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Maldives: The Curse Of Independence

in Opinion by

Sumon K Chakrabarti - Author

In 2008, the Maldives had emerged as a beacon of democratic hope across the globe. A fledgling democracy had started taking baby steps in Asia’s longest-running dictatorship – a 100 percent Sunni Muslim nation. The road to democracy in Maldives, a string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls, was painful. Some 500 miles off the tip of India, the Maldives have gone through a sea-change since 2008 – from an alleged coup de’tat to ‘dystopia’.

maldives flag


Today, the world’s leading honeymoon destination, once the world’s most secular Sunni Muslim nation, is being driven towards hardline Islam, especially ‘Sharia’ by none other than its controversial and increasingly autocratic president Abdullah Yameen Gayoom – half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The irony though, has just begun, unflinching in it’s almost ‘funny (sic) side’ of brazenness.

The road to democracy in Maldives, a string of 1,192 mostly uninhabited coral atolls, was painful. Some 500 miles off the tip of India, the Maldives have gone through a sea-change since 2008 – from an alleged coup de’tat to ‘dystopia’.

It was on this day in 1965, July 26th, that the Maldives gained independence from the United Kingdom after 77 years as a British protectorate. Ironic yet true that the archipelago in the Indian Ocean marks its 51st anniversary of independence where most of its opposition political figures had to seek refuge in the land of their once colonial masters or they have been shoved behind bars. Most notable among them, the first democratic president of the island nation and the poster boy of international climate change – Mohamed Nasheed; along with Yameen’s former vice-president Mohamed Jameel who was impeached by his own boss!

If you thought that that was the ultimate ‘welcome to the dark side of life’ sign ever, Yameen trumped himself with an Independence Day speech on Monday night. The President insisted that death penalty has to be implemented because Qur’an says so, & therefore, that it cannot be stopped. He is hell-bent that the first execution of a convict in sixty years since 1953 will take place under his watch as a reiteration of Maldives’ Islamic credentials.

As he painted a Maldives as in a post-Tsunami dystopia, besieged by criminals, ‘disruptors of peace and harmony’, where ‘friendly scuffles between minors had escalated to the point’ in which ‘warfare is publicly declared,’ Yameen offered himself as the savior.

“The number of parties envious of our 100 percent Islamic nation are many. Every day is a day when the Government is pressured into allowing Maldives to become a multi-religious society. Every day is of warnings and caution over implementation of Islamic Shariah, teaching of Islam. There is a faction of traitors, bent on damaging the nation’s peace, stability, progress,” he proclaimed.

Addressing the nation, the President laid out a Nixon-esque chaotic vision of a country enveloped in smoke and flame where you hear ‘sirens in the night’.

id 11
President Abdulla Yameen addressing nation on the occasion of 51st Independence Day

And the real issues got drowned.

Nearly 40 radicalised Maldivians have been documented to have left the country of 400,000 to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). But more alarming, ISIS-affiliations are being shown in openly on the streets and the government has stayed mum, fanning a base of violence and muddling the serene turquoise waters in this picturesque setting of cobbled roads and luxury resorts.

And then there is his elder brother Maumoon Gayoom, a former Egyptian-trained Islamic cleric, who ruled the nation of 370,000 like his personal sultanate for three decades and laid the foundation for many vices that the nation still grapples to resolve. Gayoom and his government have faced allegations of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture and custodial deaths. But most overwhelmingly, for corrupting a judiciary, which has been usurped more swiftly by his half-brother now in power. As a defeat in the first-ever democratic elections stared in his face, the elder Gayoom ensured the judges he appointed stayed as is.

maldive-flag-textbook 1
Maldives flag & flag of jihad in textbook dedicated to “fruits” of Jihad, claiming that the ultimate fruit of Jihad is martyrdom, for which the reward in Islam is an eternity in heaven

But who did he appoint? 60 percent of the current judges have less than a seventh grade education, 30 percent have actual criminal records and a couple of sex-tapes!

But as the elder Gayoom has taken on his half-brother openly and viciously, the walls around President Yameen have started crumbling. One brick by another. He has jailed his allies, maimed his opponents, and crushed his critics too many times in the last 2 years. The result : a disjointed opposition came together in a united coalition where his own are deserting him and those even half-connected via blood is baying for his.

And in his last-ditch effort to hang on to power (which he referred to as “prevent such uncivilized behavior” in his Independence Day speech), Yameen is doing what many a tyrant have done in Islamic history – cling to their own interpretation of hardline Islam.

iday
Ministers and bureaucrats praying on the occasion of Independence Day

Therefore, he sees implementing death penalty is a clear commandment in Islam. He said as the leader of the nation, the responsibility on him to implement the verdict was bigger on him. “Islamic Shariah and the legal structure under the Constitution, excludes the President from this narrative. In Islam, capital punishment is mandated for all murderers; this is clearly said in the Quran. Therefore, implementing death penalty is a must in order to maintain rule of law,” he said.

And if the Maldives today had a version of the reality series The Apprentice, President Yameen would have already been singing what Donald Trump said in a baritone once : “This is a dictatorship and I’m the dictator. There’s no voting and there’s no jury.”

Welcome to the Maldives. The sun is setting. The martini has been spilled. Happy Independence Day. We always knew they will come back, but at what cost!


