People who leave Islam face expulsion from Maldivian society, financial penalties, and even a prison sentence under new government policies on freedom of religion.
The policy paper, published Tuesday by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, seeks to address issues around apostasy, extremism and freedom of speech in a religious context.
It said that some of the biggest challenges to the country today included apostasy, openly mocking, demeaning or undermining the faith, going to war in the name of Islam and murdering in the name of religion.
Little is known about the numbers of Maldivians leaving Islam but, in an unprecedented case in 2010, self-declared apostate Mohamed Nazim publicly repented and reverted back to Islam after government counselling when religious groups called for his death.
The policy paper said murder and acts of war were taking place in the Maldives due to ideological warfare, and groups were trying to “make the Maldives a place for people with extremist ideologies to live in, and to facilitate such things at a state level.”
“Attacking people who are known to have different views from one’s own, and harming their body, soul, property, wife and kids is now an occurrence in the Maldives, and needs to be addressed at a national level,” it said.
Police revealed radicalised young men were behind the murder of liberal blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was stabbed to death in his stairwell last year.
The government will seek to restrict the finances, movement and right to remain silent of people going to war or funding it. The policy paper highlighted the need to address the difficulties faced by the families of those going to fight.
There will also be harsher penalties on hate speech, which will be criminalised, and a tougher stance on mockery and misinformation regarding religion.
Websites or social media pages can be shut down or banned from the Maldives, and the legal framework needs to change to make investigating such cases easier, the paper said.