Tagged: radicalisation

The Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling


by H Abdulghafoor

It seemed like a blip in media time.

However, the court ruling to stone a woman to death for adultery issued by a magistrate in the Maldivian island of Gemanafushi in Gaaf Alif Atoll cannot be forgotten simply because it was revoked the same day by the benevolence of the Supreme Court.

Around sunset on Sunday 18 October 2015, the horrific news broke. By midnight the same day, the swift intervention undermining the ruling by the highest court in the land made the shocking news seem like a particularly bad rumour. It is of course, not a bad rumour – it is a very real travesty of justice or what is otherwise referred in social media circles as #MvInjustice. A common concept well understood by the Maldivian public.

The Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling is in fact a social lightning flash that happened inside a political hurricane.

The thunder will take time to rumble into earshot.

Its reverberations will be felt far into the future.

The Maldives has had a history of brutality and savagery within its criminal “justice” system. However, as a member of the United Nations, the country has acceded to the International Bill of Human Rights which gives it a strong veneer of respectability among the family of nations. The Maldives is also party to most of the core UN human rights conventions including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT, since 2004) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, since 1993). The country is also party to the Optional Protocols to both these Conventions. This year, the Maldives celebrates its 50th year as a member of the UN. In fact, the Maldives has performed so well in its engagement with the UN human rights system that the country became a member of the UN Human Rights Council in 2010. It remains a member, having been re-elected in 2014. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs jubilantly embraced the prestige of this membership declaring that

The Maldives stood for the voiceless in the international society; for the issues that affect the very fundamental values of human rights yet, hardly get a mention in global human rights debate; and it stood for helping the vulnerable and emerging democracies to cultivate the values of human rights in their societies.

Evidently, the country’s intentions to advocate for the voiceless and vulnerable are honourable.

The concerned and thoughtful public in the country immediately began to ponder the gravity of the unprecedented development that took place in Gemanafushi. What has this country become? Where are we headed? Stoning is an atrocity that we hear of happening in “other” “backward” and “uncivilised” countries with the greatest disregard to the human rights of citizens. It is something witnessed only on film, told in stories about foreign lands. What kind of judge delivers such a barbaric ruling, to initiate a practice that has never been seen in the Maldives – a country with a people proud of its long 800 year Islamic history, unfailing in their devotion to Islam as a collective? How able is this magistrate to issue such a ruling? How sane is he? Is he in fact, fit for responsible public office? Such questions would roll incessantly in the minds of those who think. The Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling is a seismic shock to the body politic.

The practice of stoning conjures up the kind of barbarism the Hindu cultural practice of Sati or widow burning does, which took place in India historically. Linda Heaphy in her researched article on Sati wrote that

Sati was regarded as a barbaric practice by the Islamic rulers of the Mogul period, and many tried to halt the custom with laws and edicts banning the practice.

The fact that Sati was deemed unacceptable by the Islamic Mughal Emperors of India during the 16th and 17th centuries indicates the rejection of that horrific traditional practice by Muslims of the Asia region, even at that time in history. Sati was finally outlawed in 1827 by the Governor General of India “claiming it had no sound theological basis.”

Stoning is such a practice in Islamic cultural history. It is a disputed and debated topic by Muslim scholars, having no consensus. Although still practised in ultraconservative societies such as Iran, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, it is banned by other Muslim nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Tunisia and Algeria. Stoning is rejected as barbaric and inhuman by progressive thinkers and human rights advocates around the world, including in those countries where it is practised.

The Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling is especially problematic because the Maldives has never considered this practice as a valid form of punishment in its long Islamic history. In that ruling, the punishment was meted out to a mother of five children who allegedly “confessed” to having a child out of wedlock. In the Maldives, the vast majority of adultery convictions and the customary punishment of public flogging are carried out against women. Available data shows that in 85% of cases, women are convicted for adultery as opposed to 15% men. In the Gemanafushi case, the complete absence of any reference to the involvement of a man in the conception of the child is telling, and unsurprising. Adultery allegations are just one area where women experience systemic discrimination.

