Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Muttalib afraid domestic violence law may prevent men marrying two women

MP for Fares Mathoda Ibrahim Muttalib yesterday fought a valiant but seemingly lone battle against DRP's domestic violence bill. Here is a selection of choice bits from his speech:
  • When we talk of violence against women, we should also talk of women's wickedness.
  • Such laws create discord and degeneration of society.
  • Today the law prevents parents from disciplining their children and teachers from taking good measures to discipline children.
  • We should be afraid of laws like these for they will prevent men from marrying two wives, a right granted to them by Islam.
  • Women should be at the servitude of their husbands, fulfill his needs, bring up their children and serve their needs.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Nazim repents and reverts to Islam" say Haveeru

Haveeru has just reported that Mohamed Nazim repented and reverted to Islam in front of the media in a ceremony at the Islamic Centre.

It is not known at this stage whether Nazim was subjected to any coercion or if it was his wish and not the government's decision to turn this extremely private act into a media event.

The fundamental issue of human rights violation by the state remains and Maldives Dissent calls for a full, external, and independent inquiry not only into the chain of events but also why the human rights commission remained silent.

Meanwhile religious hardline contributers to the blog  Addu Community have launched a witch-hunt by cut-pasting comments from Facebook profiles that it says are anti-Islam.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First prisoner of conscience in Nasheed's Maldives

Mohamed Nazim, a man who posed a question to Wahhabi televengalist Zakir Naik has become the country's first prisoner of conscience since president since Nasheed took office in 2008.

Nazim asked Naik the verdict in Islam for individuals who were still struggling to decide on faith in a country such as the Maldives, where most people practise religion not by choice but because they inherited it from their parents.

Naik's jumbled response that the Maldives government should decide the plight of such people suggests that he hadn't properly researched the country to which he had come to lecture. Clearly unused to intelligent debate, Naik then went on the insult Nazim's knowledge of Islam and education.

"Don't try to be too smart," he told Nazim. "I have to educate you from scratch."

Following the exchange, a section of Naik's auidence hounded Nazim and allegedly attacked him before police took him away.

The latest news is that police have now obtained a court order to extend Nazim's detention. But Maldivian judges have not extended similar cooperation to police for people accused of murder, child abuse and rape.

Mohamed Nazim did say he was not a believer of Islam, but it could be argued that he was speaking hyphothetically to elicit an answer from Zakir Naik. Only Nazim himself can verify his religous stance.

Nazim has effectively become the country's first prisoner of conscience since Mohamed Nasheed, a self-professed champion of free speech and democracy, took office.

While Article 9 (b) of the Maldives constitution states a citizen of Maldives may not be deprived of citizenship, 9 (d) states that a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives. And, Article 10 states that state religion is Islam and that no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.

However, the Quran, the most important tenet of Islam, makes it clear that religion cannot be forced on people.

According to verse 2:256:

"Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out from error. Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all."

The Maldives is also a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief.

But at the time of uploading this post, Anni's government and the Maldives human rights commission have not publicly stated their position on the incident.

To my knowledge none of Nazim's alleged attackers have been arrested for taking the law into their hands, even though they must have been caught on TV.

Meanwhile, although Naik himself is reported to have said things which might be contrary to Maldivian law, such as promoting under-aged marriage, no one has called for the arrest of the preacher yet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dhiffushi: the next Himendhoo?

A man claiming to have been trained by Taliban militants in Pakistan is recruiting in Dhiffushi, Kaafu Atoll, Maldives Dissent has learnt.

Known as Zubba, and originally from Male, the man, who is in his 30s, recently rented a room on the island and moved in with his wife and two children.

Zubba is said to have befriended a handful of disenfranchised youth, mostly heroin addicts, and has already twice held Friday prayer congregations in his rented accommodation.

When islanders discovered this they called for him to be expelled from the island, Zubba’s supporters have rallied around him in support. Zubba, meanwhile, has threatened serious consequences if the islanders interfered with his activities.

