On anniversary of 1988 coup, Maldives threatened by ‘secularism and extremism’

The Maldives continues to be plagued by a centuries-old social problem of secular, atheistic and extremist ideologies, Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar said Friday night.

Speaking at an event to mark the 29th anniversary of Victory Day, Shareef said both secular or irreligious thought and religious extremism pose a threat to Maldivian independence, referring to historical figures who changed religions and advising redoubled efforts to strengthen Islamic faith among the public.

“We must be very vigilant against efforts to spread religions other than Islam as well as extremist ideology among ourselves and all of our institutions today need to undertake numerous efforts to stop this,” he said.

He called for broadening religious education to promote moderate Islam, upholding rule of law, and strengthening the economy and social bonds.

Religion was a hot button campaign issue during past elections with former President Mohamed Nasheed accused of pursuing a secularist agenda that posed an existential threat to the country’s 100 percent Muslim status.

Shareef went on to say that the Maldives should also be vigilant to guard against possible terrorist attacks.

He also urged soldiers to be wary of “traitors” plotting to topple the lawful government, praising President Abdulla Yameen’s “leadership and wisdom” in defeating the alleged efforts to threaten the country’s independence and sovereignty.

“Even as we talk of November 3 here today, people who have betrayed the nation is breathing in our air of freedom,” he said.

In his Victory Day message, Yameen also warned of “internal and external” threats and dangerous plots by “traitors among us”.

The Victory Day public holiday is celebrated annually to commemorate the failed coup attempt on November 3, 1988 by a group of Maldivians and Tamil mercenariess. The violent attempt to overthrow the ten-year regime of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was foiled by a combined effort of the Maldivian military and paratroopers deployed by India.

Some 19 Maldivians, including 11 soldiers, died after the mercenaries attacked the capital.

The mercenaries were led by Ahmed ‘Sagaru’ Nasir and Abdulla Luthfy. Nasir was released from prison in August 2014 after serving a 25-year prison sentence. Luthfy fled the country in 2009 after being authorised to seek medical treatment in India and remains a wanted fugitive.

The Maldives National Defence Force meanwhile began Victory Day activities with a communal dawn prayer, a flag-hoisting and guard mounting ceremony at the Victory Day memorial, a silent drill display in the evening, and an official rally at the Republic Square on Friday night.

On Saturday morning, soldiers jogged around Malé in a ‘Victory Run’ and a silent drill display is due to take place at the central park in Hulhumalé at 5 pm.

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