted by our many other priorities and find it challenging to focus all our attention on one area at a time. Focus ladies!

To be successful as an entrepreneur a woman must be independent, humble, highly successful at personal growth and, for the most part, non-emotional. As a male colleague noted the other day, one big challenge a woman has are the other women who don’t understand her – her values and drive.

It was evident at the Validation Workshop in October 2009 held in Holiday Inn where I sat at a round table with women from the Ministry of Health trying to bring in the perspective of women from private sector into the national plans. The barrier I faced was so impenetrable that I had to get the Counsel of UN facilitator to talk to them to include some of my suggestions.

Women must be bolder and demand respect by showing their success. To receive respect, women should be respectful. To be respectful, women should work with values and rules that shows her principles such as using formal friendly language (a great way to draw the line between personal and professional relationships), staying firm and focused in discussions displaying a professional attitude, keeping meetings to working hours and if necessary stretch to early evenings but not late night hours, setting the latest reachable hour to business contacts by phone, meet in open public places or office during working hours, establish a code for no physical relationships with staff and potential business partners, learn to draw the line when people get abusive or suggestive at meetings, stop mothering when dealing with male business colleagues (sorry ladies but I observe this happening) and dressing professionally.

Women should always be upfront and transparent about their professional experience and what they have accomplished. Upon doing so, people can no longer have ignorant assumptions of women. So women out there, it takes every core of your being to stand above these who choose to talk about people, so you can walk instead with those who prefer to discuss ideas.

Aminath Arif is the Founder of SALAAM School.

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]


Transcript: Misconceptions of women’s rights under Islam

The following is a transcript of a talk by New York Police Department (NYPD) Chaplin Iman Khalid Lathif on women’s rights under Islam, aired on Television Maldives.

It is said that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh), a man by the name of Sayyid bin Zaid comes to the prophet (pbuh) asking about the status of his father. That this man Sayyid bin Zaid comes to prophet (pbuh) and he says “Ya rasoolullah, my father passed away before you started preaching your message, what will his situation be?”

A Nation Unto Himself

We have to understand this man Sayyid bin Zaid, is the son of a man by the name of Zaid bin Amr ibn Nufayl, a man who was known as being Hanif (believing in one god). A man who when he saw injustice being carried out in front of him, in that Meccan society, he would make it a point to stand up for those who were being oppressed.

That amongst the many things this man would do, it is said that it was commonplace at that time when a family would give birth to a daughter they would bury the girl alive because they wanted to have sons. That literally, they would take these women and they would put them into the ground because they did not want to have these women in their homes, rather they wanted to have young men who would extend their lineage.

So this man Zaid bin Amr ibn Nufayl, he would make a point to go into families where daughters were born into and he would say to those in that family “If you do not want them, give them to me, I will look after them.”

His son now Sayyid bin Zaid has come to the prophet (pbuh) and he says “Ya rasulullahi, what is the status of my father?”

The Prophet (pbuh), he says “on that Day of Judgment when each and every individual will be standing behind the person that they claim to be a follower of, when the nation of Moosa (pbuh) will be standing behind the prophet Moses. When Issa (pbuh) will be standing behind Prophet Jesus, when the nation of Mohamed (pbuh) will be standing behind our prophet (pbuh), your father will stand as a nation unto himself.”

That he will be given such a distinction, such an elevation, he will be given such recognition because of the things he stood for. He will be embodied as a nation unto himself, not standing behind anyone else, it will just be him all alone.

Rights of Women As Part of Our Tradition

What we understand from this is that most definitely there is a great reward in being somebody who will uphold the rights of women. As for our tradition, as for our paradigm, we understand that there are individuals who made it a point to go and stand up on behalf of those who were oppressed.

We also understand that at that time, there was a violation of women’s rights. But just as there was violation of women’s, rights there were men and women who sought to be those proponents of justice who would say “we will not stand and watch these women’s rights be violated! We will make it a point to ensure that they are given and restored everything that is owed to them.”

In a common place, in a common time, we find there has become a gross violation of the rights of women all over the world. Both in the Muslim community and outside of it, we see there is a mistreatment of women in a variety of societies and in a variety of communities, in a variety of cultures, most definitely there are women who are abused in all ways shapes and form.

Today’s Transition to Abuse

We want to understand why that is. How do we get to a point where a transition takes place? That our religion tells us, that we need to be upholding the rights that are given to any individual regardless of their socio-economic reality. But we see now specific with this topic of women and their rights, there are women who are being abused everywhere. Where does it come from? How does it transpire? What is it rooted in? Really how do we understand its existence?

I think the question that we pose; are there women’s rights in Islam?

It is something that yields an obvious answer. That if we are to say: is it problematic for a father to hit his daughter? Is it problematic for a husband to hit his wife? Is it problematic for anybody who has been endowed with a certain authority and a certain responsibility that comes with that authority to not uphold the responsibility that goes along with that authority?

But rather violate it and put the people who are in reliance upon them, put that principal of trust in a place where that trust is shattered; most assuredly you would say that this is something that is wrong. But how does it come to pass?

How is it that we make this transition? How is it that these things exist? We want to understand the conversation on a deeper level so that we can find its root and begin to take on solutions that make very viable and credible sense.

We have to understand that it is not right for women to be abused in Islam. It is not right for to abuse the rights of any human being regardless of their socio-economic background. It is not for us to put ourselves in a place where we can find and restrict people to such a way of life that we say that: we will cause you to be oppressed and we will let injustice run rampant because we are in a position of authority! We are of the elite and you have to succumb to the way that we think you should live!

And we see that this was something that was upheld during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and throughout the history of Muslim community.

That in moments where women’s rights were being violated, a mobilisation took place on a individual level and a mass level to ensure that that woman’s rights were restored.

