Mon­ster to Sav­ior

The Mal­dives has faced re­cent in­ter­nal in­sta­bil­ity but this has had lit­tle ef­fect on its tourism in­dus­try. What is the rea­son be­hind this rare tur­moil?

Southasia - - Contents - By Syed Moaz­zam Hashmi

Mal­di­vians never for­get to say “Al’hamd-o-lil’lah (Thanks God) you saved our lives” in rev­er­ence while pass­ing by the mau­soleum of the leg­endary Mus­lim trav­eler, Ibn-e-bat­tuta, in cap­i­tal Male. Leg­end says that the Arab tourist saved the in­hab­i­tants of the Mal­dives from a sea mon­ster in the 2th cen­tury that fre­quently used to claim a vir­gin’s life.

Since then the rulers of the Mal­dives chose to em­brace Is­lam, putting a lid on prac­tice of any other re­li­gion in the for­mer Bud­dhist na­tion, as a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion to pro­tect­ing their daugh­ters from the sea mon­ster. In­flu­ence of the leg­end very much re­flects the faith fac­tor in the con­sti­tu­tion of the Mal­dives, which shows lit­tle or no room for any other faith in the gar­land of 1,192 coral-ringed is­lands in the In­dian Ocean.

At least four ar­ti­cles of the con­sti­tu­tion of the Mal­dives (Ar­ti­cles 2, 9, 10 and 19) di­rectly talk about strict ad­her­ence to Is­lam. Its in­flex­i­bil­ity re­gard­ing other re­li­gions has earned the na­tion the high­est rank in the list of gov­ern­ments that re­strict re­li­gious free­dom. This in­flex­i­bil­ity di­rectly an­tag­o­nizes the Mal­dives with Ar­ti­cle 18 of the Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights and Ar­ti­cle 18 of the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights.

A mob at­tack on the Na­tional Mu­seum in Male and the destruc­tion of price­less Bud­dhist statues on Fe­bru­ary 7, the day Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Nasheed was forced to re­sign be­fore the me­dia, amid protests of the op­po­si­tion and Is­lamist par­ties, have led some an­a­lysts to be­lieve that the change was in­flu­enced by the faith-fac­tor, rather than un­der­ly­ing po­lit­i­cal mo­tives and eco­nomic fac­tors. Nasheed is suc­ceeded by his vice pres­i­dent, Dr. Mo­hamed Wa­heed Has­san Manik, fa­mously known as Baaghee Wa­heed, as the new pres­i­dent of the Mal­dives with the sup­port of a dozen po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

De­spite the destruc­tion of a Bud­dhist mon­u­ment by a mob in 2011,

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