According to an islander, Zubba at present is tailoring leaflets to convert the whole of Dhiffushi. He does not go to work and it is not known from where he gets funds to support his stay on the island.

Although Zubba has been Wahhabi for a long time, he shaved off his beard and turned non-Wahhabi for a short while after the Sultan Park bombing.

Dhiffushi, an impoverished island two hours from Male has a population of just over 700. Many of its inhabitants turned Wahhabi in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. An islander reported that the boatyard on the island constantly plays Radio Atoll, which spreads misogyny and intolerance in the name of religion, over loudspeakers.

The government’s Islamic ministry, headed by the Adhalath Party, has so far failed to address the growth of extremism in the country. Instead, its heads appear to be using the resources at its disposal to spread its own intolerant misogynistic and anti-democratic propaganda.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Maldives government to host pro-Taliban preacher

The Maldives government is sponsoring an even that will bring public speaker Zakir Naik to preach Islam in the capital Male, and is planning to broadcast it live on TV and radio.

Naik, a medical doctor by profession, hails from Maharashtra, India, and is the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation which owns and broadcasts Peace TV.

Although Naik participates in inter-faith dialogue and peace conferences, he is known for his anti-western rants and has been criticized for spreading hatred and intolerance.

Like members of our own Adhalath Party, which runs the Maldives Islamic ministry, Naik supports the buruga and claims western dresses make women more susceptible to rape. This shifts the blame of violence against against women from the perpetrator to the victim, a view championed by the religious right in the Maldives.

Naik doesn’t consider the Taliban a terrorist organization and denies it suppressed women.

In fact the Taliban made life for women in Afghanistan “hellish” by any measurement: they banned women from going to school, university or other educational institution; deprived them of medical care; whipped, beat and verbally abused women who were not clothed according to Taliban rules; and banned women from sports and, even, laughing aloud.

Some critics claim Naik is funded by the Wahhabi sect, which is also widely believed to be financing the spread of religious fundamentalism in the Maldives, and have called on an inquiry into his finances.

Others have pointed out Naik is not a scholar and, therefore, is issuing Islamic teachings without knowledge or authority.

The government can only hope to strengthen Wahhabi and regressive ideology in the Maldives by bringing Naik here.

Religious ‘scholars’ who subscribe to Wahhabi teachings already have a free reign to spread hatred, intolerance, and misogyny unchallenged in the Maldives.

Last year, Wahhabi scholar Bilal Philips told thousands of Maldivians that it was permissible in Islam to marry off young girls as soon as they experience menarche, even if they are only nine years old.

National broadcasters TVM, which gave free airtime to Bilal Philips’s pro-child abuse and misogynistic speech has, since, sold airtime to Adhalath’s Ilyas Hussein to sexualize women and the Quran, and to ‘Naraka’ Fareed to spread hatred against women.

TVM is yet to provide concerned people with a copy of its broadcast standards or to offer a satisfactory explanation of their role in the spread of misogyny and child-abuse propaganda in the name of Islam.

Zealots have been spreading hatred and intolerance with renewed vigour ever since President Mohamed Nasheed gave the Adhalath Party a ministry.

As blogger naimbe pointed out, the Islamic ministry was this year given a budget of more than 16 million US dollars.

Thats a lot of money to spread and facilitate the spread of regressive ideology.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Haitians deserved earthquake, says Maldives government

The Maldives Ministry of Islamic Affairs has said in its website that God sends things like earthquakes because of the actions of people.

Although there are Muslims living in Haiti, the website says, they are "not good people", and we should regard the Haitian earthquake as a moral lesson.

The Islamic ministry statement appeared in its website's "Religious Q&A No. 314".

Blogger Moyameeha's post which drew my attention to this.

Ever since President Mohamed Nasheed came into power in 2008 and gave a ministry to the Wahhabi Adhaalath Party, a member of its coalition, intolerance, misogyny and pro-child abuse propaganda been spreading openly in the name of Islam, most of it by the Islamic ministry itself.