During the time of Meccan Arabia, slavery was something that was practiced. That it was something that was there, it was something we understand that existed, and Islam very interestingly approaches this issue as well and the processes by which He emancipates women from all over the world.

And so we have the situation in our tradition where there are two women. A woman by the name of Zunaira and a woman by the name of Lubaina. Zunaira is a woman who was the slave of a man by the name of Abu Jahul and it’s said that Abu Jahul used to beat her so hard that she actually lost her eyesight.

Lubaina was a woman who was a in servitude of Umar bin Al Khattaab before he becomes a Muslim and Umar used to beat this woman so often when he would stop he would say: “Don’t think I am having mercy upon you, I am just tired, when I get my strength back I’m gonna start it again.” And Abu Bakuru (ra) he makes it a point to purchase the freedom of these two women.

And when his father says to him “why are you doing this? Why don’t you spend this money on freeing some young men? Who after you free them, they will have your back, they will support you to do anything, and they will be able to offer something to you! What is the point of doing something for these ladies?”

Abu Bakuru (ra) he says that “this is not the intention I am doing this by. I don’t expect something in return. I don’t expect that I will get something out of this. The reason as to why I am freeing these women, it is not because I want something from it, but because I know this would be most pleasing to Allah (swt) that that motivation for me. That I can’t stand by and watch this kind of injustice take place in front of my eyes. If I have the means to help them, if I have the means to preserve them, why would I not do so?”

Then during the time of Caliph Musta’sim Billah, it is said that at the outskirts of a Muslim empire a Roman soldier violates a Muslim woman. And Musta’sim Billah, this woman’s cries go out to him as the Caliph, as the Ameer ul-Momineen (Caliph of Muslims). And she says “Ya Musta’sim, where are you? That you have been entrusted to protect my rights and my dignity where are you? And what are you doing?”

And Musta’sim Billah Ameer ul-Mohmineen (Caliph of Muslims), it is said he deploys 30,000 Muslim soldiers to defend the dignity of that one woman.

Culture Restricts Women, Not Islam

That’s where we used to be. And this is where we are today. Where we have stereotype upon stereotype and misconception upon misconception of how the world perceives Islam because we are in a state where we are oppressing our women.

Deprivation of education. Domestic violence and abuse. Female genital mutilation. Forced marriages. All kinds of things, run rampant in our communities and what are we doing about it?

So we have to try and understand how we can address it.

Primarily, you want to think about what the root is of this issue. We see there is much confusion on issues of gender within the Muslim discourse. Where we don’t really graduate beyond the conversation of what is the permissibility of the interaction between a man and a woman. And we don’t get into deeper conversations that we need to; in terms of responsibilities and duties that are aligned with this concept of gender.

We have to be comfortable with an understanding that many things that are socially constructed are reflective of what is normative within the culture (not necessarily within Islam), and that those things are actually being constructed. And we have to be able to very comfortably distinguish between what is culturally acceptable, what is socially acceptable, and what is religiously acceptable.

And if a culture puts itself in a place where it says it’s ok for us to oppress the rights of any other person, especially women for no other reason than the fact that they are born female, this is something that is very problematic from an Islamic standpoint.

Educate Our Men

Because Islam comes to liberate, it doesn’t come to restrict. Whether it’s a man or a woman who is the point of discussion. And one of the issues we have around this issue of gender is that we don’t really discuss it in modes that it need to be discussed. More often than not in our conversations about gender revolve around the responsibilities of women in Islam.

But how often do you go to a lecture that says to you: this is the responsibilities, this is the thing that you have to be as a young Muslim man? Who teaches our man how to be man? Who teaches them how to uphold the responsibilities endowed to a man for no other reason other than the fact that he is male?

In the United States we see common place in our conversations of gender is that you have a man telling woman how to be a Muslim woman. You don’t have Muslim woman who are sharing their experiences of what it’s actually like to be a woman and letting audiences and men here what in fact they go through in a daily basis.

More often than not to take on stereotypes, you see perhaps the panel of women that are empowered by their Islam discussing why they should be role models to other Muslim women, but you don’t have conversations of who needs to be a role model for a young Muslim man. And then you get confusion on responsibilities that pertain to gender.

Why is it fair for a mother to have to be a father because a father was never taught what kind of responsibilities he should be upholding because when he was younger nobody presented to him what were his responsibilities as a man.

And we see that throughout the hadith, throughout our tradition, that Prophet (pbuh) primarily is making Islam very tangible for all his community members – putting it in a place, where it takes direct consideration of their specific circumstances and within that he is showing young men how in fact to be men.

We don’t do this in our conversations on gender. Have you ever had a lecture here that talks about principals of “futuwwa?” Principals of chivalry that exists in Islam? Where the Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) is described in the Quran as being futaah; described as being a young man who espouses such a nobility and from that word we derive the characteristic of futuwwa that we translate as nothing else other than chivalry, which puts you in a place where you are seeking to serve others and that is your primary mode of thought.

Not looking to bring them down, but putting yourself in a place where you seek to act justly with somebody else, without demanding justice for yourself. (But sometimes) it doesn’t happen. And when it doesn’t happen, you see the violations that take place.

It’s important for the stories to be heard, it’s important for the experiences to be heard, because the rights are there. It is written. It’s just not observed.

Starting the Conversation

And starting those conversations on gender, they become important. And then we have to begin to develop resources where we understand that although it is an unfortunate reality; it is a reality nonetheless that women are oppressed. And they have their rights abused all over the world, whether they are Muslim or not.

But one of the biggest issues they face is not only the fact that their rights are being abused, but after they’ve been abused they don’t know where to go. Where do they turn to? What are the viable organisations and institutions? What kinds of services are provided for them? Where can they let out everything that is taking place within them, because they have been mistreated in some way?

