“They’re fighting really well, aren’t they?” says my taxi-driver with pride when I tell him I’ve flown in from the Middle East and that I’m a journalist. Speak with Muslims in Paris, Brussels or Tunis about ISIS jihadists and they reply mortified, almost apologetically, and tell you: They’re off their heads. But in the Maldives, they’ll give you a different answer: They are heroes.
Many Western tourists don’t even know that this is a Muslim country. But in fact, outside of the Arab world, the Maldives have the highest number of fighters among ISIS’s ranks per capita: 200, more or less, out of 400,000 inhabitants. The government denies it. But each and every resident likely has a brother or cousin in Syria. While the rest of the world was watching the Olympics in August, everyone here was watching the battle of Aleppo. And rooting for al-Qaeda.
The Maldives are an archipelago of 1192 islands. But for the Maldivians, it is just one island: Malé. The islands only have a couple of shops, one school, and a tiny soccer pitch. Sometimes, residents don’t even have electricity. For all of their needs, they go to Malé. It covers 5.8 square kilometers, has 130,000 permanent residents, and a temporary population double that size. In Malé, every nook and cranny is inhabited.
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Source URL: Google News