Monday, December 1, 2008
One of the more famous victims was Mansur Al-Hallaj. Al-Hallaj was a 10th-Century Sufi (Islamic mystic) master, famous today for being a mentor of popular Sufi poet Rumi. The specific charge was uttering “I am the Eternal Truth.” (Only Allah can be “The Eternal Truth” in Islam.) This was simply the logical outcome of Al-Hallaj’s Sufi beliefs, which held that “God” is found in all of us. It was, however, blasphemy according to the followers of Imam Hanbal (founder of Sunni Islam’s most reactionary school of Islamic law), who engineered Al-Hallaj’s persecution and eventual execution by crucifixion.
Today the weapon is more likely to be a gun or a knife than a cross, but Imams and mullahs and their collaborators are still killing or persecuting Al-Hallaj’s modern-day heirs and getting away with it.
Here are just a few of the prominent victims from the last 20 years:
Iranian statesman and Islamic historian. Dashti was imprisoned and tortured to death in Iran in the early 1980s for writing “23 Years,” a “warts-and-all” biography of the Prophet of Islam.
Hitoshi Igarashi Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, was stabbed to death in July 1991. Ettore Caprioli, Italian translator of The Satanic Verses, was attacked with a knife in the same year, but survived. Aziz Nesin, Turkisk publisher and writer, who had printed extracts of The Satanic Verses in a Turkish newspaper, was attacked by a crazed religious mob in 1993 They cornered him in a hotel and set it on fire, killing 37 people, but Nesin, an elderly man in his late 70s, escaped. William Nygaard, Norwegian translator and publisher of Rushdie’s book. Nygaard was shot four times in the back in 1993 by an Islamic extremist. Naguib Mafouzworld-famous Egyptian author and Nobel Laureate. An elderly man in his 80s, Mafouz narrowly escaped a knife attack in 1994, after Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahmame, spiritual leader of the armed fundamentalist group al-Gama'a al Islamiyya, issued a death fatwa on his head. His “crime”: writing a book decades before that “insulted Islam.” Mafouz, physically and mentally traumatized by the attack, no longer writes. Taslima Nasrina Bangladeshi-born physician, poet and author. In 1993 Nasrin, a self-declared apostate, was sentenced to death by Muslim clerics for “insulting Islam.” That year 300,000 people demonstrated in her native land, calling for the poet to be burned alive. She escaped to the West, but still hides, her life blighted by a price on her head and not one but two death fatwas issued by pious Muslim clerics. Farag FodaAn Egyptian writer and human rights defender. Foda was shot dead by militants from an Islamic fundamentalist group after being branded as an apostate by officials at Al-Azhar, the leading Islamic educational institute in the world.Anwar Sheikha Kashmir-born man of letters, was targeted with a death fatwa for writing books that explored the imperialist nature of Islam. As a young man, Sheikh admitted to have been a fundamentalist who murdered innocent non-Muslims in cold blood during the partition of India in 1947. He now lives discreetly in a Western nation. Nasr Abu Zaid - Egyptian Quranic scholar. Abu Zaid was convicted in Egypt of being an apostate from Islam in 1995. He was involuntarily divorced from his wife of many years for advancing the cause of textual criticism of the Quran. He escaped to the West in fear of his life as a convicted apostate, where he reunited with his wife, but remains a target for assassination from Islamic fanatics. Rashad Khalifa - Islamic reformer, an Egyptian immigrant to the USA. Khalifa was founder of a controversial movement in Islam called the “Submitters”, who deny the authenticity of many Islamic traditions. Declared an apostate in a fatwa issued by 38 Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, Khalifa was murdered in 1990 in Tuscon, Arizona. Although the crime was never solved, the prime suspects have been linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization led by Osama Bin Laden. Matoub Lounes - Popular Algerian