I was 19 years old the first time I met a young woman who had been beaten by her father. She came to see me and speak to me about what had taken place and she had bruises on her face, that she tried to cover up with some kind of makeup, but you could see that they were there.

When she came to speak to me about what she had gone through, I had no idea what to say to her. I didn’t know where to direct her, I didn’t know what to tell her to do, I didn’t know that you could go to speak to so and so and go to this place and they will help you out. I had no idea whatsoever.

We need to ask ourselves the same question. If somebody came to speak to you, to ask you for help if they found themselves in that situation, would you know what to do? Would you know where to direct them? Would you know where to send them? Would you know how to help them? That’s a big problem.

We don’t necessarily have access to leadership. We don’t have access to scholarship that sometimes understands these very real experiences.

[In the United States, we, as Muslims] have big trouble communicating our life experiences. It’s tough for us to be Muslims in situations that we are in because more often than not we see somebody sitting on the other side of the table who doesn’t really get what we are going through.

I am a young woman who finds myself beaten and abused at home. I run out in the middle of the night into the Masjid and I try to find somebody to tells me something that is empowering and uplifting. What kind of response will I get? “The women’s section is someplace else. Why is your head not covered?”

As opposed to how can I help you go through what you have gone through? This is a big problem!

I’ve gone to the hospital numerous times in the middle of the night to meet with young Muslim girls who have been raped by people. I’ve gone into counseling sessions, I’ve seen girl upon girl all over the world, literally every place that I’ve gone to speak to; including this country, this city.

There has not been a time where I’ve travelled to a lecture where at least one woman, if not many more, has come to me to say that she have a problem – that her rights have been violated.

Proactive Action

So what are we doing to fix this situation? If we are not the ones who is doing the violation, but we have the means to help them get back on their feet and we are not doing that, does that make us ok as well?

If you have a skill set, you have resources. You have a drive and compassion; start to change the circumstances and situation based off of what you can offer. Islam most assuredly gives the right to women and enables them and empowers them via their Islam and it’s something we have to begin to understand in the very specific context in which we are living here.

If you don’t have access to scholarships that understand you, the solution isn’t that we have to sit back and do nothing. But put yourself in a place where you go out and empower yourself with access to knowledge. And you begin to develop an Islam that makes sense, given your experiences.

What is keeping you from dedicating your life to spending some years to a course of study that you can then bring back here and begin to say that this is the kind of Islam that we understand to make sense? One that honors and upholds the rights of our women.

One that says to me that I can be who I am and I can be comfortable in navigating through my own process of development, without having to be restricted by somebody else’s understanding of the way that I should be living my life.

If you don’t enable yourself to do that, you are gonna get stuck.

Restrictions on Women

Our religion, it does have guidelines on gender. It has guidelines on understanding gender to a certain extent.

Are women allowed to be leaders in Islam? Yes they are.

Can women govern their financial affairs? Are they allowed to work in Islam? Yes they can.

There’s numerous examples, there numerous evidences for this. We see it throughout our tradition. Are women allowed to be scholars in Islam? Of course they can and they definitely have to be.

Aisha (ra) she was a woman who thought both men and women. There’s a sheikh by the name of Mohammad Akram Nadwi who lives right now, he is still alive. He has recently written a book that is called Al-Muhaddithat. It is a compendium of female hadith scholars. Just women who worked within that science.

And the muqaddimah (introduction) of this text is available in English. And with this compendium, he highlights the narratives and the biographies of 40,000 women who are female hadith scholars. And he stops at 40,000 not because he ran out of women to write about, but he was scared that if it was to get any longer, people just wouldn’t read it.

But we have it in our tradition. It’s there. We see it. It’s there. But we are not necessarily doing the things that our text tell us to do. We are governing our actions via a cultural imperative that does not necessarily find synergies with what our religion says to be imperative.

And this is something that was mentioned before, that we can’t equate our subjective understandings of morality and ethics to every single circumstance to make a determination as to whether something is appropriate or not. Because from culture to culture you will see that different people have different ways of doing things and we from the outside might not agree with the way somebody does something on the inside but then there are things that are most definitely obvious that we can say are outside of the fold of Islam.

Focusing On a Different Narrative

Where in the hadith do we find Prophet (pbuh) violating the rights of any women? Where do we see him mistreating and abusing his daughter? Where do we see him having any kind of domestic issues with his wife?

Our teachers, they say if physical abuse starts coming into a marriage, that’s the first sign that you need to start thinking about whether you should be married at all. Not forcing somebody to stick with it, not saying that: “no this is something that you can just get through” but really understanding, does it make sense for those people to be together? That their understanding of the rights they have over one another has gotten to such a level, that they don’t know how to deal with each other. And the last resort that they have, is they are raising their hands to another! It’s crazy, but we see it everywhere.

And we have to start offering a different narrative. We have to start offering an alternate reading that pretty much is the mainstream perspective. Prophet (pbuh), he has a daughter by the name of Fathima (ra).

Fathima has such a unique relationship with her father, to the extent that people would call her Umm Abiha (the mother of her father) that they said she resembled the prophet (pbuh) more so than anybody, else in terms of the mimicking of the actions, the way that he walked, the way that he talked, just his very carrying of himself, she had a unique relationship with him.

The prophet (pbuh) demonstrates over and over and over that he loves his daughter Fathima. He doesn’t mistreat her, he doesn’t abuse her, but he seeks to uphold the rights that she has over him, as being his daughter, whenever he gets the chance.

When the Prophet is leaving from the world, he whispers something in to Fathima’s ears. And Aisha (ra) she sees it and she later asks Fathima: “what is it that he said to you?” And Fathima (ra) she says that “the Prophet, my father said something to me that made me cry, and he said something to me that made me laugh.”