According to Iranian scholar, Muslim feminist and Musawah advocate Ziba Mir-Hosseini,

Islamic sources of law are explained in many ways that allow for the discrimination of women. We often hear about stoning as punishment for adultery, or practices like female circumcision, but there are also laws that affect a woman’s right to education, employment opportunities, inheritance rights, dress and freedom to consent to a marriage. ….

There are women who might get stoned to death at any time, and we can’t help them right now, even though I know that stoning shouldn’t be part of Islamic law.

The campaign Violence Is Not Our Culture says that in the Islamic Penal Code of Iran, a single judge may rule “to his personal opinion instead of hard evidence” and “most stoning sentences … are issued not on the basis of testimony or confession but on the judge’s “knowledge” or “intuition”. In the Gemanafushi case, it is unclear whether the sentencing was based on the intuition of the magistrate, although a confession is alleged. However, the Supreme Court’s statement nullifying the ruling said that the sentencing was not conducted in line with judicial principles and procedures.

In the patriarchal society of the Maldives, it is evident that interpretations of Islam have been increasingly radicalised, undermining and solidifying ideologies that view women as subordinate to and placed at the service of men. An alarming development that helps to explain what is happening in the Maldives today is captured by the Maldivian Democracy Network’s (MDN) recent analysis of the Islamic curriculum in Maldivian schools.   The study found that the Islam textbook for grades 8 to 12 (13 to 17 year age group) taught that the religious rulings on “unlawful sexual relationships” involved the following :

1 – The man who is married and has consummated his marriage shall be sentenced to death by stoning.

2 – The man who is unmarried shall be lashed 100 times and banished for a year.

3 – The slave’s punishment will be half of that of a freeman, therefore 50 lashes.

Besides endorsing execution by stoning as “Islamic”, the text implies the acceptability of slavery as normative in Islamic culture. The fact that the Maldives has signed international treaties which obligate the State to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the human rights of citizens and categorically reject practices that violate basic human rights – including capital punishment and slavery – do not feature in school textbooks. Instead, the narrative provided to school children in their grade 9 textbook informs them that

there is a propaganda effort by the West to elect adherents of ‘Western ideology’ … to policymaking and governing positions in Islamic communities.

The MDN study highlights the presence of xenophobia and intolerance towards other faith groups within the school textbooks, observing that “even Islamic sects other than Sunni Islam are categorically maligned under this curriculum”.

According to Violence is Not Our Culture, the global campaign to stop violence against women in the name of culture, stoning is not endorsed in the Qur’an.

… there is no mention of stoning in the Quran, and the practice is only implied in the Hadith in the context of the Prophet Muhammad’s dealing with Jewish Law.

In fact, the practice of stoning is considered to have a history in Greek and Jewish culture, among others. It is also considered by some sources to be a pre-Islamic Arab cultural practice. The fact that a practice historically attributed to Judaism is being accepted as “Islamic” is a curious irony in the Maldives context where antisemitism is palpable among conservative segments of the population.

The judicial system in the Maldives has been under great scrutiny and study over the last decade. According to the August 2015 mission report to the Maldives by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), from 2003, the education of judges involved a “part-time one-year certificate course in “Justice Studies””. Further, “many of the sitting judges … had little or no formal legal education.” To address this, many sitting judges are currently undertaking higher education courses, as is the case with the Gemanafushi magistrate who issued the stoning ruling. The appropriately entitled ICJ report “Justice Adrift : Rule of Law and Political Crisis in the Maldives” observed further systemic issues, as described in this extract.

A number of recent criminal proceedings have displayed a pattern of violations of due process and fair trial rights under the ICCPR and the Maldives Constitution. The mission observed that the Maldives has no procedural laws such as a criminal procedure code, evidence code or codes of conduct for judges or prosecutors. The mission noted that the absence of these basic legal frameworks for criminal proceedings have helped enable courts and prosecutors to conduct criminal proceedings in an often arbitrary or biased manner, without regard for internationally recognised procedural safeguards and other fair trial guarantees.

The Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling is an indicator of the convulsions Maldivian society is experiencing in its current fragile state – socially, culturally and politically. It is an indicator of grievous political irresponsibility, the absence of just intentions toward the public good and toward good governance. It is indicative of an approaching tipping point resulting from years of neglect of the education system and curricula. Furthermore, it is the consequence of the unwillingness of key stakeholders to establish a functional justice system based on the provisions of the 2008 Constitution. It is above all a critical indicator of the loss of identity, common values of humanity, connection to community and cultural coherence. The combined effect of intolerance, radicalisation and weak governance produces a toxic social result, which is the lightning flash witnessed in the Gemanafushi Stoning Ruling. It must be rejected wholeheartedly and vocally by the Maldivian public, to reclaim their identity as a peaceful and justice loving people.

The long road from Islam to Islamism: a short history

Maldivian women at an Adhaalath-led rally on 23 December 2011. Photo: Aznym
Maldivian women at an Adhaalath-led rally on 23 December 2011. Photo: Aznym


by Azra Naseem and Mushfique Mohamed

Popular Maldivian history does not go much further back than the 12th Century, when King Dhovemi Kalaminja converted to Islam and ruled that all his subjects must follow suit. Long forgotten or neglected history books, however, tell us that life in the Maldives—or Maladvipa; Dheeva Maari; or Dheeva Mahal as it was known in antiquity—began centuries previously. The ancient Sri Lankan chronicle of The Mahavamsa connects the origins of Maldivian people to the Sinhalese through the story of excommunicated Indian princes from the Kalinga kingdom in the 6th Century. More recent Maldivian research, A New Light into Maldivian History (1958), traces Maldivian life even further back to the 3rd Century. Some historians have theorised that the first settlers in the Maldives could have emerged as soon as Greco-maritime trade began in the region making it very likely that the first Maldivians were “Prakrit speaking Satavahanas of the Deccan, Tamil speaking Chera, Chola, Pandyas of South India, and Prakrit speaking Sinhalese of Sri Lanka.”

Among these early Maldivians who predate the arrival of exiled Indian princes were descendants of the Tivaru people of ancient Tamil origin who later came to be known as ‘Giraavaru people’. They practised an ancient form of Hinduism involving Dravidian ritualistic traditions venerating Surya, the Sun god. The Giraavaru people, although now so totally assimilated into Maldivian society as to be indistinguishable from the rest, maintained a variety of their distinct traditions and culture until as late as the 1980s. It took a concerted, and often inhumane, effort by the government to finally make them conform to the majority’s norm. Successive governments also made sustained and systematic efforts to wipe out all history of the Buddhist community that had long existed in the Maldives until about 900 years ago. Just like the history of the Giraavaru people, however, the digging does not have to be too deep to uncover just how ingrained Buddhist ways and culture had been in Maldivian life for years. While archaeologists like HCP Bell have uncovered Buddhist structures buried underground, ethnologists like Xavier Romero-Frais have traced the origins of much of classical Maldivian cultural, linguistic and traditional traits to the Buddhist era.

The beginning of the end of Maldivian Buddhism came with Arab domination of trade in the Indian Ocean in the 7th Century. Just as the rise of China and India, and the US foreign policy’s Asia Pivot, have made the Maldives geo-strategically important today, so it was with the ancient Silk Route. Foreign powers were drawn to the Maldives by its location and its abundance of cowry shells, the currency of many. The spread of Islam along the Silk Route is well documented. In the Maldives, it is a widely accepted ‘truth’ that the conversion of the Maldives population to Islam was peaceful—people willingly converted with their King. There are, however, historical accounts that dispute the narrative exist in the form of writing on copperplates (Isdū Lōmāfānu) dating back to the 12th Century. These have not been made widely accessible to the public. In their place is a legend, first told orally then formalised as historical fact and included in primary school text books, which depicts Maldivian conversion to Islam as a reaction to the cruel deeds of a sea demon. As the story goes, the demon appeared like a ‘ship of lights’ once a month, demanding virgin girls to be delivered to it at night to a designated location. In the morning the demon would be gone, and the virgin would be found dead. A Berber or Persian, who was visiting Maldives at the time, volunteered to go to the demon in place of the chosen virgin one night. He stayed up all night reciting the Qur’an. When the demon appeared, the sound of the Qur’an gradually diminished it in size until it was small enough to be put into a bottle. The Arab traveller sealed the bottle and disposed of it into the deep blue sea, banishing it forever. A grateful King Kalaminja converted to Islam, and his obedient subjects followed suit. Hundreds of years of Buddhism disappeared, allegedly, without trace. From then on King Kalaminja became Sultan Muhammad Ibn Abdullah and Maldives became 100 percent Muslim.

