Diplomacy Politics

Government seizes on EU criticism over freedom of religion

Government supporters have seized upon criticism in a resolution adopted Thursday by the European Parliament over the lack of freedom of religion in the Maldives.

Calling for targeted sanctions in response to a protracted political crisis, the 16-point resolution also strongly criticised “the fact that the practice of non-Muslim faiths is severely punishable in the Maldives” and expressed concern that “the Religious Unity Act is being used to limit freedom of expression”.

In its rebuttal, the government said: “The constitution of Maldives, the social framework and historical and traditional values, do not allow for religions other than Islam to be publicly practiced in the country.”

It added assurances of “firm commitment to promote moderation, mutual respect, and understanding towards other religions and nationalities.”

Religion was a divisive campaign issue during past elections with the ruling party and its former allies accusing former president Mohamed Nasheed of pursuing a secularisation agenda.

While the opposition celebrated Thursday’s resolution as a sign of mounting international pressure, headlines such as “EU passes resolution calling to give religious freedom in Maldives” (Vaguthu) and “Should we sacrifice our Dhivehiness to please foreigners?” (Sun) emerged on pro-government media.

“The efforts to wipe out Islam and nationhood from this country was just openly announced. This is the time religious scholars should come out and speak out openly,” Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Ziyad urged.

Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muizz tweeted: “Their true purpose is very clear. That a few people with Maldivian blood, directly and indirectly, out of greed for power, aid their efforts to allow the freedom to follow religions other than Islam in this country is something righteous Maldivians should wake up to.”

MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, the ruling party’s deputy leader, told the press Friday afternoon that the opposition’s daily protests were anti-Islamic.

“Those coming out to join the protests taking place now are definitely coming out against Islam. I regret that some people worked in the name of protecting Islam in the Maldives are seen in their ranks,” he said.

“No matter how much work the infidels and their friends envious of Islam being the only religion in the Maldives do, God willing it will not succeed.” – dean of the Maldives National University’s faculty of law and Islamic studies.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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