She says that “what he said to me that made me cry was that he was soon leaving from this world; his days in this world were limited. But what he said to me that made me smile was that I would be amongst the first who would be re-united with him again.”

To the extent that when Fathima knows she is passing away, that she is about to pass away, our tradition tells us that she takes her bed out into her courtyard. She lies on the ground with a smile on her face, facing the heavens, because she’s gonna be with her father again. How many daughters do we know that has this relationship with their fathers? And why is it that they don’t?

There were men who made mistakes and did things that were wrong during that time. Umar (ra) he knows and he understood the mistakes that he made. We made mention of what he did to this woman Lubaina. Umar has a hadith where he narrates his own account; he says that “there is an instance that I remember from the days that I was not a Muslim that makes me laugh and an instance that makes me cry.”

And he says that “the instance that made me laugh was that I was on a journey and one occasion and I had forgotten my travel idol at home, so I fashioned one out of the dates that I was carrying with myself, and then I got hungry so I began to eat the idol that I had made. When I think about this it makes me laugh.” And he says that “I remember also an instance that brings tears to my eyes. That I had a daughter that was born into my family and I buried her in the ground, and I can remember her hand going limp in my hand. And when I think about it – it brings tears to my face.”

But Umar wasn’t the kind of person that didn’t learn from the things that he had done wrong. During his Caliphate, the situation comes about that the people of Egypt, who were now part of the Muslim empire.

[They] had a custom that they would sacrifice a young woman into the rivers of the Nile because they believed that in doing that, it would cause the water to raise and will help them in their harvest.

Umar, he has a companion of the Prophet (pbuh,) who was there as the governor and this man is telling his people to not do this. That it’s something that is unIslamic – you shouldn’t do it, that it’s a violation of female rights amongst other things. And Umar (ra), he himself, says as well to “don’t let the people do this anymore.”

In that year when he tells them to stop, the waters of the river they don’t raise.

And now the governor the mayor of the city, he has to deal with the population that is saying “you told us not to sacrifice this woman and the waters, they have not risen.”

And so he writes to Umar (ra) who is there in Medina where the Caliphate is based and he says to him “what am I supposed to do? These people, they are going to kill a girl, if we don’t come up with something.”

So Umar (ra), a man who remembers what he has done and the tears comes to his eyes. He does not say that “this is what you should do,” but he makes it a point on his own to go from his place in Medina all the way to the land of Egypt and to engage that community and to engage that population with an air of faith he addresses the creation of Allah (swt), and he says speaking to the river, that if in fact you are from the creation of Allah than let yourself raise because in doing so you’ll be protecting the dignity of this woman.

This dua’ (prayer) is answered. But it requires a certain effort and a certain acknowledgment on his part. He doesn’t just sit back and say “I am gonna do what I need to do from here,” and [instead] goes to whatever extent possible to ensure he will not fall into a mistake that he had fallen into many years before.

Importance of Counseling

Other things that we want to understand is the importance we had alluded to before, of just being that person that can speak to somebody. But more importantly listen to them, when they have gone through this kind of test. I see people all the time who have kept within them horrendous stories of atrocities that they have experienced and they don’t have anyone to speak to.

The Prophet (pbuh) is such a unique individual that his companions were able to come and speak to him about things that they did, that were blatantly unIslamic and they knew he would help them become better by it. They didn’t have a worry that he would be judgmental. They didn’t have a worry that he would be condescending, but they felt comfortable in seeking this advice and counsel and reaching out to him with the issues that they have.

A man comes to the prophet and says “Ya rasoolullah, I have committed zinna! Help me.”

Can you imagine today a person coming to another Muslim and saying that I committed adultery last night? How they would be understood in the community?

But the Prophet, he has this relationship and the stigmas that surround counseling in a lot of our communities – we have to start overcoming them. Because our young women they are looking for somebody to speak to. And they keep it within them for years and years and as they keep them within them for years they begin to assume all kinds of things because the questions that they want to ask, are only being asked internally.

And as the doubts start to mix in, they take on a lot of blame for themselves.

Maybe my husband was right in hitting me. Maybe my father, he was justified in mistreating me. Maybe it was ok for them to abuse me the way they had done. Maybe I deserved it. Maybe I did something wrong. They didn’t do anything wrong. For the most part these women find themselves in situations where they are being held down.

But when they don’t have anybody to ask or speak about it, it just builds up inside and it starts to hurt. It starts to hurt so much, that they unleash it when the first opportunity comes and if they are not met with a good response, they might not talk to anybody about it ever again. I’ve seen so many young women who have been sexually abused as they were children. Molested by people who they thought they could trust.

I’ve seen young women and young men who have been beaten, who had been abused in a variety of ways. They carry it with them, but they want to be able to voice that pain and that hurt and they don’t have the outlets to do so.

You Can Help Society Too

So we also have to get to a place where we go and begin to take on these issues in a more systematic way. If you are a good listener, than let yourself go into the field of being a counselor. Try to understand mental health. Try to understand the issues that revolve around it, and let yourself develop things that are very viable for these people to deal with some of the things they have inside of them.

You don’t have to be the most learned, most religious person, to bring benefit to a society. That if you have a certain skill, if you are endowed with certain ability – let that be your access point into helping people who are around you!

We have a lot of stigmas, where I come from, for somebody to go and speak about things that they have experienced. Issues of honor come about.

“Don’t let people know what has happened to you they will say, they will think poorly of you.”

All kinds of and the person has to just keep it inside. This isn’t very healthy. Because if you set down with someone with [these] experiences and they’ve kept it within them, just for decades – and you see them unleash it, you can’t even begin to describe what that moment is like. And then the question that they want an answer to, that we don’t very readily have an answer to: is why did it actually happen?