The first major threat to the new Maldivian way of life came four centuries later, with Portuguese occupation in the 16th Century. Unlike latter colonial powers like the Dutch and the British, the Portuguese occupiers did not allow Maldivians autonomy in their internal affairs. Stories of Portuguese wine-drinking and merry-making abound in Maldivian historical accounts of their presence. One of the most potent weapons used to rally Maldivians behind the efforts to oust the Portuguese was religious rhetoric—the biggest threat from the Portuguese occupation, it was said, was to the Islamic faith of Maldivians. The day on which the Portuguese were defeated is now marked as the National Day, and the chief protagonists in the story of their ouster are venerated as the most heroic of figures in the history of the Maldives.

Religious rhetoric as a means of rallying support for political change, established as a success during the battle against the Portuguese, was once again deployed with similar triumph in the 20th Century. In 1953, while Maldives was still a British Protectorate, Mohamed Amin Didi became the first President of the Maldives. Amin Didi is largely credited with ending monarchy and steering the country towards a Republic. He is also known as a moderniser and an advocate for women’s rights. Amin Didi’s presidency—and the First Republic—lasted less than a year. Just as religious rhetoric was successfully used in ousting the Portuguese, so was similar discourse produced to brutally end Amin Didi’s presidency. Even the famine caused by WWII was tied to religious discourse and blamed on Amin Didi.

The Maldives’ first experiences of ‘Western modernity’ began during the Second Republic, with the arrival of tourists from Europe. The world had just lived through the counter-culture of the 1960s, the Maldives was no longer a British Protectorate, the Second Republic had been established, and Ibrahim Nasir was the President. Unlike its neighbours and contemporaries in other parts of the world, modernity was not enforced on the Maldives by a foreign power—it arrived with tourists and was adopted voluntarily by many locals, especially in the capital Male’ and surrounding areas. The Islam that existed in the Maldives at this time was an amalgamation of Islamic teachings, Buddhist Eveyla traditions and Sufi practises and rituals. Writers and historians such as HCP Bell, Clarence Maloney, Francois Pyrad and Xavier Romero-Frias have provided rare insights into Maldivian Islamic traditions. Many of them have now disappeared, or been made to disappear, as Western modernity and Islamism took hold of and begun to dictate Maldivian life. The total obliteration of Islam as it was practised in the Maldives for centuries began in earnest with the assumption of power by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Maldivians in 2014: WTF are we?


I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market place, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women. – Abubakar Shekau

It took these words by Nigerian ‘theologian’ and leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau—spoken in a video tape released weeks after the group kidnapped over 200 young girls from their school on 14 April—to shock a couldn’t-care-less world into action. After mostly ignoring the news of the girls’ tragic fate for two weeks, Shekau’s words finally galvanised powerful countries into sending their experts to join the lethargic Nigerian government in its search for the girls. And, in what appears to be the most important sign that the 21st Century world is paying attention, the kidnapped girls now have their own hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Shekau’s words appal me and they most likely appal you, but his is not an unusual view in today’s many radicalised societies. Would those outraged by Shekau, for instance, be shocked to learn that such views are more likely than not shared by a substantial percentage, if not the majority, of the Maldivian population of today? Consider the following:

