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.