Maldivian students are taught that Western-style democracy allows the alteration of Allah’s revelations, encourages sinful behaviour and thereby justifies Allah’s wrath.
The Islam syllabus for eleventh graders tests students on the disadvantages of democracy in Islamic countries, according to a test paper shared by a student online.
The question said: “Followers of western democracy say that everything is based on consensus. They do not place any boundaries on the matters up for discussion. All matters can be discussed and altered, and every individual’s thoughts can be considered.
“However, Islam places certain limits and principles on matters that can be discussed. Write four disadvantages, that an Islamic country may come across while using the system of consensus from western-style democracy in decision-making.”
There are eight possible answers to the question, according to the 2013 Islam test paper:
“Alteration of Islamic rulings or refusal to issue rulings according to Allah’s revelations; public loss of confidence in Islam’s teachings; having to consider opinions of non-experts in decision-making; passing of laws that are contrary to Islam; priority given to individual rights instead of community rights/ loss of rights by a certain group of people; separation of religion and state; encouraging sins; Allah’s wrath is justifiable.”
Ahmed Shakeeb, a director general at the department for public examinations, said the question was “not anti-democratic or anti-human rights.”
All Maldivian students are required to take Islam as one of the four compulsory subjects, alongside Dhivehi, English and Mathematics from first grade through twelfth grade.
Islamic studies textbooks are prepared by specialists at the ministry of education and approved by the ministry of Islamic affairs, Shakeeb said.
The student who posted a picture of the test paper said: “When you’ve been promoting democracy and its principles you just cant write this. Still wrote it to get the marks.”
The Maldivian Democracy Network, a local human rights group, in a 2015 report said Islamic textbooks used in schools cultivate anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and glorify Jihad or war against those who allegedly “obstruct” Islam.
MDN also said that the ninth grade text book appears to dismiss women’s rights and feminism as part of a ‘western agenda.”
The tenth grade textbook says “slaves must work tirelessly to fulfill their masters needs,” and the eleventh grade textbook outlines discriminatory penalties under Islamic penal provisions for victims of a crime if they are a slave or a non-believer.
“Such discriminatory and racialist attitudes in relation to religion should not be endorsed by educational literature in the modern world where slavery has been abolished,” the report read.
MDN recommends the removal of “discriminatory content” from school books in order to create tolerance and good will to all members of the globalized world.