song-writer, political activist for Algeria’s Berber people, and singer, Lounes was murdered in 1998. The murder remains unsolved, but the radical Islamic gang, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), is the main suspect. The GIA had kidnapped Lounes in 1994 and held him hostage for two weeks. Dr. Younis Shaikh a Pakistani physician and lecturer. Convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan in 2001 for the “crime” of stating the Prophet of Islam’s parents were not Muslim and the prophet was not circumsized. Sentenced to death in August 2001, Shaikh at this writing (January 2002) languishes in jail while his sentence is appealed. Robert Hussein (Born Hussein Q’amber Ali)a Kuwaiti-born businessman. A former Shiite Muslim, Hussein was convicted of apostasy by an Islamic court in his native land in 1996 for the “crime” of converting to Christianity. He escaped to the West under threat of death with assistance from Christian missionary groups and published a book called “Apostate Son.” Nawal El-SaddaawiEgyptian feminist and author of many books. In 2001, El-Saddaawi narrowly escaped conviction in her native land as an apostate. A conviction would have forced El-Saddaawi to divorce her husband in recognition of Islamic law that Muslims cannot remain married to apostates. Her “crime” was stating that the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage had Pagan historical origins. Once imprisoned for her outspoken feminist views, El-Saddawi courageously remains in Egypt although clearly a target for assassination from a radical Islamist. Tahmineh Milni, an acclaimed Iranian filmmaker. Arrested in August 2001 and charged by Iran’s Islamic religious establishment with “waging war against God”, Milni could be executed if found guilty of the charge. Her “crime” was making a film that contained references to the miserable conditions of women under the Islamic regime of Iran. Khalid Duran, Moroccan/German academic and critic of Islamic extremism. In 2001, Duran, while teaching at the university level in the U.S., evoked death threats from the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan for writing a book called “Children Of Abraham: Explaining Islam to Jews.” The death threat was the direct result of an anti-Duran public realtions crusade engineered by the Washington, DC-based Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Duran went into hiding as a result of the Jordanian edict. Curiously, Islamic apologist Dr. John Esposito of Georgetown University’s “Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding” gave the keynote speech at CAIR’s annual fund-raising dinner only a few months after this incident occurred, seemingly untroubled by CAIR’s role in soliciting the murder of a fellow academic. Mahmoud Muhammed Talal, Islamic reformer, SudanTalal wrote many books criticizing Sharia (Islamic law). He was convicted of apostasy and creating “fitnah” (religious tourmoil) by an Islamic court in Sudan and hanged for this “crime” in 1985.The above is only a small representation the number of intellectuals, writers, artists and reformers who have been systemically terrorized, imprisoned and even assassinated by Islamic thought police on all continents, even in the so-called “free” West. (As the Norwegian national William Nygaard and the U.S.-resident Khalid Duran can undoubtedly confirm). This “censorship by terrorism” not only shows the widespread lack of intellectual maturity that is prevalent in the Islamic world today, but also begs a more disturbing question: how accurate are of many of the books and articles currently being published about Islam?If an author or academic addressing the subject of Islam, whether in fact or fiction, must continually look over his shoulder for the knife or gun of a fanatic, it should not surprise us that many such works tread a very thin line between truth and apologia. The bland books about Islam authored by the likes of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito have never elicited any death threats or fanatical attention; astute readers may well ask themselves why?
