The Islamic ministry on Thursday asked police to investigate and take action against human rights NGO Maldivian Democracy Network over a 2015 report about radical narratives in school textbooks.
The report mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohamed and included content that was contrary to Islamic tenets and could disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians, the Islamic ministry tweeted.
The complaint was lodged amid growing calls by clerics and opposition supporters to ban MDN after sections were highlighted and screenshots were widely shared on social media. Several ruling party lawmakers, ministers and ruling coalition leaders have since joined the chorus of condemnation. Insulting Islam or the prophet is unacceptable, the consensus holds.
In the face of the public outcry, MDN removed the report from its website and apologised for offending public sensitivities with the language used in the report. The NGO said it has decided to revise the report with the help of religious scholars. “This association respects Islam as well as Maldivian laws and traditions and assures all Maldivian citizens that this association will not repeat such an act hereafter,” MDN said in a statement on Thursday.
The rights group expressed concern with warnings and death threats made against its members and staff. Social media posts with photos of MDN staff that incited violence and hatred with allegations of a plot to erase Islam from the country are also under investigation, police said.
A presidential inquiry commission revealed last month that a local extremist group linked to al-Qaeda were behind the murders of a moderate scholars, a liberal blogger and abducted journalist. All three were accused of apostasy and blasphemy.
One of the passages that was highlighted as the most offensive concerned the Prophet’s night journey or ascension to heaven, “which according to Islamic tradition is when Prophet Muhammad took the significant journey on a steed from Mecca to Jerusalem, ascending to heaven, speaking to Allah and returning to Earth, all in one nigh,” the report stated.
It added: “In an attempt to claim that this story is not merely a fable, the book claims that the tale would stand true ‘even if subject to a contemporary scientific analysis,’ which is a highly questionable statement and does not entail such proof.”
The Maldives constitution limits free speech to expression that are “not contrary to any tenet of Islam.” The 2015 penal code criminalises “criticism of Islam in a public medium with the intention of causing disregard for Islam,” which is categorised as a class one misdemeanour that carries a maximum prison sentence of one year. The 1994 religious unity law also prohibits “attempting to disrupt the religious unity of Maldivians or talking in a manner that creates religious conflict among people.”
A petition launched on Friday night calling on President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to de-register the NGO has more than 11,000 signatures as of the time of publication. The associations law also prohibits anti-Islamic actions, it noted, suggesting that failure to dissolve MDN “would be an opportunity given to other unlawful associations.”
The petition was launched after a Twitter campaign with the hashtags #BanMDN and #DefendIslam, which started trending with thousands of tweets.
On Friday night, the Adhaalath Party – one of four parties in the ruling coalition – called for the criminal prosecution of MDN staff responsible for the report. The religious conservative party appealed against both insulting Islam and inciting violence against individuals or groups.
On Saturday morning, Islamic Minister Dr Ahmed Zahir Ali met local clerics to discuss extremism and the mocking of Islam.
Last month, a Maldivian man was arrested on charges of insulting Islam on social media and a 15-day remand period was granted by a magistrate court. The 38-year-old has since been provided counselling by the Islamic ministry, police told local media last week. He was brought to Malé for a psychological assessment and religious counselling sessions, a police media official said.
In late September, a Facebook page operated by a Maldivian that mocked Islam and the prophet was removed upon request by the government. Asked about public anger over such pages at a press conference last week, Police Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said police were trying to identify the anonymous locals who promote such content, which he contended poses a threat to public order and societal harmony. The government is also revising the 1994 religious unity law in order to authorise more effective action, the police chief said.
#banMDN (Maldives Democracy Network) immediately! They can't talk like this. They are clearly going against Quran, Hadith and our very constitution. I suggest authorities to look into this matter ASAP.@ShimranAb @PoliceMv @dr_iyaz pic.twitter.com/rru2QLghru
— Ali Zaid (@alizaid1000) October 2, 2019
If we let this go, it will be a green signal for MDN & their associates to move ahead with their radical plans. They will remove everything Islamic from the curriculum & those who speak against them will be labeled as terrorists. #BanMDN
— Ahmed Azaan (@axanner) October 3, 2019
Sorry @MDN_mv you made that report in 2015, funded by foreign powers. The time to "remove it" has passed. Your agenda to promote secularism as the solution will never succeed – secularism requires freedom to criticise Islam & Islamic values, which we will never allow. #BanMDN
— Creature (@CreatureOfEarth) October 3, 2019
It’s clear that whoever wrote this report at MDN believes that the holy Quran is just an earthly book and that Islam is just another religion. MDN should not be allowed to operate and make recommendations on what we teach to our kids. #BanMDN @ShimranAb @ibusolih @FaisalNasym pic.twitter.com/xbbP9JqEQa
— Hamdhan Shakeel (@HamdhanShakeel) October 3, 2019
— Erazer (@ErazerSecular) October 4, 2019
Allah s.w.t says that he revealed the Qur'an in truth & he further says that at times of hardship even the disbelievers call on to him for Help.@MDN_mv says this shouldn't be taught to our children because it is inaccurate & offensive to Non-Muslims!
— @li (@Alif_mv) October 2, 2019
We must #BanMDN because they want our children to stop following Islam. They want our children to stop loving the Prophet. They want our children to go to the Hellfire.
