Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Islamic extremism in the Maldives: Is Gayoom the cause?

By Asif Fuard
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.


Anonymous said...

no matter how much you try, u r not gonna win. u cant change our faith in Islam.

You can burn, rot in hell.

Now Fuck off.

Irufan said...

May the curse of Allaah and all of his messengers be upon you. No matter how much you try you will never channge my faith in Allaah