By Susan Stephan
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The Maldives government claims to tourists that the Indian Ocean archipelago represents "the sunny of side of life", yet it severely represses freedom of thought, conscience and belief. The Maldives is one of the few countries – such as Saudi Arabia - that legally allow only one faith to be practised publicly. However, the Maldivian authorities go much further even than that, insisting on homogeneity in religion and that all citizens must be Muslims. Islam itself can only be practised in the government version of Sunni Islam. The public practice of any other faith – including other varieties of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity – is banned. The Republic of the Maldives is a collection of 1,190 coral reef islands in the Indian Ocean, south west of Sri Lanka. Only 200 islands are inhabited, with 44 used exclusively as holiday resort islands. The Maldives has a population of about 300,000 citizens, plus about 65,000 migrant workers. About one third of the population lives in the capital Male, in an area of about 2 square kms or just over three quarters of a square mile. This means that most Maldivian houses are overcrowded, and individuals mostly have no privacy. State control of the opinions and actions of Maldivians is made easy by these poor living conditions. Since 1978, the Maldives has been under the regime of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. For the first time ever, multi-party presidential elections were held on 8 October 2008. According to the official count, President Gayoom won the largest share of the votes of the six candidates. But this was not enough for an outright victory, so a run-off election (currently due on 28 October) will take place between President Gayoom and the largest opposition party's candidate Mohamed Nasheed. In 2003 the death of a prisoner, who had allegedly been beaten by police, sparked public protests. Demands escalated for political reform and human rights. In June 2004, yielding to internal and external pressure, President Gayoom announced plans to make changes to the Constitution to bring it into line with modern democratic and human rights norms. On 7 August 2008 President Gayoom ratified the new Constitution, a major step in the political reform process. Yet, the reform process bypassed the issue of religious rights. The Maldives has ratified many international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, on acceding to the ICCPR in September 2006, the government lodged a reservation over Article 18 (which covers rights to freedom of religion and belief), specifying that "The application of the principles set out in Article 18 of the Covenant shall be without prejudice to the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives.". This reservation effectively nullifies the commitment. The lack of religious freedom for all Maldivians (whether or not they are Muslim) is enshrined in the present and previous Constitutions, and clearly violates the ICCPR's provisions. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, in a February 2007 report (A/HRC/4/21/Add.3) following her August 2006 visit, expressed concerns about a wide range of restrictions on religious activity. She urged the government to change the law to allow all residents of the Maldives to be allowed to choose their own religion or belief, to end the ban on manifestation of non-Muslim religions or beliefs, and called on the government to review its reservation to Article 18 of the ICCPR. Government-defined Islam the only permitted faith The new 2008 Constitution brings in separation of powers and a bill of rights. However, religious freedom remains a taboo subject in the Maldives. The government claims that Islam is a vital cultural trait of being Maldivian, and therefore religious freedom is not an issue in the Maldives. It categorically ignores the existence of non-Muslim Maldivians. The new Constitution spells out more strongly than before that all Maldivians have to be Muslims. Article 36 states that "The exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of responsibilities and duties, and it is the responsibility of every citizen: (..) (g) to preserve and protect the State religion of Islam, culture, language and heritage of the country". Article 9, Section D (which defines citizenship) states that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives". On 17 May 2008, the Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed (not the same person as the presidential candidate) admitted on his personal blog that: "When the revised constitution gets introduced, it will operate to take away the citizenship from citizens of Maldives who may have a faith different from Islam." He made this statement after stating that: "Maldives leadership and the Maldives people have always said that Maldives is, as a matter of fact, a 100 percent Islamic nation. However being Moslem is not a requirement of law; and is subject to dispute by some. There are many who argue that there may be Maldives nationals or dual citizenship holders possibly professing a different faith." The minister's earlier statement has the worrying implication that Maldivians who convert away from Islam, or who are children of Maldivians married to non-Muslims, risk losing their citizenship under the new Constitution. This is in line with the Maldivian reservation to Article 14 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates that all Maldivians should be Muslim. The Protection of Religious Unity Act (Law No. 6/94) regulates all aspects of religion in a way that ensures religious homogeneity. Maldivian non-Muslims and