In an episode of their daily TV show Thedhu Magu (The Righteous Path), the Islamic minister Bari has categorically stated that Islam required girls to help their mothers in domestic chores so that they can be moulded to the role of mother in latter life.

"A woman's role," Bari said, "is that of mother."

President Nasheed's government is sponsoring the spread this regressive ideology. For the year 2010, it gave the Islamic ministry 211 million rufiyaa (16.5 million US dollars) which, as blogger naimbe' has pointed out, is fourteen times more than what the Maldives is spending on economic development.

Meanwhile, former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has condemned 'scholars' for misleading the public about Islam. On International Women's Day, Gayoom said Islam promoted gender equality and called on women to join DRP, which he said would not discriminate against them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maldives Update

A man working for Haveeru, the largest newspaper in the country, was stabbed by a group of people shortly as he left work. The incident happened after the paper reported violence at DhiTV, one of the two private TV stations in the country, earlier this afternoon. According to Haveeru, four men attacked senior officials of the station and made their way into its premises, where they issued violent warnings to staff to stop running the story about notorious gangster Nafiz Ibrahim (Chika). DhiTV had broadcast the news that Chika, who in 2008 was convicted of possessing a sword and jailed for 5 years, had been transferred to house-arrest.

An anonymous right-wing religious blogger by the name of Jibue issued death threats against the Maldives first lady Laila Ali, blogger Hilath Rasheed, and special envoy to the president and editor of the online newspaper Dhivehi Observer Ahmed Moosa (Sappe). Jibue warned that blood would be spilled if the authorities failed take action against the alleged mockery of Islam by the latter two.

Four men broke into the house of the manager of Habib Bank Mohamed Anjul Jameel and stabbed and robbed him. It appeared that the men knew Jameel, who had worked for six years in the Maldives, was leaving the country in a matter of days.

A criminal court judge aquitted Adam Naseer, alleged by the state to be one of the country's top six drug lords, citing a lack of evidence. Naseer had been been arrested after being monitored by police for months, which was followed by a year-long investigation. Presidential spokesperson Mohamed Zuhair told Minivannews.com that there were "intrinsic problems" with the judiciary, which he claimed was the only part of the state that did not go through reform.

After suffering years of abuse, 30-year-old Mariyam Shereen was was murdered and buried under a pile of sandbags in a construction site in Male, allegedly by her own partner.

A group of men gang-raped a woman in Foah Mulah, while restraining her husband. The alleged-rapists are also said to have thrown gravel into the woman's vagina which caused severe septicemia.

A group of men reportedly broke into a house, tied electrical wires to the feet of a 35-year-old women, and electrocuted her, burning the toes of her left foot.

The Maldives in 2010 isn't a very pleasant place to live, especially for women, writers, and those working in the media. Street gangs are thriving, corruption is rife, and the religious right has bullied their way into every aspect of life.

Nobody I know has any confidence that the government, the police or the judiciary is working in their best interest.

I never thought that the Maldives could be worse off than it was during Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's dictatorship.

But it is beginning to look like I was wrong.

A woman recently got into a taxi and had to listen to the driver tell someone on the phone that those who didn't wear the buruga should have acid thrown in their face. The woman was one of the few that didn't wear one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Death threat against a writer in Nasheed's Maldives

President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives likes to present himself as a champion of the freedom of expression and the freedom to dissent. A former dissenter and journalist himself, Nasheed has made well-publicised calls for the release of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi and offered her refuge in the Maldives. But does Nasheed's compassion extend to dissenters in his own country? We may soon find out.

Earlier today, an anonymous writer calling himself/herself Jihad published an article on the online Dhivehi language Muraasil, calling for the death of blogger Hilath Rasheed, known for his pieces against the religious right. The article appeared shortly after Rasheed published an anonymous letter on his blog critical of 'Sheikh' Fareed's forthcoming lecture "Who is Hell calling for?". 