— Junaid mohamed (@Junaidmohamed9) October 2, 2019
The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) claims that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is a "Takfeerist" and similar to the radicals (extremists) of today.
They also say we must stop teaching Maldivian children to love the Prophet ﷺ more than anyone else and that we must remove such pic.twitter.com/2OYk0u32jD
— Ahmed Haider (@NoToSecularism_) September 30, 2019
— Ummu nooh (@Ummnooh007) October 3, 2019
@MDN_mv Should to be banned and it's leadership should be investigated by @PoliceMv .
Sheikh @ShimranAb It's high time you show your strength and love for Islam and our beloved prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) #BanMDN
— Kappi Bro 🇲🇻 (@KappiBro) October 3, 2019
Hello Minister @ShimranAb.
Why are u silent on this??🤨
— 216, 23, 24, 38 & 39 (@AhmedNasheed001) October 2, 2019
The core of Iman (faith) is true love & compassion for Rasool'Allah (SAW). May Allah enlighten the hearts of those who mock Islam and Prophet Muhammad SAW and guide them to the straight path. https://t.co/SDsiBeervs
— 𝗔𝗵𝗺𝗲𝗱 𝗭𝗶𝘆𝗮𝗱 (@ahmedziyadmv) October 2, 2019
All muslims spread the hash tag. Show them nothing but islam will prevail in maldives and only islam should exist. Stand up o Ummah of Muhammed, stand up and defend you religion.#defendIslam#banMDN#ponder
— إبراهيم بن حسين بن إبراهيم (@millatibrahim0) October 3, 2019
Getting upset when someone insults someone you love is a natural human reaction. It is not an academic issue regarding freedom of speech, it's a personal issue. Under no circumstances does Islam tolerate a personal attack upon the Prophet. #BanMDN
— Adam Miqdhad (@AMiqdhad) October 3, 2019
Oops .. #banMDN
you can try to shove secularism down our throats as much as you want and wield your "terrorism gaanoon" weapon against us as much as you want.
We ain't taking it.. Wallahi we will fight it pic.twitter.com/5Of2BGVA1C
— Ummu nooh (@Ummnooh007) October 4, 2019
We and every Muslim who feels pride in his religion is grieved by what these fools and criminals have done by mocking our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) who is the best man who ever walked on this earth. #BanMDN
— xaixan (@xaixan77) October 1, 2019
— Muhammadh Adhuham (@M_Adhuham) October 3, 2019
MDN would now hopefully know the extent to which we reject their ideology. Maldivians will never allow a religion other than Islam to be practiced here. Do what you wanna do but your dreams for a secular Maldives will never become a reality and that's a fact! #BanMDN
— Mohamed Mifrah 🌴 (@mifuuuuu) October 3, 2019
This is heating up at a worrying pace. Authorities need to listen to the demands of the people. Asses #BanMDN demand and its legal merit, and take quick steps. There will definitely be those seeking to take advantage of the situation. For political and extreme agendas.
— Shiyaz (@ahmdshyaz) October 4, 2019
#BanMDN You can say what ever you like to me. No issue. But I will not tolerate any abuse in any form against,
1. Allah SWT.
2. Rasool SAW.
3. My Mother & Father.
4. My wife, my Children.
5. My family.
6. My Country.
They are sacred. Learn to respect them. @PoliceMv
— Ibrahim Rasheed (@kanduvai) October 4, 2019
Your own Islamophobic rhetoric is what is throwing you into danger. Not the retaliation against it.
What you are causing is leading people away from their Hereafter, which is much worse than anything else some can do to another. #BanMDN
— Mohamed Allam Naeem (@8laam) October 4, 2019
Whoever hears the Prophet being insulted and doesn't feel any protective jealousy or doesn't get angry is not a true believer. How can they be?
We will stand against them and denounce who insult Allaah and His Messenger. #BanMDN
— are you gone MAD🤯 (@AreyougoneMAD1) October 4, 2019
MDN is just a small portion of the Democracy package that was bombarded into our peaceful Maldives. They all come up with beautiful slogans but end up showing their evil agenda's in "paid" reports like the "Preliminary Assessment of Radicalization in the Maldives"#BanMDN
— Jumail (@JumailMohammad) October 5, 2019
— Shafeeu Abdullah (@shafeeu26) October 4, 2019
As a coalition partner of current govt. why are you guys delay to take proper actions base on the Laws and regulation. As a Muslim country people no longer want to see such reports to be spread across the nation to mislead future generations. #BanMDN https://t.co/RMzGQRGW8n
— Abey (@mvablho) October 5, 2019
I don't know why the @presidencymv is ignoring the peoples' call to #BanMDN. People didnt vote for you guys to lambaste the religion. Your friends of the terror network has boldened up with Kuffars help to defend its crimes. If you cant abide by the oath of office then leave.
— Foskalo (@Foskalo1) October 5, 2019
I’m beginning to think #MDN is like the Zionist movement. Just like they infiltrated and installed its members to top posts in different governments of the world, #MDN has infiltrated in to different institutions of the government of Maldives. #BanMDN
— Munajjy (@munajjy) October 4, 2019
Bots, weird graphics, buzz words such as "deep state", we're under attack, people
— 🌈🌈🌈Athoof🌈🌈🌈 (@AthoofRiyaz) October 5, 2019