Maldivians who do not wish to practice Sunni Islam in the state-approved way have to hide and even deny their convictions and beliefs. In the past, Maldivians suspected of having converted away from Islam have been imprisoned. While imprisoned, these people were publicly branded as "traitors", "second class citizens", "immature", as well as being accused of having been led astray by "foreign forces". They were released from prison only after signing a declaration that they believed in Islam. After their release, they were shunned and are still regarded with suspicion by government officials and members of the public. Some of them lost their jobs. The treatment of these people still serves as a warning to all Maldivians. Fearing the grave consequences of disobedience to the government's religious line, Maldivians are inhibited from identifying their own convictions. The cramped living conditions most Maldivians have to endure make it easy for the government to detect religious or political dissent. Even Maldivians living abroad do not dare to identify as non-Muslims. They feel that they are observed and checked by fellow Maldivians and blacklisted if they fail to obey the government's religious rules. Maldivian non-Muslims and other Maldivians who do not want to practice their faith in the state approved way cannot practice their own faith. They cannot even pray the way they want. Kneeling down, folding hands or using religious symbols like crosses, candles, pictures or statues can lead to government action. Performing movements in the Namaadu (namaz or Islamic ritual prayer) differently to the state-approved way can also lead to arrest by the police. These restrictions also apply to foreign workers, who can only practice their faith privately when Maldivians are not present. This is especially difficult for the many Hindu and Buddhist labourers, who live without any privacy in large, crowded accommodation or as servants in Maldivian houses. Strict state censorship Maldivians face great difficulties in obtaining information about non-state approved beliefs. This is a particularly severe deprivation for those Maldivians who do not follow the state's religious views. Maldivians are not allowed to possess religious material – whether holy books, audio and video tapes, CDs and DVDs, pictures or artefacts - that is not approved by the government. Sometimes private houses and mosques are raided by police in their search for non state-approved religious material. When found, all such material is confiscated. Electronic media, radio broadcasts, the internet, and printed material are all censored by the government. Access to foreign non-Muslim religious media, such as the Dhivehi (the Maldivian language) Christian website Sidahitun.com, is blocked inside the Maldives. Everything deemed to be outside the government's interpretation of Islam is banned. Such tight state censorship extends to Maldivians living abroad. Bookshop owners in India and Sri Lanka who tried to sell religious literature in Dhivehi that was not approved by the Maldivian government, have been harassed and threatened. This continued until they removed the material from their shelves. The luggage of Maldivians returning to the country is searched and all unauthorised religious material is confiscated. Foreign citizens arriving in the Maldives – whether as migrant workers or tourists – also have their luggage searched for "un-Islamic" materials. Small quantities of non-Muslim literature for personal use are generally permitted to foreign tourists. However, this does not include such material as Christian Scripture in Dhivehi. State intimidation of those who think differently Maldivians are also not allowed to discuss their faith with anyone. No-one is allowed to discuss religion without the explicit permission of the government. Even imams are only allowed to discuss religion after passing an exam and being certified by the Government's Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (SCIA). The SCIA also writes the Friday sermon to be delivered at mosques. Imams who refuse or fail to follow these regulations may face serious consequences. In March 2008 the SCIA banned Afrashim Ali, who has a doctorate from Malaysia's International Islamic University, from preaching in public until he had lived in the country for at least one year. Dr Ali previously contradicted the SCIA by openly arguing that singing was not un-Islamic. Also in June 2008 the SCIA banned a book co-authored by former attorney general and presidential candidate Dr Hassan Saeed with his brother, Melbourne University professor Abdullah Saeed. The book, "Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam", published in Britain in English in 2004, questions the validity of the apostasy law in Islam and advocates the need to rethink and reform the apostasy laws. However, it does not discuss the case of the Maldives. The restrictive attitude of the Maldivian government leads to the isolation of religiously non-conformist Maldivians, whether Muslim or of other faiths. They do not even dare to discuss their beliefs with their spouses and children. The political intimidation of the public and the official denigration of religiously non-conformist people have led to widespread mistrust and fear. Children of people who are suspected of holding alternative religious convictions are sometimes interrogated by their teachers about their parents' opinions and convictions. Constant intimidation and oppression leads people to act contrary to their own convictions and beliefs. Some people feel forced to perform Muslim ritual prayers (in the state-approved way) to avoid any possible suspicion. They also feel