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Bid to prevent relocation of Malé’s ancient mosque rejected

The civil court has rejected a bid by heritage campaigners to prevent the relocation of a 200-year-old mosque from the capital city Malé to a southern island



The civil court has rejected a bid by heritage campaigners to prevent the relocation of a 200-year-old mosque from the capital city Malé to a southern island.

The petition, filed by former opposition MP Mohamed Thoriq and the deputy leader of the Jumhooree Party, Hussein Rasheed Hassan, argued that the Kalhuvakaru Mosque’s relocation would cause “irreparable damage” to the coral stone structure.

On Monday, the civil court threw the case out ruling that the pair had no claim over the mosque and therefore did not have the right to file the complaint.

The plan for the mosque’s relocation was first announced in December. At the time, the housing ministry said the structure would be moved to a heritage site on the suburban island of Hulhumalé. The ministry later said it would be moved to the island of Thinadhoo in Gaaf Dhaalu Atoll instead.

The mosque, built from interlocking coral stone blocks, has been dismantled, and the site where it used to stand – the Sultan Park – is now being developed into an ice-rink.

Thoriq told the Maldives Independent that the court’s decision was unfair. Every Maldivian has a right to their cultural heritage, he said.

“The civil court ruling refers to a supreme court verdict, in which the court rejected a lawsuit filed by the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives relating to the custodial death of a detainee. The supreme court ruled that only the detainee’s family could sue the police, and not the commission,” he said.

He added: “But when it comes to public goods, I think every citizen has a right to file complaints. I think my national identity card is enough.”

The relocation plan triggered the resignation of the heritage department’s director, Yumna Maumoon, who is also niece to President Abdulla Yameen.

“When a historic building is relocated, it results in a loss of history. The Kalhuvakaru Mosque is part of Malé’s heritage; it is not connected to the history or the memories of the people of Thinadhoo. The first of our concerns is the loss of heritage,” she said in an interview with Sangu TV on Tuesday. “The second is that the mosque is a coral stone structure, and removing these blocks will damage them.”

Yumna had previously described the mosque as “a symbol of our religion, culture, craftsmanship and unique identity,” and said its relocation violated the UNESCO World Heritage Convention that the Maldives is party to.

The delegation of European Union to the Maldives has described the move as “tragic.”

The Kalhuvakaru mosque was built in 1789 during the reign of Sultan Hassan Nooradeen Iskandhar. It stands on a coral foundation carved with intricate designs and is held up by wooden beams engraved with Arabic calligraphy. It can hold up to 15 and 21 worshippers at a time.

It also came to be known as the “travelling mosque” due to its history of relocation.

It was initially constructed at the corner of Majeedhee Magu, the city’s main thoroughfare, and Karankaa Magu. It was auctioned off in 1978 during the presidency of Ibrahim Nasir.

The winning bid was made by the chairman of Treasure Island Enterprise, an Australian man named Veyne Reed, for the sum of MVR9,715.26 (US$756). Reed moved the mosque to the Furana Island Resort, now Full Moon Resort, managed by his company.

In February 1979, the mosque was returned to the government of the newly-elected President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Yumna’s father. It was dismantled from the resort, brought to Malé and reconstructed the next year.