Category: Religion

Modern Maldives and the necessary virtue of homophobia

Azra Naseem

Homosexuality is spreading across the Maldives like a plague. This lewd, dirty and haram behaviour, which defies belief and defiles humanity, is being promoted to young Maldivian minds, especially children and adolescents through the online platforms which the young use with such enthusiasm today. It is part of a deep dark propaganda, pre-planned long-term, disseminated under the labels of ‘human rights’ and ‘civil rights’ that seeks to spread this filthy ideology across the entire world. It is a way of thinking that accepts abnormal ideas, such as same sex relations and gender transition, as normal and reasonable. 

The threat from messages shared across the Internet with young Maldivians are making them homosexual. A nationwide battle—with parents, teachers, schools, government and of course religious clerics and law enforcement, on the frontlines—is required to police the awakening of sexual feelings for people of the same sex among the young people. Everybody must be vigilant for homosexual tendencies within their communities, and every citizen must take on the role of being the guardian of the other’s sexual orientation and experiences. 

I didn’t make that stuff up. The Religious Council of the Adhaalath Party did. The Home Minister, Imran Abdulla, is the  leader of Adhaalath. This is a party which has no electoral representation but has won political power through top jobs in the coalition government awarded to them for entirely political reasons. 

Adhaalath views are, of course, Imran’s views. It was always on the cards that as Home Minister in the coalition government, he would push the Adhaalath agenda. Imran came under criticism from his clerical tribe for not taking tougher action against gays, so he confirmed his commitment to the homophobic cause by issuing a statement that promised to crackdown on any lurid behaviour. 

To prevent the wrath of Allah, and for the general well-being and security of the community, such acts must be absolutely forbidden, so the clerics keep shouting from every available platform.

Thing is, homosexuality is already very much forbidden in the Maldives. The penal code prohibits sexual intercourse between same sex couples and prohibits same sex marriage. The Qur’an itself does not specify a punishment for homosexuality but The Maldives Penal Code does: up to eight years in prison, lashings and/or fines. According to the Penal Code, whenever the Quran is silent on a specific punishment, what the Penal Code says will apply. 

As the country’s laws show, tolerance of homosexuality is nowhere on the agenda. The Maldives is already one of the worst places in the world to be gay in this century, but the punishment is insufficiently spectacular or brutal to satisfy the homophobia of Maldivian clerics and religious leaders.

So this is what they say should happen:

Under the circumstances, we call upon relevant authorities to identify those who commit such filthy acts, those who are involved in the commission of such acts, those who spread such acts amongst the people, and to judge them under Islamic Sharia and to punish the guilty according to Sharia. Additionally, we call upon the relevant authorities to identify those who engage in human trafficking and to also punish them according to the just punishments specified in Islam. We also advice all citizens to fear Allah and to distance themselves from such filthy and lurid acts.

Homophobia as a campaign platform

Maldivian Islamists really fancy a spot in the upcoming Presidential election of 2023. Homophobia has presented them with the perfect platform. 

The Maldivian population, of course, has its share of same sex couples and other sexual minorties. Unlike countries where ‘western notions’ of civil and human rights have taken hold and States are finally opting to stay out of people’s sex lives, Maldivian political and religious leaders are very firmly ensconced in Dhivehi bedrooms, strictly regulating whom consenting adults can have sex with. 

The clerics have carved themselves an especially comfortable space among bedroom furniture in the last decade. Dressed to perform with swishing robes and long beards and prayer-scarred foreheads, they have been relentlessly dispensing marriage and sex advice to the Maldivian public—how many of his four wives must a man pleasure in one night, and how often; how should a girl’s clitoris be trimmed for optimal male sexual pleasure; how many times a man can be reasonably expected to tolerate a wife’s No to his sexual needs before he can justifiably hit her; what sexual position does the Sunnah say best satisfies the husband, etc etc—through every Internet platform available to them. And their followers have lapped it all up, every Like, every Thumbs Up, every Fist Bump validating clerical power over Maldivian sex lives and the power of Islamist patriarchy. 