forced to teach their children according to the government's will instead of their own conviction. They are forced to observe the fast during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. After the first week of this year's Ramadan, which began in early September 2008, a Maldivian radio station announced that the police had already arrested 76 people for not fasting. No freedom within education Although "everyone has the right to education without discrimination of any kind" in Article 36 (a) of the new Constitution, this is contradicted by Article 36 (c). This reads: "Education shall strive to inculcate obedience to Islam, instil love for Islam, foster respect for human rights, and promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people." Accordingly, all teaching material has to be approved by the government. In the past history textbooks have been banned for reasons such as including texts about the sixteenth century Reformation of the Christian Church in Europe. In May 2008 a local school library was closed following the discovery of a book containing stories "based on stories of Christianity". Islamic Studies is a compulsory subject for all students up to school-leaving examinations. There is no provision for non-Muslim students to be taught in their chosen religion or beliefs. The 64,000 expatriates living in the Maldives are not allowed to open schools for their children, or to practice their faiths openly. Non-Muslim marriages and burials barred Contrary to the Islamic principle that forbids coercion, the Maldivian government only recognises Islamic marriages. Non-Muslim men who want to marry a Maldivian woman are required to convert to Islam. Without this, any marriage is illegal. Similarly, Maldivian men are only allowed to marry Muslim, Christian or Jewish women. However, marriages to women of Christian and Jewish faiths are subject to biased administrative policies which make the process cumbersome. In addition, marriages performed and registered outside the Maldives are not legally recognised in the country, unless they are registered at the Family Court in the Maldives. This Court only recognises marriages performed in an "Islamic way," at approved institutions. There are no provisions for the burial of non-Muslims. Public institutions, such as prisons and hospitals, have no facilities (eg. places for private worship, dietary provision) for non-Muslim people. Thus, even the religious freedom of the dead and those closest to them is not respected. Fear of standing up for religious freedom Some Maldivians risked much, when in 2003 they started to publicly voice opposition to political oppression, and called for more human rights. However, so far no Maldivian has dared to publicly stand up against the violation of religious rights. The government's policy of labelling all such attempts as high treason has successfully inhibited Maldivians from standing up against this oppression. In the 2008 presidential election campaign, no candidates spoke up for freedom of religion or belief in the Maldives, and some called for this fundamental right to be further restricted. All of the candidates stressed that they wanted to defend the Islamic identity of the country. How can religious freedom come to the Maldives? The Maldives is the only country worldwide that legally prescribes and enforces homogeneity in religion. Maldivians are - justifiably – fearful that they will face severe consequences if they publicly and identifiably defend everyone's right to freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Because of this fear, Maldivians hope the international community will support their struggle. One step to do this is for states and human rights organisations to urge the Maldivian government to implement the recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, in her report (A/HRC/4/21/Add.3). Maldivians themselves, not just tourists, also want to experience "the sunny side of life" in the Maldives. (END)
By Odd Larsen, Forum 18 News Service
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Article 9, Section D states that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives." By denying citizenship to some people on the basis of their religion, the country is violating religious minorities' freedom of worship.
"This denial of citizenship to non-Muslims is an extraordinarily harsh measure which places the Maldives among the worst countries in the world in regards to the legal foundation for freedom of religion and belief," said Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski.
In addition to denying non-Muslims citizenship, the new constitution establishes several other precepts which threaten the freedom of religion. The new constitution favors Sunni Islam over other forms of Islam, establishes certain aspects of Sharia law in the Maldives and limits the freedom of expression and thought to "manners" which are "not contrary to a tenet of Islam."
The Institute's Expert Committee on Legislation and Implementation is currently crafting a comprehensive analysis of the new constitution for expected release in September.
To go to source click here
Friday, May 23, 2008
Will Maldivians take this road?
Or will we continue to debate how much of a woman should be covered, and how a Muslim apostate should be killed, and how “lightly” we should beat "our" women, and whether it’s lawful for a Muslim to befriend Jews and Christians and greet them or wish them well?
Are we going to continue with an educational system that consist of hate brainwashing towards non Muslims which we call it Islamic studies?
Or will we teach our children secularism, equal treatment of women and religious tolerance?
