The Islamic ministry has threatened to take legal action against the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party over a weekly prayer for imprisoned former President Mohamed Nasheed and other jailed politicians.
Hundreds of opposition supporters have been gathering outside the Islamic centre in Malé every week after Friday prayers since Nasheed’s arrest in February. MDP national council members use a megaphone to lead the prayer, seeking the release of the opposition leader as well as an end to “tyranny.”
The ministry claimed in a statement yesterday that the MDP’s prayer contains ill wishes towards particular people, describing it as a “show off”.
“Beloved citizens are advised not to participate in the prayer read outside the mosque after every Friday prayer,” the statement said.
“Furthermore, as this is something that violates article 4(a) and (b) of the Religious Unity Act, creates strife, hatred and anger among Maldivians and as it is forbidden in Islam, it is informed that legal action will be taken against repeated offenders through relevant state institution.”
The 1994 religious unity law prohibits any action or speech that could disrupt religious unity and harmony, harm the independence and sovereignty of Maldives and restrict the rights of a specific group of individuals in society.
Offences specified in the law carry two to five years of house arrest or imprisonment.
Speaking to The Maldives Independent today, Mohamed Waheed ‘Waddey,’ a member of the MDP’s national council who often leads the special prayer, described the Islamic ministry’s warning as “a continuation of the government’s restrictions on freedom of speech.”
He called the threat “an attempt to even forcibly intervene into private affairs such as one’s relationship with Allah.”
He denied that the prayer contained any portion that could be considered as ill will.
“There is no ill wishing in the special prayer. We pray for the release of political prisoners, the safety, harmony and peace of Maldives and its people,” he said.
He explained that “the prayer contains recitations for the Maldivian people to be protected from crimes like murder and enforced disappearances and their perpetrators.”
The arrest and imprisonment of Nasheed as well as ex-Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim triggered a prolonged political crisis in the Maldives. The opposition alliance held daily street protests and staged two mass anti-government demonstrations in the capital.
Meanwhile, the Islamic ministry last month ordered mosques across the country to recite a special prayer after the five daily prayers for the safety of President Abdulla Yameen in the wake of a blast on the president’s speedboat on September 28.
However, a few days later, the ministry instructed mosques to stop reciting the prayer after opposition from island councils and Imams.
Worshippers and Imams at some mosques as well as prominent religious scholars objected to the mandatory prayer, contending that it was a bid’ah (heretical innovation).
“Protect and save our ruler, our people, and our country from the evil plots of schemers, acts of terrorism, the deceit of the deceitful, and the envy of the envious,” reads the scrapped prayer.