Given the position which the coalition government, and the public, have willingly handed over to the clerics in deciding what Maldivians do in private, it is not surprising that Islamists are almost fighting each other over who can be more homophobic. 

The Islamists probably did not have a hand in setting up the ‘honey trap’ for several politically prominent gays in which they have been secretly recorded having sexual relations with a foreign male sex worker. But, the footage, which was leaked on social media over the past few weeks, has given Maldivian clerics the airtime and the column inches they so desperately needed to become an indispensable player in the coming elections. 

Vote for me, I hate Gays

Ali Rameez, a SILF for many, has already tested the presidential waters. The Sheikh on a Bike has always been quite the narcissist (the last time I criticised him, he and his tribe accused me of mocking Prophet Muhammad). 

“So many people want me to become president”, he gushed to a reporter recently. Nobody has publicly admitted to asking any such thing of him; but, they would be sorry to know, Rameez presumptuously continued, he has not yet decided to run. 

He was simply doing his duty as a good Muslim touring the islands during Eid to rain some homophobia on everyone’s parade. 

Gays, he said, cannot be allowed to set foot on a Maldivian island. They must be turned away, shamed, hated, ostracised and punished. Welcoming them to your islands, he said to his followers, is welcoming sin itself. His holiness could not contain his disappointment with people of an island who had welcomed an alleged lesbian on their shores.

Should they have thrown the harlot to sea? He left that part for between the lines.

Wish as you may, Ali Rameez is not an aberration, he is the norm. He has been the most successful catch of the early Salafi recruitment drive in the Maldives. He dropped his love-mic, rocked the Da’wah, and has ever since dedicated his entire post-popstar life to spreading the Salafi word. 

Ali Rameez no longer sings to please the female heart and no longer earns his money serenading the female body. He now only sings to praise God and if he speaks of the female body today it is as its male owner. He speaks as a man who considers a girl to be a woman once she reaches puberty, as one who can rightly marry four of them, as a man who can have sex with them as their husband even if they don’t want it. He now only speaks of woman as someone with whom he can do as he pleases because he is male, and therefore, superior. 

Ali Rameez will not allow a society in which two consenting adults have sex outside of marriage but wholeheartedly supports one in which sex with a girl child is fine as long as the man marries the child first. 

If anyone is putting filth into the minds of young Maldivian children it is not the deeply closeted Maldivian sexual minorities but the so-called ‘scholars’ who want Maldivians to embrace an intolerant, aggressive and punitive Islam in which society is not only forbidden from any acts not allowed in the first three centuries of Islam, it must also embrace the barbaric punishments of those ancient times.

Watch as the network that Salaf and Adhaalath actors have in mind kick into action and they declare a Gay Hunt across society, spreading fear, inciting hatred, and imposing brutal punishments on Maldivian minorities that all citizens must enjoy and applaud to prove their own virtue and Muslimness.

Don’t be surprised if society goes along with it. Ali Rameez is probably right. Most Maldivians today would love him to be president.

Maldives wants the pink dollar but hates gays

Azra Naseem

The multi-billion-dollar Maldivian tourism industry courts the global pink dollar and arranges symbolic same sex wedding ceremonies on its turquoise blue waters and beautiful sandy beaches. But, Maldivian society hates gays, and doesn’t want them to exist. There is no room in the Maldives for its homosexuals, and anyone on any arch of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow. They are to be exposed, thrown to a well-mobilised religious mob, walked through the streets of Male’ naked, lynched, then hung in the Republic Square for everyone to see, while they all chant ‘Allah Akbar’ before decapitating them. This is the ideal scenario. One Friday after prayers would be a good time. Or must they be thrown from one of the newly built high-rises, so they experience what the ISIS claimed as the most Islamic punishment for homosexuals?