Are we to consign our children to become soldiers fighting to establish the rule of Allah on Earth, which is the Sharia law that supersedes and aims to abolish every man made law and constitution?
Will we be happier as subjects of a dictatorial theocracy?
Or are we going to be on the side of humanity that advances the world scientifically, medically, and technologically, striving with the civilized world to better the life of every human being?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The issue is believed to have been raised with government by international diplomats visiting Maldives during the development of the constitution.
A prominent lawyer who wished to remain anonymous told Minivan News the clause was “not practical” and would “formally introduce asylum seekers from the Maldives”, doing “more harm than good in the international community”.
He also acknowledged “practical” issues with the clause, saying it would be difficult to implement.
But Nasheed says a last-minute change is unlikely, because “it will be very difficult for Maldives mentality to accept Maldives citizens may belong to a different faith...No Maldives leader would want to rock the boat.”
The anonymous lawyer agreed public pressure was likely to prevent parliamentarians from opposing the clause.
The constitution has still not been finalised, and the attorney general’s office (AGO) has now raised over 200 issues of consistency, wording and practicality, to be addressed by the constitutional drafting committee and Special Majlis (constitutional assembly) before ratification. However the citizenship question does not appear on the list.
And presidential candidates were reluctant to adopt a position on the issue ahead of the country’s first multi-party presidential elections, expected once the constitution comes into force.
Former attorney general Dr Hassan Saeed, now standing as an independent candidate, said the issue was of “very little relevance” as “we do not have a non-Muslim population”.
Mohamed Nasheed (Anni), contesting on the largest opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) ticket, said the MDP “can’t have a position outside the constitution”.
However another candidate, Umar Naseer of the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), said to local newspaper Miadhu: “In my government there would be no chance [of] any other religion.”
And Sheikh Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, head of the religious Adhaalath party scholars’ council, told Minivan News in a May 13 interview he personally supported the tightening of citizenship regulation.
Citizenship is dealt with in the existing constitution, in force since 1998, in clause 5, which reads as follows: “Persons mentioned herein below shall be citizens of the Maldives: (a) every person who is a citizen of the Maldives at the commencement of this Constitution; (b) every child born to a citizen of the Maldives; and (c) every foreigner who, in accordance with the law, becomes a citizen of the Maldives.”
But the constitution in progress adds additional subclauses which specify (in unofficial translation) that “citizenship cannot be wrested away from a citizen of the Maldives”, “Any person who wishes to relinquish his citizenship may do so in accordance with law,” and “despite [earlier] provisions...a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives.”
Despite the wording specifying citizenship cannot be “wrested away”, lawyers and government interpret the clause as removing citizenship from those who leave Islam or are children of non-Muslims.
“No Maldives politician would want to take the case up,” said Nasheed on his blog. Yet, he contends, “they all would privately agree that citizenship of the country he is born in, or his parents belong to, is...a human right.”
The anonymous lawyer said that because parliament is televised and “they [MPs] want to get re-elected”, a change through parliament was unlikely, but also said it would be “difficult” to reduce the impact of the clause through legislation.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Valentine's Day celebrations and marketing gimmicks have, according to many, reached a new high this year, with everything from mobile phones ringtones, to mood candles chocolates, clothes, body scrubs, perfumes and lingerie being sold in the name of "love".
Mobile phone operator Wataniya is offering subscribers a choice to order and deliver fresh roses to their sweethearts by simply sending a text message to a three digit number. For 50 rufiyaas, customers also get a choice of selecting between a red, pink or yellow rose, Wataniya informed in text messages sent to hundreds of customers.
City hotels in the capital island of Male are offering quiet candlelight dinners, with soft music and flowers. In a country where alcoholic drinks are out of bounds to locals for religious reasons, few restaurants are offering non-alcoholic wine to diners.
"I plan to give my girl friend some flowers, and a soft toy," said office worker Amjad Aneese as he browsed through a clothing store trying to figure out if he should also buy a pair of denim's for his girl friend.
