The Islamic ministry has once again provoked a storm of criticism with a Friday sermon that warned Maldivians against slander amidst allegations of corruption against President Abdulla Yameen.
Religious scholars have accused the Islamic ministry of using the weekly sermon to quell opposition over a historic scandal involving the theft of at least US$80million from tourism leases.
Yameen has denied involvement in the embezzlement.
The sermon, written by a specialised committee at the Islamic ministry, said Islam prohibits disclosing secrets that could disrupt public order.
“It is haram [forbidden] in Islam to disclose and spread the secrets of Muslims that could upset their nation’s peace and stability. This is because it can destroy the nation and allow enemies to interfere in the nation’s affairs.”
Spreading false stories is worse than premeditated murder, it added.
The March 11 sermon comes a week after a Saudi preacher delivered a sermon saying it is un-Islamic to disobey rulers even if they are unjust and corrupt.
Sheikh Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, a former Islamic minister, told The Maldives Independent that the government was using the sermon as a “political weapon to silence people who spread the word about the state’s wrongdoings.
“There is nothing wrong with the sermon itself. But they can’t deny the current context, where so much corruption of those in charge has come to light. It is clearly a political message,” he said.
Ali Zahir, the vice president of the religious conservative Adhaalath Party, said he was deeply saddened that the Friday sermon is now being used to defend the government.
“The sermon is supposed to be for everyone. The people who go to listen to it are there for a religious purpose. The way it is used now will repel people, it is biased in favour of the government. We call upon the Islamic Ministry to exercise balance when they give out messages to the public.”
The Adhaalath Party had split from the ruling coalition after the arrest of former Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim on a weapons smuggling charge. Its President Sheikh Imran Abdulla was jailed last month on a terrorism charge over a speech made at a historic opposition protest.
Imran’s arrest has also provoked opposition to Yameen from religious scholars.
The Islamic ministry denied politicising the sermon today.
“The procedure for generating the content is not public,” said Deputy Minister Ibrahim Ahmed. “However, its purpose is to provide religious advice and messages about current issues taking place in the country.”
“It is a religious message, it is not political,” he added.
Criticism of the sermon led one scholar Ahmed Sameer to warn Maldivians against making a mockery of Islam.
“Those who make a mockery of the Friday sermon are attempting to debase it through the premeditated creation of resentment for the practices of Islam, forbidding righteous acts and paving the way for evil,” he said in a Facebook post.