A coalition of religious NGOs and opposition parties organising a religious protest on December 23 have launched a social media campaign and website, which this morning contained a list objectives including to “fight against all un-Islamic ideas” and to “slaughter anyone against Islam”.
The website, 23December.com, was launched by the President of the Adhaalath Party Imran Abdullah and includes news updates on the protest and religious articles aimed at promoting the event.
The list of slogans published on the site initially included statements such as: “Today’s law is to slaughter anyone against Islam”, and a call to “take the life” of anyone who challenged Islam “regardless of their party affiliation”.
The calls for violence were subsequently removed from the website, but not before the government expressed “deep concern” that “some people are using religion as a tool to call for murder and violence.”
“They are calling for slaughter and murder,” said President Mohamed Nasheesd’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, urging “relevant authorities” to take action.
The organisers of the protest have accused the government of conducting many activities “with the motive of erasing Islam from the country”, claiming that they were “left with no other choice but to protest to protect Islam.”
The coalition claims that 100,000 people will join the December 23 protest “to protect Islam”, and called on “all Maldivians to take part”.
The website includes a list of grievances concerning the government’s religious credentials.
Zuhair meanwhile rejected the accusations and said that the government had no intention of erasing Islam or introducing other religions to the Maldives.
He noted that it was Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) that had introduced the concept of freedom of assembly to the Maldives, and that the government will always “welcome the people to gather and raise their voices on matters that concern them”.
“But I am being informed this particular demonstration has been called for political purposes with a hidden agenda to topple the government,” Zuhair said.
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam told Minivan News that police had received a complaint about the slogan on the website calling for murder. However, he did not comfirm whether police were investigating it.
He did not reveal whether police intended to take any special security measures during the protest.
Protest organisers said today that the slogans were uploaded “by mistake”, and insisted that the protest itself would be non-violent.
“It was a mistake on the technical teams’ side. We will take every [measure] to ensure the security during the protest and I assure that there will be no violence propagated by our side. It will be a peaceful protest,” Minivan News was informed.
Speaking to Minivan News, Former State Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said that the slogan calling for murder was “not good”, adding that “Islam is a religion of peace, not of violence”.
He acknowledged that “There are things I do not agree with when it comes to the government’s religious policies,” however said that he believed the President Nasheed would correct matters if the public called for change.
He noted that he was not playing a lead role in organising the protest, but said he always supported peaceful assembly to voice the concerns of the people. He added that people must only speak of religion based on the Quran and Prophet’s Sunnah.
The Maldives has recently come under increasing international scrutiny following an apparent rise in religious intolerance.
Police investigating a violent attack on a ‘silent protest’ calling for religious tolerance, held at the Artificial Beach to mark Human Rights Day on December 10.
Several monuments gifted to the Maldives by other SAARC countries during the recent summit in Addu have been defaced or stolen on the grounds that they were idolatrous. Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari has condemned the monuments while the opposition has hailed the vandals as “national heroes”.
Protests also erupted last month after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay spoke in parliament calling for the government and the judiciary to issue a moratorium and debate on flogging as a punishment for extra-marital sex.
“This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country,” Pillay said.
“The issue needs to be examined, and therefore I called for a countrywide discussion. It is much better if the issue is transparent and debated.”
Pillay also stated that requirement under the Maldivian constitution that all Maldivians be Muslim ”is discriminatory, and does not comply with international standards. I would urge a debate again on the issue to open up entrance of the constitution to all.”
The following day protesters gathered outside the UN building, carrying placards stating “Islam is not a toy”, “Ban UN” and “Flog Pillay”, and called on authorities to arrest the UN High Commissioner.