Speaking of women's clothing, a topic so popular among Adhalath sheikhs that people have wondered if they are closet cross-dressers, Bari said Islam made it compulsory for women to "cover their nudity" upon reaching puberty. Moderator Saeed then interrupted to qualify Bari's reference to women as "free women", meaning those that are not free can remain unclothed.
This extraordinary exchange to me is highly revealing of the attitudes of these two men. At best it suggests impunity to the custom of keeping sex-slaves. At worst, it's an attempt to indirectly normalise and, indeed, promote the tradition. It seems to me that for Bari and Shaheem not only is it ok for men to enslave women, but they can also keep postpubescent girls naked around the house.
Continuing with the theme of women's clothing, Bari equated "covering nudity" with veiling, but failed to mention that the issue was highly contested by scholars. He then appeared to call for the mainstreaming of girls uniforms worn in the madrassas Mauhadh and Arabiyya.
Bari also said Islam required girls to be brought up to help their mothers in domestic chores, to mould them to the role of the mother in latter life. A women's role, he stressed, was that of a mother.
TVM, which infamously gave free airtime to Salafi preacher Bilal Philips to voice pro-child abuse sentiments, is giving Adhalath a free reign to spread Wahhabism and misogynist propaganda. In addition, the sheikhs have also taken over a host of other TV and radio channels. Adhalath preachers also control the Friday sermon, the largest congregation of Maldivian males. Meanwhile, their partners in crime Jamiyathul Salaf produces countless CDs to be played in taxis and in mosques across the country.
In November, parliamenterians from across the parties joined forces and vowed to fight violence against women. But no MP is challenging the religious right's continuation of its misogynistic agenda, probably the single-most important factor leading to the hatred, discrimination, and violence of women. With such powerful fueling, it's not surprising that the Maldives has some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. And, there's no sign of things getting any better.
The vast majority of Maldivians voted President Nasheed in to get rid of dictator Gayoom and to usher in a new era of democracy. But by giving Adhalath a ministry of its own to monopolise Islam and to spread misogynist Wahhabi propaganda at will, Anni is seriously compromising the democratic aspirations of his core support base.
The only thing that has remained consistent in Anni's first year as Maldives president is the sustained assault on democracy, free media, and human rights by Bari and Shaheem, along with their proxies Jamiyathul Salaf (or is it the other way around?)
Note: Please call TVM on 3000428 and ask for a recording of yesterday's Thedhu Magu, analyse it carefully, and confront them if you are concerned. State media is answerable to the public. To raise the issue, also call:
Ministry of Health and Family's Gender Department: 3323687
Ministry of Islamic Affairs: 3323623