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.