Islam text books in Maldives breed hatred and fundamentalism, says NGO

Maldivian school text books, sermons and other published materials on Islam breed hatred and Islamic fundamentalism, says rights NGO, Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN).

The report, which is the first of its kind, analyzed text books used in Maldives for primary and secondary education in order to identify the prevalence of radical narratives in the mainstream academic discourse.

The report noted that the school text books cultivate anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and glorify Jihad or war against those who allegedly “obstruct” Islam.

All Maldivian students are required to take Islam as one of the four compulsory subjects, alongside Dhivehi, English and Mathematics from first grade through twelfth grade.

Islamic studies text books are prepared by specialists at the ministry of education and approved by the ministry of Islamic affairs.

The government is struggling to prevent an outflow of Maldivians seeking to join the civil wars in the Middle-East. The police in January said over 50 individuals have left the country, while the opposition puts the number at 200.

In addition to analyzing text books, the human rights NGO held public forums in several islands to ascertain whether the public view human rights and Islam to be compatible, and conducted interviews with Islamic ministry officials and heads of schools.

Glorifying jihad

In the eleventh grade Islamic studies text book, jihad is defined as “to endeavor greatly,” or “to bravely confront enemies,” and the definition is supported with verses from the Qur’an and prophetic verses or Hadith that stress the importance of a ‘Holy War.’

MDN noted that two whole pages of the book were dedicated to “fruits” of Jihad, claiming that the ultimate fruit of Jihad is martyrdom, for which the reward in Islam is an eternity in heaven.

The text book claims that Muslims who hesitate to perform this “obligatory religious duty have produced bitter results in the past and it will continue to do so if left undone.”

“These discussions fuel hatred an depict the religion as one that is set on building hegemony,” read the MDN report.

An autobiography of a Maldivian man, who was killed while waging Jihad at Syria posted by Bilad-al-Sham media group, claimed that many students studying at the main secondary school, Center of Higher Secondary Education, had chosen to engage in Jihad.

“Though it has a secular curriculum, so far from that very school has come out many shining stars in the path of Jihad and students whose hears filled with the love of Islam. Allah Akbar!” read the biography of Abu Dujanah, who reportedly died in battle in Syria in September 2014.

Us vs. Them

MDN noted that Islamic textbooks for grade one, two and three contain material instilling love for Islam and rarely incites hatred through xenophobic narratives.

“However, from grade four onwards the xenophobic material gradually increases to the point where the radical outweighs the moderate,” the report read.

In the grade five textbook, Jews are described as “devious people” who “do not hold any value to their promises”, leading to stereotyping and has made anti-Semitism the norm in the Maldives.

The text books also incite hate against pagan religions and other Abrahamic religions, and depicts all Islamic Sects expect the Sunni sect as “heresies.”

“For Instance, the grade nine text books dictates a lesson on “deceivers” or “liars” from the Muslim world or Ummah,” read the report.

The books describe the Ahmadiyya sect as a “plot by the British to destroy Islamic Unity,” and says Muslims educated in the West, or Muslims who speak for secularism are considered co-conspirators with the West to undermine Islam.

“Due to the prevalence of these radical ideas, the text books fail to primarily instill a positive interpretation of Islam that is manifested in the [2008] Maldivian Constitution,” concluded the report.

Meanwhile, the ninth grade text book appears to dismiss women’s rights and feminism as part of a ‘western agenda.”

The tenth grade textbook says “slaves must work tirelessly to fulfill their masters needs,” and the eleventh grade textbook outlines discriminatory penalties under Islamic penal provisions for victims of a crime if they are a slave or a non-believer.

“Such discriminatory and racialist attitudes in relation to religion should not be endorsed by educational literature in the modern world where slavery has been abolished,” the report read.

MDN recommends the removal of “discriminatory content” from school books in order to create tolerance and good will to all members of the globalized world.

The assessment was conducted with the assistance of Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives from December 2014 to March 2015.



“Maldives cannot afford to be an inward looking, xenophobic country”: former President Nasheed

The following speech was given by former President Mohamed Nasheed at the launch of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s foreign policy. President Mohamed Waheed’s Independence Day address is available here.

Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

We live in turbulent times. Times have always been turbulent.

We sit in the Indian Ocean, across a 1000km from North to South, where the bulk of the international trade passes. We are so strategically located that when the big boys fight, we are hemmed and wedged in-between.

The basis of our foreign policy is what my grandmother used to say, find a friend and stick with them, be good and be honest to them.