Jihad's article, now removed from Muraasil, repeatedly called for "infidel" Hilath's murder:

"Let's kill off this fellow. Let's behead him." 

Jihad also remonstrates the government for not shutting down Rasheed's "irreligious" blog or taken action against him.

The website's founder Nasrulla Adam told Minivan News that only 'regular and approved' contributors could post content on the website without moderation, meaning they may be able to help the police trace Jihad's identity.

If President Nasheed really is a champion of the free press he will take this opportunity to condemn the death threat against Hilath Rasheed, and reassure writers and dissenters that his government will do everything it can to protect them.

But Nasheed's silence following attacks on child rights and women's rights by religious conservatives isn't encouraging.

Even if Aung San Su Kyi is released, she shouldn't hop on a plane to the Maldives just yet.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

International Women's Day: Murder, rape, and torture of Maldivian women

It’s the International Women’s Day, but Maldivian women have nothing to celebrate. A year into Mohamed Nasheed’s presidency and the murder, rape and horrific torture of women is commonplace, with his government showing impunity, if not sanctioning, the spread of misogyny by the religious right.

On new year’s eve, the body of 30-year-old Mariyam Shereen was discovered under a pile of sandbags in a construction site, allegedly murdered by her own partner. Shereen’s death came after a long history of abuse by her boyfriend, according to her family and friends.

In January, this year, a group of men allegedly gang-raped a woman in Foah Mulaku, while restraining her husband. Maldives Dissent has learnt that the alleged rapists threw gravel into the women’s vagina, which caused severe septicaemia. Not surprisingly, the woman is yet to recover physically or psychologically from her ordeal.

In February, a group of men in Laamu Atoll allegedly broke into a house, tied electrical wires to the feet of a 35-year-old woman, and connected them to the mains. According to the hospital, the electrical shock severely burnt the toes of her left foot.

Violence against women isn’t new to the Maldives, but is now revealing an unmistakably misogynistic trend. This should not come as a surprise, however. Ever since the new government came into power the fastest propaganda being spread in this country is by the religious right, much of it the hatred of women.

Shortly after President’s Nasheed took office, his Islamic ministry granted a preaching permit to Sheikh Fareed, who told a congregation of more than a thousand men in a mosque that more women than men would go to hell since women sin more. But crime figures the world over indicate that the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by men.

The Adhalath Party, which controls the Islamic ministry, last month held an event entitled “Those Who Desire Paradise’, in which Sheikh Ilyas Hussein gave vent to what appears to be male sexual fantasies in explicit detail. He described at length the many ‘houris’, or pure and beautiful maidens, that await devout men in heaven and told women that if they went to heaven they would be ‘recreated’ to perpetually be 33 years old and have with pointed breasts. Unlike men, who only have to be devout Muslims to go to heaven, women have to have been faithful to their husbands in order to attain paradise.

This may be the most serious abuse of the Quran by the Adhalath to date. In fact, Quranic descriptions of paradise use parables and the verses themselves explicitly state that parables are being used. By failing to tell his audience of this fact, Sheikh Ilyas is clearly misleading them.

But the underlying theme of the speech is the sexualisation of women and the inequality of the sexes. Yet TV Maldives saw it fit to broadcast the speech live, well before the watershed of 10.30 pm.

Sustained spread of misogyny in the Maldives has also been orchestrated by former pop-star turned Wahhabi Ali Rameez’s Jamiyathul Salaf. Ever since Rameez and his associates released a post-tsunami CD blaming the natural disaster on women, Salaf has been churning out misogyny in the name of Islam, by using its unlimited access to the private radio station Radio Atoll, and business tycoon Gasim Ibrahim’s Villa TV. It appears that broadcast standards don't apply to 'religious' content. Salaf works closely with the Islamic ministry and its CDs are now played in mosques across the country.