A cosmetics shop selling imported crèmes, lotions and body scrub, is selling a red rose with a surprise gift – an itsy bitsy teeny weeny red thong. "We have sold about 50 roses," said the 19-year-old shop assistant Nafiu Hussain.
Five minutes from speedboat to any of the 90 odd upmarket resort islands, it's a different story.
South Asia's most exotic honeymoon destination has lured extravagant romantic overseas visitors looking for the ultimate Valentine's experience to fill up resort rooms where guests pay up to 14,000 dollars a night to sleep in wooden cabins built over turquoise blue waters.
This collection of over a thousand tropical islands is already a year-round haven for loved-up couples who want to immerse themselves in themselves.
"We are here to spend a week to do a bit of scuba diving and just relax," said American Micheal Peat as he waited with his partner to board a seaplane to a resort where prices start from 1,600 dollars onwards for a night on Valentines Day week.
While most are careful not to flash their Valentines Day intentions, the country's religious followers see the occasions as yet another attempt to pollute the Maldivian culture and value system with what they see as western influence.
"Its sort of un-Islamic," said flight steward Mohamed Ashraf reflecting some views of this Sunni Muslim nation of 369,000 people. "It only benefits card shops and eating places."
Other conservatives see a Christian twist to the annual love day.
"Valentine's Day is a Christian based festival in that sense Muslims who follow the religion strictly don't observe the day," said Mauroof Hussain, a member of the ultra-religious Aadalath Party.
But such opposition is sporadic and does not enjoy any mass support in this country that is trying to stamp out Islamic extremism from flourishing in the archipelago.
Even those who are not necessarily taken in by the Valentine's Day hype concede that an annual "love feast" can do little harm.
"I don't have a boyfriend this year, but the girls in my department have planned to wear red to work on Thursday. No harm in having a little fun," grins office worker Farah Ahmed.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has ordered florists and gift shop owners in the capital Riyadh to remove any items colored scarlet, which is widely seen as symbolizing love, newspapers said.
“They visited us last night,” the Saudi Gazette quoted an unidentified florist as saying.
It is not unusual for the Saudi Vice squad to clamp down ahead of Valentine’s Day, which it sees as encouraging relations between men and women outside of wedlock, the newspaper said.
Saudi Arabia imposes an austere form of Sunni Islam which prevents unrelated men and women from mixing, bans women from driving and demands women wear a headscarf and a cloak.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
As the Maldives sinks deeper into political turmoil with President Mamoon Abdul Gayoom and his political opponents engaged in a bitter clash over reforms, the country is also witnessing the emergence of Islamic extremism. The President, who many call a dictator, survived an assassination attempt recently. The attack came a few months after a bomb went off near a popular park and police battled extremists in an island. These events have prompted the government to take steps to combat the threat of Islamic extremism.
Members of a little known group have taken up arms to defend themselves and promote their version of Islam - Wahhabism -- in the archipelago. The Maldivians say the leaders of the group were educated in Pakistan and West Asian countries and their version of Islam conflicts with the version of Islam stipulated by Maldivian law, according to which preaching of different versions of Islam is a crime.
The Maldivian government has banned the veil as part of security measures to confront Islamic extremism
Reports say India's intelligence arm, Research Analysis Wing, has received information that Maldivian Islamic extremists are purchasing weapons from Indian criminal and terrorist groups while other reports indicate that they were also buying weapons from Indonesia and Pakistan.
These reports also say that Sri Lanka is being used as a transit point in the arms smuggling operation. It is against this backdrop, a few months ago, Sri Lanka and the Maldives signed a memorandum of understanding on intelligence sharing.
Opposition parties blame President Gayoom for the rise of extremism. Gayoom has been ruling this Indian Ocean archipelago for nearly three decades. Of late, he has come under severe criticism from within the country and abroad for the mounting corruption, human rights abuses and social ills such as the growing problem of youth addiction to narcotics amidst a high rate of unemployment.