Our relationships do not depend on our fortunes, but on our ideals.

We are saddened that a number of countries with whom we shared our sentiments didn’t live up to our expectations.

But still our relationships do not depend on our political fortunes.

Down and under or up and above we still stick to our principles and beliefs.

A tolerant Islamic society, friends with everyone, enemies of no one.

The Maldives recently embarked on a remarkable journey towards democracy that sought to allow our people to live free, prosperous and dignified lives.

The adoption of a new constitution that guaranteed fundamental rights and allowed for separation of powers and term limits for the president was a key achievement.

So were the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections that took place in quick succession from late 2008 onwards.

Our party, the Maldivian Democratic Party, had the good fortune to become the first democratically elected government in our country’s history.

It is remarkable that after 30 years of one-man rule, the change took place through the ballot box, and that the transfer of power was peaceful and recognised as legitimate by both Maldivians and the international community.

We were also particularly proud and hopeful to be the first Muslim country in South Asia to have achieved a peaceful transition to democracy.

The people of Maldives placed a great deal of trust in us, and had high expectations that we would be able to deliver on our pledges so that the quality of their lives would be better.

In order to build the kind of society we want, we felt that it was imperative that we engage with the wider world and become responsible global citizens.

The Maldives has always maintained contact with the outside world. Historically we have been seafarers, traders, and explorers. We have never lived in isolation and we must not live in isolation in an interdependent world.

The mainstay of our economy is our hospitality industry. Close to a million tourists visit our shores every year to enjoy our country’s natural beauty and our people’s hospitality. Visitors to the Maldives has always been the norm.

Thus we feel that Maldives cannot afford to be an inward looking, and xenophobic country.

We need to be outward looking and cosmopolitan.

This is the foreign policy that the first MDP government pursued.

Human rights were an important part of our domestic policy platform. It was only natural that we took the promotion of these values to the wider world.

Our membership of the Human Rights Council was an important achievement. Indeed, we secured the highest number of votes in that election, and we used our platform to press for stronger global human rights protection mechanisms.

We aimed to increase foreign investment in the Maldives, through our pivot towards commercial diplomacy.

As we graduated from a Least Developed Country to a middle-income country, we knew that economic opportunities had to be expanded.

Trade not aid, became our new mantra. And the results were remarkable.

Statistics maintained by our Ministry of Economic Development show that out of the 1.5 billion dollars that flowed in through non-tourism foreign direct investment since 1980, over 50 percent was secured during our three years in government.

At US$500 million, the contract with GMR–Malaysia Airports consortium to develop the international airport in Male’ was the single largest investment in the country’s history.

A loan from the Export-Import Bank of China facilitated the development of 1,500 housing units in Hulhumale’ through a Chinese contractor.

By selling shares in Dhiraagu to the British company Cable and Wireless, we were able to begin work on a submarine cable project in partnership with the Japanese Hitachi Corporation that will provide high-speed internet connectivity throughout the length and breadth of the Maldives.

Climate change is a real existential threat to our country. Under the MDP government, Maldives moved away from being a victim of climate change to a leading voice in the debate. The role we played at the COP 15 Summit in Copenhagen attempted to bridge countries on different sides of the argument. We were pleased that the Copenhagen Accord pledged much needed funding for climate change adaptation for us and other countries vulnerable to the effects of climate change. We spoke on behalf of the Small Island States on the same platform as the world’s largest economies.

Maldives’ took a ‘can-do’ approach on climate change. We made a bold decision to become a carbon neutral country by 2020 and we were in the process of submitting our renewable energy investment plan to the World Bank in February 2012.

There were many other instances where our relationships with the outside world have proved fruitful to our people.

We have had important cultural exchanges, for instance through the Hay literary festival.

We set up an International Volunteer Corp, so that volunteers could travel to our beautiful country and help us with important social services.

We increased scholarships for our youth to study abroad.

These are just some examples of our interactions with our international partners and the benefits that our citizens gained through our foreign policy.

But of course, as you know, this story did not have a happy ending.

Fledgling democracies are fragile.

The success of a democracy does not rest upon the ability to give people a vote and to hold an election every few years. It requires a massive shift in power from a stronghold “deep state” to the masses.
On the 7th of February last year, I was forced out of the office that I was elected to just three years before. I set out the details of the coup in great detail in my testimony to the Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI). So I will not belabour the point here.

Some chose not to recognise the events that forced the country’s first democratically elected government out of office as a coup.

But what was clear to all even then, was that this was not how a democratically elected government in any country should be changed.