Why was it something that happened to me? Why was it something that was allowed? Why was it something that was permitted? And more often than not the response you get is very mechanical, it’s very regurgitated: “Allah is just testing you. Put your trust in Allah, put your faith in Allah, and you will be better by it.”

Look for Real Answers

You gonna tell a girl who is 20 years of age that when she was five years old, her teacher molested her because its God who is testing her? What sense does that make? Where is the indication that you have any connection to what a human experience is like and [how] our people will grow and develop.

So that can’t be the only option. That can’t be the only alternative, because people begin to equate that experience with Islam, they become very disenchanted with the religion. Because they don’t see it as something that is empowering, but something that is holding them down.

So if you are good at it and you know how to listen, put yourself in a place where you offer that to people who are around you. And if you know somebody whose rights are being violated and they don’t have the ability to speak up for themselves, be mindful of it. And think with an air of foresight as to what would the ramifications be, but if they can’t speak for themselves – help them to speak!

Don’t let them have to go through it, don’t let them have to experience it but be somebody who helps them to be better by it. I don’t know how to answer the question of “why?” I haven’t been able to give an answer to anybody who has asked me. And I think that within our theology there are some things that we just have to say, “I don’t know! I don’t know why this happened to you. I don’t know why this was allowed to happen to you, but despite the fact that it happened to you I will enable you and help you get through it; and overcome it, and develop a sense of self-esteem and self-confidence so that you can get back to living a normal life, just as anybody else.” And any of us can do that; any of us can be those individuals.

Find and Focus on the Good

The Prophet (pbuh), he was a man who sought to find what was inherently good in that person and empower them based off that goodness. He wasn’t telling them that “this is what you do that is wrong, this is what you do that is wrong, this is haraam, that is haraam, you are going to hell.”

This is not the way the Prophet spoke to his companions. But he sought to find what was good about them and he sought to make them better by it.

We have to begin to start doing the same thing. If we don’t like the way people treat us, then let us not be the people who treat others in the same way. If we know what it feels like feel alone and to feel misunderstood, let us not let anyone else feels as if they were all alone and no one in the world understands them. If you can offer yourself to somebody in a way that brings them benefit, don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Because Allah, (swt) he looks for moments to be forgiving. And your attainment of that mercy is conditionalized upon being merciful to those who are around you. Because if one day you are going to ask Allah (swt) to allow you to have entrance into His paradise by His mercy, but you yourself have not extended mercy upon the people who are around you, how will you be able to do so?

We have to think about these things while we have the time.

Iman Khalid Latif is the Executive Director and Chaplain for the Islamic Center at NYU. At the age of 24, his dedication to working across the boundaries of faith and culture lead to his appointment as the youngest chaplain in the history of the New York City Police department. In 2009 Imam Latif was named one of the 500 most influential Muslim in the world by Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talaal Centre and the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.


Comment: Discrimination against women in the Maldives

The Ministry of Gender and Family, the Maldives Study on Women’s Health and Life Experiences 2007 suggest that one in every three women undergo some kind of abuse through their life, be it physical, psychological or sexual abuse.

For this reason, as a woman working to empower women, I felt a ray of hope on November 25, 2009, when the parliamentarians endorsed their commitment to the campaign to stop Violence against Women in the Maldives.

Unfortunately, the recent discussions held at the last meeting of the People’s Majlis (Parliament), before they went into recess, were shocking to some of us. Some of the parliamentarian’s crude remarks denote discrimination against women that is unacceptable for the lawmakers of the Maldives.

This is not the first time that such discriminatory, undermining and sexual language has been used toward women on the parliament floor.

The Maldives Constitution ratified in 2008. Chapter 2, article 17 states that everyone is entitled to rights and freedoms without discrimination of any kind including race, national origin, color, sex, age, mental or physical disability, political or other opinion, property, birth or other status, or native island.

In this respect, the United Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Maldives ratified in 1993, specifically stipulates equal rights to women, to stop discrimination against women and places an obligation on the state to provide and protect the rights of women.

It is interesting to note that the parliamentarians did not question the sex of the candidates at the time when the names were sent to the Majlis by President of the Maldives, and when they reviewed and approved the names for the five membership positions of Human Rights Commission (HRCM).

The discussion heated up when it became apparent the President [Mohamed Nasheed] had sent female nominations for the President and Vice-President of HRCM, which are high positions.

Why is it that the thought processes of the parliamentarians then turned upside down? The parliamentarians did not debate over why women were not nominated for bench of Supreme Court, nor why there is only one woman elected for both the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and no woman sitting in Elections Commission.

The majority of the public and private sector do not provide equal opportunities for women when it comes to decision-making positions. These high positions and are not barred by Islam, and neither by the Maldivian Constitution.

The media lacks awareness about women’s rights and the importance of promoting gender equality. The misconception spread about gender equality is that women and men are equal. This is incorrect – the correct account is that men and women are biologically different because of their sex but gender is socially constructed.

This means that there are positions or jobs that the society believes that either men or women can do. This is the interpretation that the parliamentarians had when they had the discussions on the last day before recess.

If women’s names had been approved by parliamentarians according to their first deliberations, the approval should be based on their competency. The deliberations on the Majlis floor indicate lack of knowledge about women’s issues and women’s problems.

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]


Parliament’s paralysing of HRCM is “unforgivable”: Saleem

Parliament’s failure to approve a President and Vice President of the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) before going into recess has left the country without a functional human rights body, according to former HRCM President Ahmed Saleem.

“Because of the irresponsible behaviour of the Majlis, the three member commission sworn in on August 17 is now defunct,” Saleem claimed.

The required quota of commission members is five.