The opposition's view is backed by research conducted by the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses focusing on the Maldives and Pakistan. The research shows that people resort to extremism when they are faced with a non-democratic political system.
On January 8, a boy scout foiled an assassination attempt on the President's life when he grabbed the assassin's knife, saving the executive from death. The assassin, 20-year-old Mohamed Murshid, unemployed and having no previous criminal record, attempted to attack the President when he visited, Hoarafushi in the north of the Maldives.
Earlier a homemade bomb exploded in the capital city of Male on September 29 last year in what was said to be the country's first act of terrorism after the failed attempt by a Sri Lankan mercenary group hired by wealthy Maldivian to overthrow the President in 1988.
Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed told a news conference that the perpetrators might have had extremist connections."Investigations into the September attack showed that there was fundamentalist thinking behind it," he said. In December, three men convicted of carrying out the September bombing were jailed for 15 years. Although the government may have been worried after reports linked some of the suspects to Kashmiri groups, they have since then taken measures to combat extremism in the island.
The government had taken steps to promote moderate thinking through education and banned the traditional Islamic veil in public places, offices, courts, and educational establishments, Minister Nasheed said. He said the government had also banned Muslim religious gatherings unless permission was obtained.
Foreign clerics too have been banned by the government, because it fears they can promote fundamentalism."We do not have madrassas or religious schools, like you see in Pakistan, from where militant thinking comes in," Minister Nasheed said. "In this country, fundamentalism is not spread through teachings."
"We do not have madrassas or religious schools, like you see in Pakistan, from where militant thinking comes in. In this country, fundamentalism is not spread through teachings." - Minister Nasheed
It is spread by a handful of clerics, according to analysts. The rise of extremism is a threat to the country's tourism industry, one of the pillars of the small island nation's economy. Gayoom has ruled the islands since Nov. 11, 1978, and in recent years has strongly defended the presidential form of government, as opposed to the parliamentary system, which is promoted by the main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The founder for the MDP, Mohammed Latheef, told The Sunday Times the Egyptian-educated Gayoom is the father of the country's extremism as it was he who had brought the Wahhabi (Islam practised in Saudi Arabia) thinking into the country. "Soon after becoming President, he opened the first Islamic schools. Religious scholars from Egypt were brought to 'enlighten' the Maldivians during the month of Ramadan.
“ Some even shocked the moderate Muslim community by preaching men could beat their wives. School textbooks were revised to follow the dictator's version of Islam. Islam is used as a tool of governance in the Maldives and its people are tired of it," he said.
"There is no rule of law or checks and balances in the system of governance in the Maldives. The judiciary, the legislature and the security forces revolve around a single individual who runs the country. “In a state which has no governance one can expect such incidents taking place," he said.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Please visit maldivesroyalfamily.com to read the full satire
Perhaps, something positive will emerge if Muslims were to emulate the West. (I know, that's shocking!) For starters, human rights (not treating a female as some property of her "guardian"), rule of law (instead of the age-old wasta), capitalism (as opposed to banning interest), tolerance of Jews (not getting an orgasm while thinking of killing them) and letting go of Arab superiority (which is truly an inferiority complex).
Another thing: most Westerners don't care about Islam and Muslims. If anything it's the actions of the Muslims that is waking up the West and making it notice the backwards umma. Maybe -- just maybe -- if Muslims hadn't obliterated two buildings in New York, murdered Aussies in Bali, terrorized and raped children in Beslan, exploded bombs in London and tried to cause mayhem in Canada, then the West might not portray them in a negative light.
Oh, and passionately advocating for the beating of hijab-free Muslim girls and the killing of those who leave the decrepit religion and perpetual war against non-Muslims doesn't help either.
This juvenile and utterly illogical effort to puff up the West as some evil monster that wants to crush Muslims and which thus must be opposed (or destroyed), so that the umma can prosper is pure poppycock.
Tell your umma to stop causing shit and join the 21st century!
With thanks to Isaac Schrödinger pakistani-born ex-muslim convention-refugee pro-usa