And what has become increasingly clear over time, is that the coup has reversed many political and developmental gains that the country had made during our three years of democracy.

We had taken one step forward, but were quickly forced to move two steps back.

The security forces continue to act with impunity and use excessive force against peaceful protesters.

Politically motivated prosecutions have become the norm. There are currently cases pending against all levels of the opposition, from the MDP’s presidential candidate to several hundred grassroots party activists.

Mismanagement of the economy has led to the government budget already being exhausted mid-way through the year, and many essential services are neglected.

Infrastructure projects in many islands initiated by the MDP government have come to a sudden halt.

The universal health insurance scheme established by our government has been scaled down.

The transport network we set up to connect our islands and bring goods and services closer to the people has become dormant in many parts of the country.

Local fishermen earn less for their catch after the competitive market has once again been monopolised.

While 115 schools were converted to single session by the end of 2011, no progress has been made on the program since then.

The airport’s roof still leaks when it rains and we have to rely on an archipelago of buckets to keep travelers dry.

Most recently, we saw how the thalassemia centre has been mismanaged to the extent that lives were put at risk.

One of our greatest achievements in our three years, I believe, were the gains in media freedom. With the ousting of the democratically elected government, Maldives’ press freedom fell 30 points back to pre 2008 levels.

Since the February 7th, 2012 coup, the country has not just seen the backsliding of democracy and greater affronts being committed against human rights. The state of our economy is deeply worrying. It has also seen decline in the country’s foreign relations.

There has been a nasty tide against many of our international partners, be it the Commonwealth, the EU, or indeed, India.

The coup government unceremoniously terminated the airport contract with GMR, amid some very unsavoury anti-Indian rhetoric. We now face a 1.5 billion dollar claim by GMR in international courts. This is a relationship that we cannot afford to turn sour, and a compensation bill that we cannot afford to pay.

In contrast, when the MDP took office in 2008 we made the decision to honour all financial commitments of the previous government. We believed in the importance of upholding contracts. It was the responsible thing to do. And it is a great tragedy that our example was not followed.

The bad relations with the international community means that there is little by way of assistance as our country’s democratic institutions and social and economic infrastructure crumbles.

It has meant that crucial visa arrangements have been jeopardized, making it harder for Maldivians to travel abroad.

And yet the coup government turns deeper inwards and shuns the wider world.

We were a beacon of hope.

We are no longer a leading voice in the climate change debate.

We are less concerned about widespread human rights abuse in Syria and Egypt.

We have once again become just another member state.

It is high time that this insular mentality is dropped, and that we reapply for our old job of being a responsible international citizen.

We pledge to repair our damaged relations with the wider world.

We pledge to work with our international partners to uphold human rights and establish a justice system that our citizens can have confidence in.

We pledge to carry on the increase in inward investment and outward trade to bring greater prosperity to our people.

We pledge to, once again, become a responsible member of the global community of nations.

An MDP government will reset important bilateral relations including those with our neighbours. South Asia is one of the most dynamic regions in the world. But it needs strong partnerships and strong leadership.

We will not seek to play one country against the other, but rather, maintain a balanced network of bilateral ties.

We were proud to host the SAARC Summit in 2011 and proposed the establishment of a regional transport link. But we greatly regret the fact that the coup meant that Maldives was not able to take advantage of its position as chair of SAARC to make our proposals a reality.

We will continue our advocacy of a two-state solution to the Middle-East crisis.

We will strive hard to push forward our human rights agenda. We successfully completed the Universal Periodic Review process between November 2010 and March 2011 and accepted over 100 recommendations. But of course, as the tragic events since the coup have shown, much more needs to be done to embed these values in our society.

The next MDP government will redouble our efforts to implement our international human rights commitments and to end the culture of impunity that is now so prevalent in the Maldives.

We will work with our international partners to reform crucial institutions such as the police, the military and the judiciary.

The actions of the Waheed regime have frightened away foreign investors. We will slowly, but surely, regain their confidence by strengthening our rule of law and respecting commercial contracts.

Our diplomatic missions will be encouraged to seek commercial opportunities from a diverse range of partners. This will be crucial to support our policy of economic diversification in areas such as mid-range tourism through guesthouses, as well as mariculture and agriculture projects.

Part of this effort will be to integrate Maldives and its people into the global village by promoting visa agreements, educational opportunities abroad and cultural exchanges.

An MDP government will work hard to solve global problems through multilateral institutions. We are proud of the role we played in reforming the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, to make it more proactive in holding perpetrators accountable.