Two days ago, on 11 May, most local news headlines carried the story of a 14-year-old girl who has given birth, for the second time in her short life. The first time she was only 12. The child-mother as well as her two children are currently under the protection of the Gender Ministry, and the accused is under 15-day remand. He is said to be 53 years of age. According to newspaper reports, at the time the child gave birth, the man was being investigated by police for allegations of blackmailing and threatening her. What do Maldivian people think of the event? Following are translations of a large number of comments that appeared below the news published in Dhivehi on four popular online news outlets: Sun.mv Haveeru Online, mvyouth.mv and CNM.mv. As a measure of their popularity—Sun has close to 44,000 Facebook Likes, Haveeru over 48,000, mvyouth.mv more than 26,000 and CNM almost 30,000. The comments appeared from the time of publication of the news on the various outlets on 11 May till 1:00 a.m local time on 13 May 2014.

Sun.mv was the first to publish the news. By 1:00 a.m 13 May, it had gathered 40 comments in total. Several looked for the right authority to blame—parents, the Gender Ministry [which is mandated with child protection], the government, drugs, society at large, etc.? Some made no sense. Only five (12.5 percent) clearly empathised with the girl and was openly supportive of her. In contrast, 16 out of 40 (40 percent) was overtly critical of her, deeming her an adult, a slut or a criminal or all three. Here are the comments:

Do children give birth? A miracle (liked by 233, disliked by 34)

Can you first define what you mean by ‘children’? Are there children who can give birth? (Liked by 104, disliked by 13)

Do children give birth? Hehehe It says children give birth (liked by 107, disliked by 18)

What do you mean [abused by] ‘a person in position of trust’? Who in what position is that? In what capacity did he do it? Need an answer. (Liked by 96, disliked by 3)

Please. Do children give birth! (Liked by 68, disliked by 9)

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha LOL…sss…I am in bits laughing…it says a child has given birth a second time…look you idiots…what you are saying is the same as saying a chick has laid an egg…if a child gives birth it would be the biggest miracle the world would ever see…people who look at science, study science a bit more to understand what a child is…we, however, will not prioritise science in anything, Insha Allah..the reason is that to everything that is said in the right religion revealed by Allah we Muslims say – Sami’una Wa’athauna (have listened and obeyed)…then, na-na-na-na (Liked by 84, disliked by 6)

Can a child give birth? In that case this five year old of mine can also give birth…scary (Liked by 68, disliked by 10)

Whatever she is called [child or adult] she is liable for Hudd [punishments]. It’s not relations, it’s fornication (Liked by 39, disliked by 7)

Children giving birth is a sign of Armageddon (Liked by 25, disliked by 7)

It’s OK to do DNA testing when girls want to save themselves from blame. But, apparently, it’s not OK to do DNA testing when a husband wants to find out whose child his wife is having. A miracle. (Liked by 17, disliked by 5)

These are children even when they begin and end a year by giving birth!!! Let me tell you something, Gender [Ministry]! Even if young, these people who are giving birth know what they are doing is wrong. Fornicate and call it rape!! Rape is done by violently forcing supplication. Rape is what happened on the bus in India! Take that! Arrest that woman and the man and punish them as due, I say. (Liked by 43, disliked by 23)

Pakaas…oh, these goings on…laughing so much my head’s splitting (Disliked by one, Liked by none)

You people, do not go near fornication. It is the dirtiest of sins…repent fast, and fear Allah (Liked by one, disliked by o)

Once a girl has her period, she is an adult according to Islam… (Like by 5, disliked by 0)

Apparently the one who gave birth and the child she gave birth to are both children. Two children. When will they grow up? (No likes, no dislikes)

I think the Maldivian constitution should be amended to change the age of a minor to below 25. Then all children will be having babies…what is this 18 years that’s brought in to decide a child…if things continue like this, by the time someone is old enough to marry, they would have 4 children, won’t they?? (No likes, or dislikes)

Haveeru published the article a short while later, and had a total of 20 comments by 1:00 a.m. on 13 May. 11 of them — 55 percent — regard the girl as being the ‘criminal’/’sinner’ and deem her deserving of punishment.

