Islam, Maldives & the Reform Movement
By Ali Rasheed
October 7, 2006
When I left
the Maldives capital on February 26, 2005, to work as a columnist for
in Colombo, there were perhaps two to three defiant women donning hijabs;
wearing veils that cover the entire face except for the eyes, and the locals
used to call them ‘ninjas’ in a manner designed to offend.
Yet when I
returned to the Maldives on February 3rd, 2006, veiled women were a common sight
in the capital Male’ and I believe that today they are even looked upon with
gain pleasure from youthful girls with their alluring curves, wearing tight
fitting jeans and exposing their midriffs, would no doubt be less than pleased
with this change. A feast for sore eyes is no longer a feast.
articles have recently appeared on the subject of this radical change in the
dress code of women, with various ideas being tossed back and forth to
understand the sudden change. Fears are even being raised about Islamic
extremists infiltrating the Maldives through rich Arab donors.
Hijab or no
hijab, human nature does not go through a process of overnight change. Maldivian
culture is not like other Islamic countries I have been to, or read of.
Maldivian culture is unique.
To put it
simply, if someone preys on another’s wife, in the Maldives, the tendency is to
pay back in the same coin. Since the Maldives has the highest divorce rate in
the world, there is little need to speak about the wantonness of our women, or
our men, for that matter.
Maldivian President Gayyoom, a self proclaimed Islamic scholar and the highest
authority on issues of religion, is known to have divorced his wife Nasreena
three times and remarried her a fourth time, after another male, his buddy Zahir
Hussain, a Minister in Gayyoom’s kitchen cabinet, had consummated marriage with
Nasreena and then divorced her so Gayyoom could marry her once more.
Gayyoom had a go at Zahir Hussain’s wife remains a secret. My personal
assumption is that Gayyoom would need Viagra for this task. It is a matter of
national record that local historians who wrote about this issue in their
private diaries were ferreted out by Gayyoom’s intelligence agents and jailed.
Men who grew
their beard were simply pulled off the streets, taken into jail, forcefully
shaved and released. Chilly sauce was used as shaving foam on a man named
Lahuthu, who refused to be shaved. This act was carried out by members of
Gayyoom’s security forces in charge of Maafushi jail.
What we are
seeing today is a backlash against Gayoom’s repressive policies. During the last
ten years, repression had reached extreme levels so much so that a single word
of criticism of the Gayyoom regime could have the person jailed or exiled;
Gayyoom’s pettiness even extending to the women and children of his perceived
website, which maintains a rigid policy on freedom of speech, is partly
instrumental in the changes we see in the dress code of women in our society.
Minivan, discussed the fates of preachers like Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim and
Sheikh Fareed, whose grievance was that they were tortured and jailed simply
because this small-time dictator Gayyoom wished to silence them. We actually
argued in their favour. They had an equal right as anyone else to be heard and
their words judged by their listeners.
Gayyoom regime could not control the electronic media – not that he didn’t try:
he even lodged false allegations of gun running charges against Minivan through
the Maldives Police Services, using the Interpol Branch of the Sri Lankan CID –
he finally lost the media war.
factor which contributed to the rebirth of Islamic ideals is the Maldivian
Society’s number one enemy: Brigadier Adam Zahir. Together with the former
Defense Minister Ambaree Abdul Sattar and with the tacit backing of President
Gayyoom, they ruined at least three generations of Maldivian youth by
introducing brown sugar to the youth whom they perceived as the greatest threat
to the regime’s hold on power. The idea was to keep the youth politically
the last ten years the 90 percent of the jails’ inmates were drug users. Even
today, drugs are more easily available inside the jails than the capital, Male’.
youngsters who spent their formative years in and out of jail and rehab centers,
comprise the majority of the youth. They are completely devoid of morals and a
law unto themselves.
recognition of this menace has re-awoken Islamic ideals. It is the lack of
faith, they believe, that is the root cause of this social menace created by the
drug culture. And Gayyoom and Adam Zahir are ultimately responsible for this
degeneration in social values.
Allow me to
present an argument. Shortly after Mahinda Rajapakse was elected President of
Sri Lanka, he began a drive to remove drugs from the streets of Colombo. Within
three months, he cleaned up almost the whole city. He used the military, the
navy, the police and even trained dogs to wage war on drug dealers and he
achieved almost 90% success.
reckoning, to clean up the Maldives would take less than 48 hours. This is proof
enough that chemical warfare is being waged on the youth by Adam Zahir with the
tacit backing of Gayyoom.
The way I
perceive it, the Maldives is not becoming another Afghanistan. For most
Maldivians, sex is like a second language, the only element missing is Caligula.
Rather, I see every extra hijab and every extra beard is a symbol of rebellion
against the present regime.