It is no secret that we were extremely disappointed by the outcome of CoNI. But we will continue to engage with CMAG to ensure events that took place in the Maldives are not repeated elsewhere.

MDP will return climate change to the centre of Maldives foreign policy. It will return to its pragmatic approach of leading by example – by getting our carbon neutrality back on track. Maldives will once again lead at the UNFCCC, and will redouble its domestic efforts on building a more climate resilient and sustainable Maldives.

We thought democracy and human rights were here to stay simply because we had free elections and a new constitution. We were wrong. No country in the world has a perfect democracy. It takes constant effort. For that, we need strong institutions, an independent judiciary, good laws, and an active and vigilant civil society.

And we need the assistance of our partners to build these essential blocks of our country.

The flame of liberty and hope that once burned brightly has quickly dimmed to nothing more than a few embers. On the 7th of September we once again have the opportunity to rekindle this flame by having an elected government with a legitimate mandate from the people.

We need your assistance to ensure that these elections are free and fair, and that there will be a peaceful transfer of power once again to whomever emerges successful at the polls.
We urge you to be vigilant and welcome your engagement during this crucial time, as we in the Maldives, once again, find ourselves at the cross roads of history.

Five years ago we pledged to take our citizens to Another Maldives where they would enjoy freedom, prosperity and dignity. That journey was brutally cut short, but not before we delivered on important reforms domestically, and established ourselves as a responsible and globally connected nation.

We have been tortured. We have been beaten up. We have been threatened.
Yet, we continue to seek strength from one another.

Our strength has always been the people of the Maldives.

Our hope lies with the people.

Today, as we renew that promise, I am confident that brighter days are once again around the corner.

It has given me great pleasure to spend this time with you here today and share with you the foreign policy priorities of a re-elected MDP government.

Thank you very much.


“Anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance” deeply entrenched in Maldivian political discourse: Dr Shaheed

Anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance “are deeply entrenched” in political parties currently opposed to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), former Foreign Minister in both Nasheed and Gayoom’s government, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, has said.

Dr Shaheed’s comments follow reports in local media summarising US Embassy cables first published by Wikileaks in 2009, and discussed during the then-opposition parliament’s efforts to impeach the foreign minister.

In particular, the Maldivian government’s engagement with Israel was the subject of a parliamentary debate November 9, 2009, in which Shaheed narrowly avoided impeachment following a no-confidence motion.

Opposition to the Maldives’ recognition of Israel was seized by then opposition groups in December 2011 as a sign of the Nasheed government’s “anti-Islamic” policies. The previously disparate parties formed the ‘December 23 coalition’, following a large rally in Male’.

Dr Shaheed said “Growing extremism hurts the Maldives rather than anybody else, because whenever a state is unable to deliver what is in the public interest due to intimidation from others, it is the state that suffers.”

“The growth of extremism itself has numerous causes, but none of it is linked to government policy towards Israel or Palestine,” he added.

Many Maldivians firmly believe that policies pursued by Israel affect their solidarity with Arabs and other Muslims, Dr Shaheed explained.

“We care about how Israel treats the Palestinian people, because we care about the safety of the Muslim holy places under Israeli jurisdiction, and because we need to have a dialogue with Israel communicating our interests and concerns on these matters regularly,” he said.

More space for civic reasoning in Maldivian politics is needed for the Maldives to “behave like the rational nation-state, with friendship towards all, that we claim we are,” he said. “Silence may be golden but dialogue is the miracle tool of diplomacy.”

In the original cable referred to by Sun Online, Dr Shaheed told then US Ambassador Robert Blake that he believed “radical clerics ignited a reaction” among the Maldivian population and this was “a lot, but not a genuine undercurrent.”

Dr Shaheed “highlighted that former President Nasheed pledged to “renew ties” with Israel in his September 24 (2009) UN General Assembly speech,” that the Maldives Defense Minister and Minister for Natural Disasters would visit Israel later that year, and both nations “have already signed agreements on health, education, and tourism”.

Speaking to Minivan News, Dr Shaheed said he believed MDP’s rivals considered the cables “the perfect fog-machine to distract any discussion of bread and butter issues in the campaign.”

“Many in the Maldives see the Palestinian-Israeli dispute in religious terms, and religious sensitivities are played up during election time,” he added.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs meanwhile told Minivan News the Maldives is “not against Israel”.

“The Maldives’ government always supports Palestinian citizens to have their freedom and urges this in the United Nations,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Muaz Ali.