[Sumon K Chakrabarti Is The Founder-Editor Of FocusMaldives.com]

Zakir Naik, Dhaka Attack, And His Controversial Maldives Visit: All You Need To Know

in News by

Indian cleric Zakir Naik, who is in the eye of the storm after reports emerged that two of the seven militants who attacked a café in Dhaka killing 20 people were inspired by his speeches, has also had a controversial past in the Maldives where he remains very popular.

dhaka attack

Dr Naik, 50, is currently in Mecca on a religious trip. But in Mumbai, policemen were deployed outside his ‘Islamic Research Foundation’ office as a precautionary measure after demands were raised urging the government to take action against him over his alleged hate speeches.

Bangladesh has also urged India to examine his speeches.

Zakir Naik In Hot Water

Zakir Naik

India’s home minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said the government will not compromise on the issue of terrorism and that CDs of Naik’s speeches were being examined.

“We have taken cognisance of Zakir Naik’s speeches and have given necessary instructions for a probe. A thorough investigation will be done. CDs of his speeches are being examined,” Singh told reporters, adding that “As far as the government is concerned, we will not compromise on terrorism at any cost. Whatever is justified will be done.”

Naik is banned in Britain and Canada for his hate speeches aimed against other religions.

The evangelist, however, denies the charges that he inspired the attack in Bangladesh. In a video message from Mecca, Naik said more than 90 per cent Bangladeshis knew him and more than 50 per cent were his fans.

“Every fan of mine may not follow everything I say,” he said.

Naik’s Controversial Visit To Maldives

isis-maldives

It was in 2010 Naik paid a visit to the Maldives along with his wife. In the course of his stay in the picturesque island nation, the evangelist gave a number of speeches considering his popularity there amongst the youth.

It was during one of his speeches, a young man, Mohamed Nazim, posed a question to Naik that seemed to have irked the preacher.

Nazim told Naik that he was still struggling to believe in religion and sought to know from him the verdict in Islam for individuals who were still struggling to decide on faith in a country such as the Maldives, where most people practice religion not by choice but because they inherited it from their parents.

Apparently agitated over his innocuous query, 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, Nazim was allegedly attacked by Naik’s supporters before he was taken away by police.

Watch the video here:

Growing Radicalization In The Maldives

The rise in radicalization in the Maldives has rung alarm bells for its neighbors. Maldives Defense Minister Adam Shareef Umar said last month that as many as 49 Maldivians had left the island nation and joined militant groups in other countries.

However, the opposition claims the number of the Maldivians fleeing the country is much higher.

MDP leader and Shadow Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem told Focus Maldives that the number of Maldivians who have joined IS now exceeded 300.

Naseem said they had been able to gather extensive intelligence on occurrences of radicalization as many of their small islands have relatively small populations.

He said these days a number of known extremists (many of whom participated in a rally on the streets of male’ with scores of people carrying ISIS flags) are in the pay of the Sun Siyam, leader of the Maldives Development Alliance, Yameen’s closest coalition partner.

He accused the government led by President Abdulla Yameen of taking the threat posed by growing radicalization of the youth lightly and even encouraging it for political gains.

Eid Mubarak: 5 Delicious Recipes To Make Your Eid-al-Adha Special

in Lifestyle by

‘Eid Mubarak’! The streets would be bustling with people coming out of their homes to greet one another with warm wishes. Such is the charm of the festival.

Food items like Sewai, Mutton Rogan Gosht are cooked, but Maldives houses some of the best dishes that are cooked to celebrate the festival of fasting. As soon as the Ramadan approaches, they abandon their fishing practices. Hence, when Eid comes, Maldivians also celebrate Mahahifun Hafan Dhuvas, which is a festival of catching your treat and eating to your content. Since Maldives is surrounded with water bodies, their main catch is fish and that is widely cooked on the island to commemorate the Eid festivities.

Here are some of the dishes that are essential to the platter on the day of Eid in Maldives:

Kaliya Birinjee

sheer khurma

Kaliya Birinjee coupled with Miruhulee Kukulhu is the most expected dishes to be prepapred on a festival.  It’s made out of Maldives staple dietary products such as rice, coconut milk and Cinnamon.  The ingredients are rich in taste and add to the aroma of the food. In India, it’s widely known as Sheer Khurma

Mashuni

mashuni

Mashuni is the famous dish of Maldives. It is a dish that is cooked at every occasion or festival. It’s a concoction of Fish and coconut milk, laced with onions and other ingredients to spice up the taste of the delicacy.

Maas Kavabu

Maas Kavabu

Maas Kavabu is a dish made of Tuna Fish. It’s a fine serving that houses the spices of the island in large quantity. Unlike other Muslim nation, Maldives cook more of sea food as it is their staple diet. Hence, Maas Kavabu is widely cooked in Maldives to mark a celebration.

Thelui Mai

Thelui Mai

Further stressing on the notion of Mahahifun Hafan Dhuvas, it is a dish that is grilled. The recipe is simple as it requires no hard work. One needs to grind spices together to form a paste. All one needs to do is dip the fish in the paste and grill it. The taste of this grilled fish is outstanding.

Banbukeylu Harisa

kaaliya birinji

Banbukeylu Harisa is the curry of steamed breadfruit, onion, chilli and coconut. It is a speciality of Maldives that must be cooked on proper occasions and festival to mark the festivity of the time.

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