“Two new members are still to be sworn in and there is no President or Vice President to preside over the meetings, which must be held at least once a month according to HRCM’s regulations,” Saleem explained.

“What the Majlis has done to HRCM is unforgivable, and it’s all because HRCM and human rights are not as important to the Majlis as taking their leave,” he said.

“The Majlis is destroying this country and leaving the government incapable of doing anything.”

Saleem’s concerns about HRCM were echoed by a coalition of local human rights NGOs, including the Maldivian Democracy Network, Maldives NGO Federation,Transparency Maldives and Democracy House.

“According to Article 9 of the HRCM Act, the President of the Commission holds the chair in all meetings of the Commission and is also tasked with assigning complaints that the Commission receives to the different members,” the coalition observed in a statement.

“The Vice-President of the Commission takes over these responsibilities when the President is either absent or unable to perform these duties. Thus, the non appointment of either a President or a Vice-President is an immense obstacle to the effective functioning of the Commission.”

The NGOs claimed it was the duty of the Majlis “to ensure that an important institution such as the HRCM does not fall into a legal void”, and that leaving the institution to flounder until parliament reconvenes in October “would be a great disservice to the people of the Maldives.”

The reasons for parliament’s failure to resolve the appointments of the commission’s President and Vice President are unclear.

The three members appointed to the Commission from the list sent to parliament by President Mohamed Nasheed included Maryam Azra Ahmed of Maafannu Hukuradhige, Jeehaan Mahmood of Dheyliyage in Hinnavaru of Lhaviyani Atoll and Ahmed Thalal of Henveiru Adduge. Saleem was listed but was not approved by parliament  – “it is my job to be critical of the government – I was surprised when the whole opposition voted me out,” he commented.

However President Nasheed’s nominations for HRCM’s President and Vice President, Azra and Jeehaan respectively, were not approved prior to parliament’s recess – an approval Saleem described “as usually just a formality”, but critical to the functioning of the institution.

Speaking in parliament on August 30 (pages 69-75), DRP Deputy Leader Ilham Ahmed said that while he considered the people appointed for HRCM as capable, the role of President and Vice President “should include a male.”

“Even if you look at it from a religious perspective or from the perspective of good policy, there should be a male in either post,’’ he said.

Independent MP for Kudahuvadhoo, Ahmed Amir, said it was “against human rights” to have two females in the roles of President and Vice President.

“It is the woman who calls for equality most of the time,’’ said Amir.

Minivan News attempted to contact Ilham, but he hung up with an apology.

Saleem observed today that the last commission “had men as President and Vice President and nobody said anything.”

“This time [President Nasheed] proposed two ladies. I have no problem with that – but they must be capable people,” he said, adding that “it would be nice to have a man and a woman for the sake of gender balance.”

The NGO coalition called on parliament to remain free of gender bias, stating that as the laws allowed women “to take up not only the Presidency of the Republic, but also become judges, commission members, commission presidents, and take up other important posts in the State, and that the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of most other commissions and bodies in the country are dominated by men, there is also no room to claim that women being appointed as both President and Vice-President of the HRCM is contrary to the rule of equality among the sexes.”

To not appoint a person to a particular post on grounds of the person’s sex “would in fact be contrary to Article 17 of the Constitution which enshrines the principle of non-discrimination”, the coalition suggested.

Maldives High Commissioner to the UK and the first female in the Malidves to receive a PhD, Farahanaz Faizal, said it was “absolutely horrifying to know that in the 21st century some of our parliamentarians are trying to obstruct this and discriminate against women simply because of their gender, no matter how experienced or qualified they may be.”

“In our recent past, we have had very capable women leaders in all walks of life, both in the government and outside, such as Moomina Haleem, our first female cabinet Minister,” Dr Faizal said.

Deputy Minister for Health and Family, Mariya Ali, said she felt it was important that “more women are in such positions, because it inspires younger women to seek higher education, and shows them what they can achieve if they work hard.”

“I feel it is a very important step for us to take that women are given such high posts, because unless they are taken, stereotypical attitudes towards women will persist,” she said. “If they are capable, why not appoint them?”


Saleem suggested that the government had made a mistake by not waiting until all five members of the commission had been approved, including the President and Vice President, “instead of rushing the whole process.”

“No democracy can function without a functioning human rights body,” he said.

“According to Article 297 of the constitution, the old commission must continue functioning until a new five member commission takes over. If there is to be a legally functional HRCM to protect the rights of the Maldivian people it can only be the HRCM appointed for five years in November 2006 – or else constitute the new one lawfully ASAP.”

Parliament was also recently criticised for leaving HRCM in constitutional limbo following the conclusion of the interim period, after failing to conduct the reappointments in time for the August 7 deadline.

A source at HRCM observed at the time that the legal legitimacy of the institution’s activities were questionable until the new commission was approved: “we don’t even know if we are supposed to be going to work.”


Comment: Real democracy is when barriers to women’s participation come down

If democracy is to function, barriers to women’s participation have to come down. If the citizens of Maldives are to improve their lives, women voices need to be heard at the political level and the obstructions removed.

Any politician or citizen of good will in the country who wants democracy will need to be honest and understand this aspect, and promote it willingly and without any reservations.

When women who have worked their way up the career ladder are able to be in the front line of the country’s development, can take ownership and are acknowledged for their achievement by political leaders and considered an asset, then it is an indication of a democratic government.

The barrier to this opportunity has not come down in the Maldives. Presently women in the front line are players selected to those positions by the government’s political agenda.

On the broader horizon, the change starts with women. Women need to see that they can do something about improving the quality of their lives, and those of their families and communities, by reaching for political leadership or becoming involved in political and civil activities. Women need to have the will to share and enjoy the privileges and the benefits of a democratic constitution.