“This does not mean Maldives is against Israel,” he said.

“Anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and religious intolerance”

“Neither former President Maumoon Gayoom nor former President Mohamed Nasheed divided the world into a Dar al- Harb and a Dar al- Islam as in classical Islamic international relations theory, which is what the Salafists in the Maldives want to do,” stated Shaheed.

Shaheed explained that “anti-semitism runs deep in certain sections of Maldivian society”, highlighting as an example an article published in Dhivehi on local news website Dhi-Islam in January 2011, reporting on the agreements made between the Maldivian and Israeli government.

“Under this heinous agreement, these people have thrown the little children and the youth of the Maldives, as well as the country’s education sector and the health sector and many other matters, into the lap of the evil Zionist Israelis, who, as we have been informed through the seven heavens, will never wish anything but evil for Muslims,” the article reads.

“Jews have even historically been an evil people who have been cursed because they had killed prophets and spread corruption on earth, and that they are the biggest enemies of Muslims is proven by the teachings of the Holy Quran and forms of the core beliefs of Muslims. This agreement will impose pressures to prevent the dissemination of these teachings,” it adds.

The report claims that Jews have falsely exaggerated “incidents” of torture and killings during the Holocaust “to inculcate sympathy towards Israel in the minds of Maldivian youths; to convince the Maldivian youths that the jews are the victims of oppression and to make them blind and insensitive to the occupation of Palestine, the seizure of Muslim holy lands, and the endless oppression the jews inflict on the inhabitants of the land.”

“This agreement is high treason or the highest form treachery against the noble Islam and Maldivian identity, upon which this country is founded. It is a matter far more dangerous and grave than can be treated lightly,” said the report.

Historical Maldivian – Israeli relations

There is no document to support the claim that Maldives ever severed diplomatic relations with Israel, in Maldivian or Israeli records, explained Dr Shaheed.

Instead, what appears to have happened is a downgrading of the relationship where no Maldivian president since the early 1970s has been willing to receive an Israeli ambassador formally in his office.

The Maldives voted at the UN to accept the legitimacy of Israel, on December 17, 1991, at the request of then President George Bush, by repealing the 1975 UN resolution equating zionism with racism.

“The Maldives was not alone in changing its policies towards Israel – there were a number of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states doing the same thing, or had even restored full diplomatic relations,” said Dr Shaheed.

“Under Gayoom, the Maldives categorically accepted the two-state solution. All of these actions were firmly grounded in international law and state practice,” he added.

The Maldivian government discussed the question of restoring ties with Israel following the Oslo Accord agreement in 1993, which established a peace process framework to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israel agreed to recognize Yasser Arafat as its partner in peace talks and essentially exchanged land for peace. The Palestinians in turn recognized Israel’s right to exist while also renouncing the use of terrorism and its long-held call for Israel’s destruction.

The Gayoom cabinet agreed on a three-stage restoration of ties with Israel, beginning in June 1994. The Maldivian government “agreed to recognize Israeli passports and ended the travel ban” during stage one, explained Shaheed. Shortly thereafter stage two saw trade and commercial relations were fully restored. Restoring political ties occurred during stage three, with regular meetings at senior diplomatic levels, between 1995 to 2008.

“So what President Nasheed said at the UN – and that was my formulation – was that Maldives wanted friendly relations with all states in the General Assembly,” said Dr Shaheed.

“This does not and has not prevented Maldives from criticizing actions of UN member states when they violate peremptory norms of international law, but Nasheed was not going to divide the world into the good the bad and the ugly,” he declared.

In recent years, attitudes toward Israel have greatly fluctuated with collaborative engagement by the Maldivian government being countered by some anti-semitic ‘blowback’ from elements within Maldivian society.

In February 2010, a team of experts from the Israeli Foreign Ministry are training 35 Maldivian officials in emergency preparedness, with a focus on the management of mass casualties.

Later that year, in November, the Islamic Foundation of the Maldives (IFM) called on the government to break off all diplomatic ties with Israel, a day after Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) announced that a team of seven Israeli doctors is due to arrive in the country to treat patients at the government hospital for a week.

The IFM reiterated calls to the Maldives government to “shun all medical aid from the Zionist regime” with a team of seven Israeli eye surgeons due to arrive in December 2012, claiming that Isreali doctors and surgeons “have become notorious for illegally harvesting organs from non-Jews around the world.”

