Maldives clerics roll out wide-ranging religious agenda
Policies were set on a myriad of issues including Jihad, tourism, trade, education, media and atheism
Islamic scholars in the Maldives have laid out a wide-ranging religious agenda that includes a call for written rules for tourists on Islamic behaviour and strategies to prevent Maldivians from committing acts of terror in the name of Jihad.
The action-plan was rolled out on January 21, following at a three-day conference organised by the Islamic ministry.
The annual gathering, now in its fourth year and entitled “Do not overstep the limits set by Allah’, brought together some 50 Maldivian and foreign scholars, according to the state broadcaster, Public Service Media.
Policies were also set on trade, education, media and atheism.
Tourism companies must teach visitors how to conduct themselves while holidaying in the Maldives “in order to address actions by tourists that violate Islamic culture and social norms,” the recommendations read.
The group resolved to provide accurate information on Jihad, including through school textbooks, and said the Maldives must provide “official assistance” to those suffering in Muslim countries in order to prevent Maldivians “from becoming emotionally compelled to take part in activities in Jihad’s name.”
Scores of Maldivians have left the country to fight with militant groups in the Middle-East, including the so-called Islamic State. Estimated numbers vary between 50 and 200.
Other actions set forth include working with the media to stop the broadcast of content that violate Islam and revising trade laws to prevent un-Islamic practices.
The group also declared the niqab, beard and ankle-length garments as permissible in Islam, and said: “No one must view those who act according to Islamic principles as extremists.”
They also expressed concern over “political extremism” which they said posed an “immense threat” to the Maldives.
Below is a translation of the 25 recommendations:
- Acting on Islamic principles does not constitute as extremism. Just as overstepping the limits set by Islam is considered extremism, not complying with religious obligations and norms is also considered extremism Therefore, we urge a halt to individual and national actions that violate Islam
- Given the immense threat posed to Islam and society by political extremism in the Maldives, we will work with the relevant authorities to resolve such issues
- Wearing the niqab, growing the beard and keeping one’s lower garments at ankle-length are permitted in Islam and do not constitute as extremism
- No one must view those who act according to Islamic principles as extremists
- The Islamic ministry will work with the relevant authorities to establish new rules to prohibit un-Islamic practices in trade, lobby for the enforcement of such rules, reform existing trade laws and regulations and create awareness among relevant bodies and government institutions
- Foreigners living in the Maldives must not be mistreated and they must be ensured a safe environment
- We call on tourism companies to offer tourists written rules on how to conduct themselves while in the Maldives in order to address actions by tourists that violate Islamic culture and social norms
- We note the importance of relevant authorities continuing and reinforcing the spread of knowledge and dictating the good while forbidding evil as these are the most important means of protecting Islam
- We call for revision of school curriculum to remove un-Islamic features
- Recognising that the media exerts the greatest influence in shaping the young, we call on the media not to violate Islam in its programmes
- Implement programmes to provide accurate information on Jihad, and explain the difference between the correct interpretation of Jihad and the actions seen today in the name of Jihad
- Take rapid action to stop actions that violate Islamic Shariah, provide correct information to those who encourage such activities, rehabilitate them and re-integrate them into the community by offering them job opportunities
- Provide official assistance to those suffering in Muslim nations and take other actions in order to prevent young people from becoming emotionally compelled to take part in activities in Jihad’s name
- The Islamic Ministry will hold workshops with the relevant authorities to understand why people turn away from religion and the reason for the spread of atheism, and take steps to resolve this
- Provide the correct and appropriate level information on Jihad to students in academia as the main reason for people taking part in extremist activities and activities perpetrated in the name of Jihad is the lack of accurate information.
- We reject the view that those who attempt to act according to the best forms of behaviour prescribed in Islam are extremist and resolve to work with the relevant authorities to correct this view
- Reinforce, as appropriate to the situation, activities to spread Islamic knowledge and dictating for the good while prohibiting evil as these are among the most important of actions to protect Islam
- Remove features from school curriculums that negatively affect faith and conduct, put together strong Islamic curriculums which would offer religious information relating to every subject, and inculcate love for Islam in the hearts of students
- Carry out a programme at national level to stop the broadcast of content which violates Islam and create awareness on Islam among media workers
- Carry out special action programmes to increase awareness on Islam among secondary school and university students
- Declare it extreme and against the Prophet’s Sunnah the act of Muslims, because of differences in opinion, showing hostility towards each other, refusing to shake hands with each other and refusing to observe other rights
- To provide information to students at all levels of academia, including those in pre-school, to foster Islamic brotherhood and comply with religious obligations to each other and enforce such actions
- Scholars must set examples to the larger community on acting on one’s obligations to others. Call on policy makers to promote these obligations in order to maintain the country’s unity
- The Islamic ministry must share the recommendations of the third scholar’s symposium with the relevant institutions and authorities and lobby for their enforcement
- Present and review the recommendations of the previous symposium at the commencement of each symposium
The head of Sudan’s Figh Academy, Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, was the guest of honour at the closing ceremony.
In December, the Islamic ministry and the police agreed on a plan to protect religious unity, and launched in partnership with PSM a religious television channel, Munnar.