View Full Version : Maldives faces social divide

11-02-2007, 07:19 PM
It is famous for its tropical islands and luxury resorts, but in September the Maldives was shaken by an explosion which injured a dozen tourists.

The government fears religious extremism is threatening the social fabric of the country, and says foreign religious influences are responsible.

Authorities called those responsible for the September bombing "Islamic extremists", influenced by different schools of the religion taught in other countries.

Abdullah Kamaludeen, the home affairs minister, told al Jazeera: "If you look at our history, I think all our religious scholars went to the same schools.

"We were able to live our lives in a uniform way. It's only when the schools diversify that we have different schools of thoughts.

"That's what breeds terrorism and anti-social behaviour in people."
Investigations took the police to Himandhoo, a little island west of Male, two hours away by fast boat.

What followed was a tense 40-hour standoff between members of the Dar-al-Khuir mosque and the authorities.

Mauroof Hussain, the vice-president of the opposition Adhalaath party, which is made up mostly of Islamic scholars, said: "Until now we have not attacked anyone. But if the mosque is to be broken, they will have to break us first, because we love and respect the mosque."

The military shut down the mosque and about 60 men and teenage boys were arrested.

More than 30 policemen were injured, including one whose hand was chopped off.

Education stressed

Hussain believes the social divide can be narrowed by introducing a stronger religious education system.

Mariya Didi of the Maldivian Democratic Party said: "Since there is no proper Islamic education here, there is a vacuum. People are really hungry for their religion, so they have to hunt it. Most go to the internet.

"This causes them to adopt extreme views and … they become separate from mainstream society.

"Faith is inside rather than out, so let's not judge everybody from what they’re seen and try to bring tolerance and teach that extremism doesn't produce results."

Among the population of about 370,000 people, half are living in poverty.

Nearly 100,000 are packed into the capital city of Male, an island that takes less than half an hour to walk across.

How Maldives handle the differences over the application of an age-old religion in a fast-changing world will shape the country's social and political landscape.

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11-04-2007, 03:08 AM
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