The following month, Founders of the IFM NGO claimed that although they do not believe in “hysterical outbursts” and theories of an imminent “Jewish invasion” in the country, a week of anti-Israel protests and flag burning across Male’ has reflected “strong dissatisfaction with the government’s open attitude” to the Jewish state.

In May 2011, Ahmed Naseem became the first Maldivian Foreign Minister to visit Israel.

However, in September 2011, Deputy Leader of the Adhaalath Party Dr Mauroof Hussein has called for alarm after alleging that a delegation from an Israeli company, Teshuva Agricultural Products, was due to arrive in the Maldives to assess the country’s agricultural potential. The Israeli agricultural delegation that was supposed to arrive on Filadhoo cancelled the visit after the islanders warned that they would not let the delegation go further than the jetty.

In December 2011, Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari requested parliament endorse a resolution forbidding the government to establish ties with Israel.

While in April 2012, MPs passed a resolution preventing Israeli national airline El Al from operating scheduled flights to the Maldives until Majlis’ National Security Committee completes further investigation into the matter. El Al applied to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in May 2011 requesting permission to fly to the Maldives starting in December 2011.

There was no direct flight from Israel to Maldives between 2009-2011, so the Maldives was “not able to maximize the benefits from the growing Israeli market,” Dr Shaheed remarked.

“Maldives could have significantly increased the direct income and benefits from Israeli tourism by accepting direct flights from Israel, resulting in a longer holidays and greater expenditure in Maldives while still making the holiday comparatively cheaper for the visitor,” he added.


Comment: Burning bridges – SAARC Summit exposes depths of Maldivian intolerance

Democracy strips a people naked by giving them the freedom to be who they really are. Recent events reveal that the Maldivian so exposed is not a pretty sight: she is bigoted, xenophobic, and ignorant.

First came the gutter press hullabaloo about an illustration of Jesus on a banner welcoming leaders of the SAARC region which, as it happens, is home to the largest collection of deities known to man.

Pardon me if I am bordering on the verge of apostasy here, but is Jesus not Easa? You may know him from such books as the Qur’an.

Perhaps the good people of the Sun magazine, which ‘broke’ the ‘news’, are not too familiar with the book. Be that as it may, truth is, Sun writers had not been this excited about alleged ‘anti-Islamic activity’ since they went under covers in a brothel.

When the public failed to foam at the mouth (not about the brothel, about Jesus), other plans had to be hatched to ratchet up hatred. Along came MP Ahmed Mahloof, our saviour from the unlikely Second Coming of Jesus as a line-drawing flapping about in the warm breeze of a tropical island.

The ex-footballer as a public figure is an interesting (side)step in the evolution of man. To begin with, he possesses a brain that accepts kicking a ball into a net for money is a life well lived. The capacity of such brains to adjust to other styles of living is minimal, though not non-existent.

It has been proven, for instance, that they can successfully switch from playing ball to building a career of provocatively displaying one’s own balls for couturiers of men’s underwear. But a career in politics? Mahloof is proof that electing ex-footballers to political posts is an own goal of epic proportions.

As if the MP and his idiocy were not enough to make us the laughing stock of South Asia, we then set about destroying a monument installed by Pakistan because it contains idolatrous images.

Maldivians destroying a Pakistani creation for alleged anti-Islamic imagery. Now, tell us – does that not make it clear once and for all who is the more Islamic of the two states: the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with its 97 percent Muslim population, or Always Natural Maldives, the tourist destination extraordinaire with a hundred-percent-minus-one-Muslim population? Surely we have won this religious pissing contest that Pakistan probably did not even know they were engaged in.

At least we cannot be accused of bias in our India-Pakistan foreign policy. Last month we deported an Indian for having on his laptop a religious hymn. This week we destroyed a religious display from Pakistan.

In fact, we are very even-handed in our policies and attitudes towards all our neighbours. Just ask any of our hundred thousand Bangladeshi Muslim brethren: we treat them all with equal inhumanity and cruelty.

And surely Sri Lanka would attest to just how seriously we take the commandment to love thy neighbour: for didn’t we, while on the UN Human Rights Committee, describe the UN’s condemnation of Rajapaksa’s war policy as ‘singularly counter-productive’?

Somewhere in this unpalatable exposé of the 21st century Maldivian is a lesson, not just for Maldivians but also for democracy itself. And it is not just that ex-footballers should not be elected to public office but also that, given the freedom, a majority of people are just as likely to choose intolerance as they are to choose tolerance.

That is the tragedy of three years of democracy in the Maldives: we have chosen to use its liberties to exercise our freedom not to be free.

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]