Gay Maldivians exist. They always have. And they always will. As long as Maldivians exist. As ‘100 percent Muslim’ as every citizen must be, and as uniquely Dhivehi as they may be, they are also human. Officially being gay has been forbidden ever since recorded history began but unofficially homosexuality has, of course, existed on these isolated island communities as it does in the rest of the world. Muslim Maldives never openly tolerated “deviant” sex, but nor was it openly discussed or made the centrepiece in political and social affairs. Gay relationships happened between those who wanted it to happen, often between men who were married to women and bore children with them. Nobody spoke about it not only because it is illegal but also because learning of such a double life would hurt people around them, not just their wives and children but also the extended family. 

Only a few Maldivians through history have dared to be openly gay. Until quite recently society opted to treat the most camp among gay Maldivians as “weird”, mentally imbalanced, or the village eccentric. They were laughed at for being too effeminate or too manly, and ridiculed for the difference in their mannerisms to the ‘normal’ man or woman. Hanee, for example, was an excellent, popular and celebrated tailor, and was openly trans in the Maldives of the 1990s. As society grew more intolerant, Hanee’s troubles multiplied until their previously well-ordered self-sufficient life became unliveable, and they were jailed for crimes not directly related to gender and sexuality. I cannot imagine life would have been easy for any gay Maldivian in any time in history, as children laughed and adults sniggered or worse. But compared to how today’s society treats Maldivian homosexuals and any other sexual minority, the cruelty that gays of previous generations suffered seems less visceral, less driven by unadulterated hatred. 

The first violent attack on a gay man in recent history occurred in 2011, when Hilath Rasheed was almost decapitated outside his home. Hilath was a former journalist who was ‘too open’ about being gay. The attacker was never punished. Hilath was successfully hounded out of the Maldives, just escaping with his life. Religious conservatives have promoted homophobia openly and unabatedly ever since. Recently Eman was run out of society for dressing as a man. Having sought refuge in Australia they are now undergoing gender transition. Before that Medula Oblongata became a drag queen in New Zealand after he was run out of the Maldives for being queer. Despite the thousands of miles between these Maldivians and their home country, they still get harassed online, the calls to have them brought home and be punished grow louder with each wave of homophobia.

Gay Maldivians who have to remain in the country, meanwhile, are forced to lead a double life. Most remain silent, but many are also on social media, being homophobic themselves, or being bashed for promoting gay rights. Dhiyares newspaper recently hounded a young man out of the country for his Tweets which it found to be too gay friendly and offensive to Islam. The 23-year-old was using a fake name. Not only did the newspaper find out his true identity under what it calls investigative journalism, it also ‘exposed’ him as gay. The paper is now trying to point out who is to blame for letting the man get away safely. How dare a homosexual escape with their lives intact after such transgression? That cannot be. 

Maldivians want the spectacle of death to the sinner, a la Shari’a. They are baying for punishment. Arrest the dirty gays. Arrest the apostates. Arrest the yogis and the dancers and the lovers. Arrest those who are laughing too loud; arrest those who wish their mothers well on a particular day; arrest those who think. Maldivian society is no longer satisfied extending even the lowest possible level of compassion, that of mere tolerance, to its homosexuals and other sexual minorities. Instead, it lays traps for them, deliberately entices them into what is considered sinful behaviour and waits for them to fall. When they do, it is the religious duty of every ‘justifiably and suitably angry’ Maldivian Muslim to see these ‘dirty’ mududhaaru sinners punished. Society must see and enjoy their pain, in their death is the satisfaction of the righteous living.

Mind you, this is the same society which believes firmly in afterlife and Judgement Day. Aren’t they usurping the very powers they have vested in God alone?