How do women think?

The outcome of a woman’s thought is influenced by the role she plays in life. Women’s leadership may not bring all the solutions but then neither does men’s leadership. What makes the difference is the process of decision making and the outcomes when women voice their issues and express what they see as significant to a better environment for living. That is an important difference and must be taken seriously for good governance.

The difference can also be seen as the gender difference. The difference in thinking may be defined in this manner because the woman may have been a mother, or have cared for elderly people, or have experienced marginalisation or exposure to various forms of abuse, etc.

How could a viable political environment be formed without the views, advocacy and judgments that include women’s perspective? Women’s perspective in the Maldives especially is important as it presents grass root advocacy.

Beyond traditional spheres

Being politically active means to reach out to leadership positions and taking a stand for the values of democracy. It means moving into positions that are critical to attain social justice, raising public awareness and accessing visible positions of authority. It means venturing beyond traditional sphere of home and family. It means promoting fairness and no allowance for partiality.

Political engagement does not necessarily mean having a political career, campaigning, and getting into the parliament or the government’s leading positions. You can work up to leadership on the job so that you can implement fair and equal working conditions in your own work environment, you can be socially responsible, you can support people’s development and high-quality resources management.

If you choose to move onto the benches or go into law, you go beyond simply taking voting as your only civic engagement and civic participation, but pursue civil rights for the people and are in a position to advocate for and against implementation of legislative initiatives.

Your political activity may take the form of collective action, by forming associations to reach out to larger groups and transform your society. You would create a common vision, define common goals, invite people with similar aspirations and reinforce each other thus linking individual empowerment to group empowerment.

Moving beyond traditional spheres means change. Today people identify change with empowerment.

Empowerment can be defined as claiming the right by an individual to choose freely and control their own lives. Broadly defined it is the woman’s right to her own body and sexuality including protection against any form of violence, the right to her own income and equal opportunity to earning, power over her resources and fair inheritance, her rights to justice and position in a legal system (including impartiality in the Constitution).

The organisation and political aspects are self-help groups and collective action to bring change. Fundamental to change is the access to information and know-how.

Although this article focuses strongly on women, the content is applicable to men and can help them to become aware of their own disadvantageous position. Without this awareness, neither men nor women can seek empowerment. Empowerment means more than an adequate comfortable adjustment. On a personal level and the community level, it is redistribution of power that does justice to the opportunities and members of the society, does not compromise freedom and does not take happen at the expense of others.

Aminath Arif is the founder of SALAAM School.

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]


Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban: Time

Mutilation, beatings, and oppression of women for ‘crimes’ that are not enforced for men, continues in areas of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban.

Time magazine asks whether women’s rights will be sacrificed in any deal with the Taliban.

Read more – Warning: graphic photos


The End of Men: Hanna Rosin

The attitudes and social behaviour of men will have to change if they are to compete successfully against women in the modern global economy, claims Hanna Rosin in the latest edition of The Atlantic.

“With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success,” Rosin writes. “Aid agencies have started to recognize this relationship and have pushed to institute political quotas in about 100 countries, essentially forcing women into power in an effort to improve those countries’ fortunes…

“Last year, Iceland elected Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of state, who campaigned explicitly against the male elite she claimed had destroyed the nation’s banking system, and who vowed to end the “age of testosterone”…

“Researchers have started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, and wondering if groups of men, in some basic hormonal way, spur each other to make reckless decisions. The picture emerging is a mirror image of the traditional gender map: men and markets on the side of the irrational and overemotional, and women on the side of the cool and levelheaded.”

Read more


Comment & Analysis: Me sheikh, you woman

What would you think if US President Barack Obama were to appoint Benjamin Netanyahu as his special advisor to the Israel-Palestine conflict right after his speech offering an unclenched hand in friendship to the Muslim world? It would be a move that makes as much sense as President Nasheed’s recent appointment of Sheikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed as the minister of state for home affairs.

The ministry is in charge of the police and defence forces – the maintenance of law and order in the Maldivian society. Its portfolio includes the treatment of prisoners. Was it not recently that Sheikh Rasheed voiced his wishes for re-introduction of capital punishment and amputation into the Maldivian penal code? And did President Nasheed not fundamentally disagree with Sheikh Rasheed’s position?

What confounds logic even more is that President Nasheed is putting Sheikh Rasheed in a leadership role in a ministry which says that shaping the social fabric of the nation is part of its mission and remit. An examination of the social fabric that Sheikh Rasheed would like the Maldives to be clothed in shows it to be of a cut and design that is hardly tailor-made for a democracy, to put it mildly.

Adhaalathian Utopia

For Sheikh Rasheed’s Adhaalath Party wants a Maldivian society in which there would be not just capital punishment, amputation and flogging. It would also be a patriarchal society that would function according to something called the ‘natural order’ of things. The natural order, Fate, Karma, God’s Preordained Blueprint for Life, or whatever one might like to think of it as, is one in which men and women are quite irrevocably different from each other.

The main proof lies in the biological make-up. Male and female reproductive organs are different. For those who cite biology as the reason for man’s superiority, the reproductive organs also testify to man’s mental superiority over women. One might ask whether, by the same logic, it follows that the intellectual superiority accorded on the basis of biological differences mean that it is these reproductive organs that are put to use when such men need their mental faculties to function – but one should not be so supercilious in one’s attitude towards such learned, scholarly dignitaries, so let us move on.

Even a perfunctory empirical examination of the societal idyll that Adhaalath Party has outlined for the Maldives, in their various publications online, renders one aghast that the leader of this party has now been appointed to a position that would allow for such thinking to be actualised. There is plenty of material to choose from, but the focus of this article is on the place women are to have in this ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’.