Last August, Salaf brought in Wahhabi preacher Bilal Philips to tell thousands of Maldivians on live TV that it was alright to marry off girls as soon as they reached puberty, even if they're only nine years old. In a country that has one of the highest child sexual abuse rates in the world, paedophiles couldn’t have hoped for a clearer endorsement of their ideology.

The Maldives state is not only showing impunity towards the spread of misogyny and violence against women children it is, in fact, perpetrating it. According to statistics from the Maldives judiciary, 174 people were convicted of zina or fornication in 2006, and sentenced to public flogging. An overwhelming majority of those sentenced, 146, were women, 19 of who were under 18 years of age. In the same year, seven women, including three minors, were convicted of giving birth out of wedlock. There is no question that institutionalized violence against women and children is condoned and carried out in the Maldives.

When Minivan News broke the story about the shocking flogging statistics, the religious right held a protest against the online newspaper and called for the deportation of its editor Mariyam Omidi. The judiciary has since removed the statistics from its website.

On this International Women’s Day, the government will give the obligatory speech via radio and TV, but is unlikely to delve too deeply into any of the real issues facing Maldivian women today. We can also expect little or no meaningful statement or commitment from the human rights commission or the UN system.

For now, women of the Maldives have nothing to look forward to but a continuation of ideological, physical and sexual assault on them. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Minivan no more

A group calling itself the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme  MWSRP, registered as a UK charity, has had its research permit temporarily suspended by the Maldives government. This follows clashes with local divers and complaints by the Divers Association of Maldives DAM to the authorities about the research methods used and the possible impact on marine life. The conflict is fast developing into an all out propaganda war, with one of the country's top news source taking sides.

In this Minivan News article, the writer JJ Robinson dedicates 721 words out of a total of 1401 words to MWSRP’s own version of the events, painting a picture of uncivilized, uneducated Maldivian divers from dive safari liveaboards engaged in guerrilla tactics to sabotage all-important research being done by enlightened Westerners.

As if that were not enough, Robinson gives an additional 173 words to an official of the Diva Island Resort and Spa to describe crew of liveaboards as bottom-baring, reckless louts, out to cause harm to other people’s guests. Robinson does not bother to interview a single liveboard crew or diver against whom his article levies serious allegations. Indeed, only 201 words are given to a representative of the Divers Association of Maldives, currently raising concern with the government about the methods used by the MWSRP, which may be causing of the dwindling number of whale sharks in the protected area.

JJ Robinson’s article is a glaring example of the violation of the code of impartiality, a fundamental ethic of good journalism, and it seriously undermines the pioneering work done by Minivan News to raise reporting standards in the Maldives.

Minivan means independent in Maldivian a, claim Minivan News can no longer make.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Husnu Sood's flawed special needs bill

President Nasheed did the right thing by heeding the concerns of disability NGOs and sending the controversial special needs bill back to parliament without ratifying it. And, although his attorney general Husnu Sood is said to support the move, Anni must now question him on why his office produced such legislature in the first place.

The bill addresses people with disability as "people with special needs", ignores the obligations of the state under the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities signed by the Maldives in 2008, and essentially tries to wash its hand off PWDs with a monthly handout. 

Maldives Dissent has learned that Husnu Sood paid students at the law school do draft the bill, an indication of the importance he gives to legislature of this nature. Sood's failure to background research the subject of disability, read international conventions signed by the Maldives, and consult stake-holders has resulted in wasting valuable time and resources and embarrassing the government.

MPs are no better. By passing the bill they've shown their own ignorance on the subject and their laziness to research the issue before going to parliament. And, as it has now emerged, their failure to listen to the concerns of people involved in disability prior to the voting, seriously raises questions about whether they are acting in the best interests of the people.

Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, who proposed the handout, displayed astonishing arrogance when he told TVM that the bill would remain unchanged and that the civil society couldn't do anything about it.

But it is heartening that Anni has chosen to listen to the civil society in this instance.

He must now have a chat with Husnu Sood to ensure that nonsense like this doesn't come out of his office again.