Downward facing dogs, and yogis

Angry mob of religious conservatives who deem Yoga to be anti-Islam storm event to mark International Yoga Day 2022 in Male’, Maldives

Azra Naseem

Back to the topic of Maldives and religion. It’s hard to get away from the subject. That’s the point. Religion, and the most conservative interpretation of it, must take centre-stage in Maldivian society. Everything must be about religion, and nothing else. Whenever Maldivian religious leaders get the opportunity—or more precisely, creates the opportunity—to interpret and decide a religious issue, they opt for the most conservative understanding possible. Yesterday’s attack on yogis celebrating the 2022 International Day of Yoga, and the thought-leaders who incited hate and violence against them, is only the most recent example of this consistent pattern of behaviour. 

The debate over whether Yoga is a religion or not is not new, and not restricted to within Maldives or within Islam. Conservative Christians and Islamists have both jumped on the bandwagon to prevent their followers from practising yoga which they believe is another religion. At the same time, less conservative interpretations of both religions have ruled that yoga is not a religion if practised only as a form of exercise for the body and mind. This is what logic and reason tells us. If someone does yoga only for its well-established health benefits, that yogi is not worshipping a god. But this understanding calls for reason, and contemporary Maldivian clerics see reason itself as an enemy. Their goal is to turn people away from reason, let the clerics judge on everyone’s behalf what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral, what is haram and what is allowed.

That choosing the most conservative interpretation available on any issue is the choice of Maldivian religious leaders is evident from the rulings the Fatwa Council has made on various issues. On the subject of having female judges, for example, the Council says there are interpretations available in Islam that see no problem with women sitting in judgement of others. Nevertheless, it says, the Maldivian Fatwa Council decided on the interpretation which forbids women from being judges. It was the same with the issue of whether Islam requires women to veil themselves or not. Interpretations are, of course, available where women are not required to do so. Nevertheless, said the Fatwa Council, we prefer the interpretation which says women are only allowed to show their faces in extreme conditions. So either most Maldivian women are living in what is seen as extreme conditions [that being the non-Sharia environment, perhaps] or they are living in sin. Things weren’t much different on the question of whether or not to allow DNA testing to prove paternity. While it can be allowed in Islam, the Dhivehi Fatwa Council chose to forbid it. 

In all controversial issues where the government and the religious establishment have locked horns, the government has always backed down. Not only retreated but fully surrendered. The religious establishment does not want it to be known who killed Afrasheem Ali, the relatively less conservative religious scholar who disagreed with them. Religious leaders and their financiers do not want it known who killed Ahmed Rilwan or who killed Yameen Rasheed, two writers critical of ultra-conservative Islam. They do not want it to be known who was behind the bomb attack on 6 May 2021 which almost killed former President Mohamed Nasheed. And so it is that none of us have been allowed to know who planned and funded those violent actions to kill others.

The current political environment allows ultra-conservatives the upper-hand over people’s hearts and minds and their consciences. Although some important rulings by the Fatwa Council has been largely ignored—most women, while having adopted the headscarf as normal in the past decade, remain unveiled; two women are on the Supreme Court bench—this type of ‘liberal’ behaviour is unlikely to be allowed for long, given the consistent and largely successful efforts to get the public behind conservative thinking, and the continuous pressure on the government to adopt more Islamist approaches to all its policymaking. 

The approaching presidential elections has only raised the stakes. Conservative religious rulers are aiming to create an environment in which their support is essential for any presidential candidate to win the election. So far, we know that Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wants to contest, as leader of the current coalition. We also know that Mohamed Nasheed is contesting. Both represent MDP, meaning that an MDP primary will pitch Nasheed and Solih against each other. A third candidate from within MDP is more than a mere possibility. While MDP tears itself apart over different candidates, former president Abdulla Yameen is fresh out of jail on a technicality and hell-bent on returning to power. He is no religious conservative but, just like the current government and MDP at large, he is happy enough to use religion to divide and conquer if it means winning the election. As will be anyone else who decides to run for the top job. 

Maldivian society should prepare for an ever-increasing list of what is haram. Whatever people decide to do to calm themselves before the next storm, don’t take any deep breaths. That’s too yogi-like to be truly Muslim.