Women are equal to men, says Adhaalath. When it comes to domestic violence, that is. Take for example Lorena Bobbitt who in 1993 cut off her cheating husband’s ‘male organ’, as Adhaalath so very delicately put it. Rather than being a one off incident (excuse the pun), for the Adhaalath party it is representative of womankind as a whole, and shows just how wrong it is for women to claim such an ‘entitlement’ to victimhood in domestic abuse.

Now weigh this against the World Development Report of the same year which stated that ‘violence causes more death and disability worldwide amongst women aged 15-44 than war, cancer, malaria or traffic accidents’. Or measure it against the fact that 70 per cent of women experience violence from men in their lifetime or the fact that ‘at least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime with the abuser usually someone known to her’.

No matter, the enraged Mrs Bobbitt’s impromptu surgery on the very part of the philandering Mr Bobbitt’s anatomy that stood as testament to his superiority proved beyond any reasonable doubt that these ‘notions’ of ‘victimhood’ that women entertain are just silly female ideas that have no place in ‘the natural order of things’.

“Somewhere around Bombay”

Similarly, women cannot honestly claim to have no equality when it comes to rape either. For Adhaalath – without reference to any source material – provides ample ‘proof’ that this is simply not the case. One Adhaalath commentator, for example, tells his readers of having spotted a headline in capital letters [if it is in capital letters, then surely it must be true] in some newspaper somewhere in a remote part of India that a group of women used to phone a hapless doctor to come make house calls only to be gang-raped by a group of female ‘patients’ when he arrived at the door.

Adhaalath can also inform readers that ‘somewhere in or around Bombay’, sometime in 1989, another group of women gang-raped a boy who died in their violent sexually-depraved hands. These are not isolated cases – although they do appear to be concentrated ‘somewhere around Bombay’ – for there was another case where a farmer was raped by a group of horny women whose violent sexual machinations robbed the poor farmer of his life.

‘These incidents should be viewed as discriminatory, bigoted ideas about women being victims of sexual violence at the hands of men. Men are suffering on a similar scale at the not-so-delicate hands of women. ‘It is an injustice in itself to think that women alone are victims of violence in this world’. No one is claiming this to be the case, but then again why listen to these ridiculous ‘Western notions’ in their entirety?

Anyway, the only reason that studies and figures from world organizations investigating such matters are mainly concerned with women’s victimhood is probably because they have failed to include this particular area ‘somewhere around Bombay’ in their data collection and analyses. Ah, the laxness of research these days.

Now that it has been established it would be wrong for anyone to think that Adhaalath Party is of the opinion that men and women are entirely unequal, let us return to the ‘natural order’ according to which the ‘Adhaalathian Utopia’ would function. It is a picture best painted in the words of Adhaalath itself – no one else could render it quite so evocatively as their writers, nor be as eloquent in the depiction of their vision for a new Maldivian society.

The following is an extract of a publication by on the role of women in society. The Adhaalath material is an abridged translation from an article that appeared on the Adhaalath website in July 2008.

“The ‘natural order’ is one in which men and women simply cannot be equal. This is as natural and irrefutable a fact as the earth revolving around the sun. Human lifestyle is based around the very same natural order, the same organizing principles as those found in nature.”


“All human life is run according to this ‘natural order’. The problem that we are confronted with today is that there are an increasing number of people trying to upset the system. The main problem is the increasingly loud voices of ‘certain people working for women’s independence who insist in calling for gender equality’. ‘These people’ are claiming that men and women are equal! ‘This is absolutely and completely against the natural order’ of the world. This policy has devalued the family by destroying the family structure that forms the very foundation of society.”


“It makes absolutely no sense that the family should be exempt from the rules of management that apply to any other business – a manager is appointed to run the show and the minions follow him. To appoint the husband as the director/manager of the family is not to say that the wife is inferior, nor is it to say that the husband is superior. The husband should be in charge of planning, strategizing and running the business of family – this is the natural order of things, and what God intended. Just like He intended the earth to revolve around the sun, and that night should follow day.”

“Should we listen to ‘those people’ agitating for equality between men and women, catastrophe and destruction will follow. For appointing the husband the head of a family is as natural as appointing a boss over employees, a prime minister over ministers – this is only a matter of practical and administrative concern, not a suggestion of superiority of one person or group over another.”

“In terms of status, men and women are equal; both sexes deserve equal respect. Sometimes women are even more equal than men. It’s just that they need guidance and supervision of men without which they would be helplessly bumbling about, trying to make sense of a world without order.”

“This is the main problem of modern times. According to notions of equality fostered by modernity, men and women rushed into employment together. This has led to increasing unemployment because it deprived men of their [God-given] rightful place in the labour force. Once women forgot their place at home the so-called problem of unemployment arose. There is no tangible development or benefit to be seen from women having joined the workforce.”


“Now that they have joined the workforce, nothing is being done at home. As a direct consequence, the whole society is rife with problems. This is the real reason behind such mayhem: women forgot their place in the natural order.”

What (or should I say, with what) possibly could President Nasheed have been thinking? Can anyone see the logic behind his appointment of the learned Sheikh Rasheed as state minister for home affairs in light of such ‘enlightened’ policy his party espouses? No doubt that Sheikh Rasheed is popular and that he is ‘the great Islamic scholar’ that his 194-strong Facebook fan-base tells us he is. But, what place does the kind of thinking espoused by his Adhaalath Party have in a democracy? By giving him such a portfolio, President Nasheed is upholding policies and ideas that should be anathema to a democracy. Shame. And here we were almost convinced by those learned men that timidity is an entirely female characteristic.

Munirah Moosa is a journalism and international relations graduate. She is currently engaged in research into the ‘radicalisation’ of Muslim communities and its impact on international security.

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