Sunday, August 17, 2008

MDP's step backward

Last week saw Maldivian Democratic Party MDP step back, yet again, on its stated commitment to gender equality. 

Shortly after presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed Anni announced Dr. Aminath Jameel as his running mate, the party's religious right reportedly went into a diatribe against the nomination. It didn't seem to take too long to convince Anni to withdraw the nomination.

The party's Islamic consultative council, headed by Adam BA Naseem, declared the nomination un-Islamic but failed, as usual, to provide any evidence for the pronouncement. Naseem and fellow-misogynists from the Adhaalath Party have a history of openly hurtling anti-women rants on the populace in the name of Islam, without necessarily furnishing a supporting argument. In fact Islamic scholarship is producing a number of academics who are successfully challenging conventional positions. But when people like Dr. Afraasheem Ali and, belatedly, Dr. Hassan Saeed, try to present alternative interpretations, BA Naseem and co are unable to argue convincingly against them and, as a result, resort to name-calling. In some cases, hardline 'scholars' have even called for the death of people's whose views they're incapable of debating. 

These marginally qualified 'scholars' have only been able get their way in the "reform process" because of spineless politicians like Anni, who seem more fearful of offending a handful of Adhaalath supporters than safeguarding the rights of half of the country's population.

There will be those who jump at my dismissal of  Adhaalath supporters. But even from a political point of view, they're not substantial enough to justify the surrendering of basic human rights. If these people comprised a significant proportion of the population, the Adhaalath Party and the Islamic Democratic Party would have the highest number of members, not the DRP and the MDP.

Many MDP sympathisers say they are 'disappointed' with  Anni, and also Dr. Aminath Jameel and Maria for putting up with his shameful behaviour. But they should remember that MDP, despite professing otherwise, has a very poor record with regard to gender equality.

Early in 2007, the MDP's religious consultative council issued a fatwa against the party's assistant secretary Aishath Aniya, for an article in which she criticised 'scholars' for trying to lower the status of women through misogynistic interpretations of Islam. She was forced to go into hiding and resign from her post, while Anni and the party's president Munavvar didn't utter a word in public in support of Aniya's right to the freedom of expression. 

Also in 2007, BA Naseem threatened to leave the party because of its support for the appointment of female judges, but Anni put his foot down. "The policies of our party are very clear," he told "All men are equal." 

The professed commitment to equality didn't stop MDP members from proposing an amendment to the constitution to bar women from running for presidency, which received the support of 'reformist' Mohamed Shihab and an abstinence by 'liberal' Ibra. Fortunately, Gayoom's unelected members defeated the motion and Maldivian women can now run for leadership, a right which the MDP did not want them to have. 

In defense, MDP members have tried to throw the tired argument that gender equality is secondary at a time when all effort must go into getting Gayoom out. All indications are, however, that MDP may lack the tactics or the resources for even its number one task.  

All is not lost though. Buruma Gasim and his Republican Party are reportedly buying all the politicians and voters necessary to dethrone Gayoom. If they succeed, MDP will become as 'insignificant' as the gender issue it tried to push under the carpet. 


Anonymous said...

In short Maldives politics is a big candidate is competent in one is perfect...but that does not mean there should be so many short comings in a president.......either the great minds are taking no action or there arent any...

jaa said...

Good post. Equality, especially gender equality, is not something Anni/MDP should have compromised on - not for the sake of scoring a few more votes! I highly doubt the people who would refrain from voting him because of a female running-mate would be people who would vote for him in the first place.