What this proves is that the female human being gives birth not just over 18 years of age but also at 12 and 14! This reveals that a human being can reach puberty and become an adult even at 12 and 14! (Liked by 120, disliked by 27)

Haveeru should publish a picture of the arrested man. Isn’t that how we’ll know who it is? (Liked by 105, disliked by 5)

This child’s parents, are they neglecting her? (Liked by 87, disliked by 3)

This child needs to be lashed. This has happened a second time because it [lashing] wasn’t done the first time. (liked by 73, disliked by 34)

If she isn’t 18 despite having given birth twice, she must be dealt with as a child as the law says. According to how magistrates in courts interpret the law, they cannot authorise such children under 18 years of age to marry…now there are [people] under 18, carrying three children, begging near the Market area…If courts applied ‘Islamic community principles’ and the main principle of the current Constitution when interpreting law, such matters would not be going from bad to worse…! Note: The chapter on Interpretation in the Maldives Constitution says that its main principle is Prophet Mohammed Sunna and the Holy Qur’an…! If these things are to be confused and convoluted it would bring great tragedy upon the nation. (Liked by 54, disliked by 8)

As long as it remains an illegal act to marry that woman even if she goes on to have 5 children before the age of 18, those people who destroyed Allah’s law and made and implement their own are as sinful as the man who did the deed. (Liked by 108, disliked by 12)

What’s the agenda behind using a certain type of photo? Don’t have the guts to call fornication fornication. Why not? ‘Don’t judge’ is the policy these days. Remember the scenes from ‘Anbaraa‘? Don’t you see reports of how girls are running away from their parents? Don’t you hear about the way girls are itching to marry drug users? (Liked by 133, disliked by 26)

Hasn’t achieved much really. [If she had] given birth one after another, now that would have been an achievement… (Liked by 16, disliked by 1)

Who is to take responsibility for this, Human Rights, Gender Ministry, parents, society, or the child when she is 18. Is it still not time to wake up. Certainly, it is a question to ask that has there been a solution despite the crime being repeated. These things can be solved only by Islamic Shari’a (Liked by 8, disliked by none)

‘the child who has been a victim of repeated sexual abuse’ — Haveeru has not written this news correctly…You must reveal whether this girl became pregnant both times as a result of rape or by fornication. In spreading news and information let us give priority to accuracy… (Liked by 10, disliked by 6)

That’s a joke..!!! 10, 15 days on remand…why arrest…let him stay home 🙂

mvyouth.mv published the news roughly the same time as Haveeru. By 1:00 a.m. on 13 May, there were three comments. Two of the three saw the girl as having done wrong. The third, while identifying the man as a criminal, called for the harshest forms of punishments possible for all criminals. All of them are translated below:

How the headline should be written, A Maldivian woman has fornicated twice by the time she turned 14. Why are you trying to hide the truth. You can’t confuse the truth. Remember that the only people who get confused are those who try to confuse the truth. (Liked by 10 people, disliked by 3)

This has to be stopped even if it is by sealing the place with mercury (Liked by 4, disliked by 0)

It would be a good sentence to pass for the male organ of people who commit such crimes to be cut off. That is — hands of those who steal are cut off, therefore penises of people who fornicate with children must be cut off! That’s the end of that! (Liked by 13, disliked by 3)

CNM.mv a recently established online publication with a rapidly increasing readership led with the headline: “A ‘small’ [“minor”?] Maldivian girl has given birth a second time”. Why was small in inverted commas? Was it the paper’s stance that she is not that small after all, you know, given that she had given birth twice and all that?

22 hours after publication, there were two comments:

Do not believe that a child can give birth…

Very sad news…I call for heavier penalties for child abusers like this.

Such harsh views as expressed by many in the translated comments above would have been unlikely in the Maldivian society of even a decade ago. Unfortunately though, today it is more the norm than shocking. A substantial percentage of the Maldivian population believe that a girl becomes a woman as soon as she hits puberty; that she should then be made to marry so that she can avoid the sin of fornication; that it is possible for a child to consent to sex with an adult; that anyone who has sex outside of marriage whether they are forced to or underage, should be punished with a hundred lashes in public.

A large number of the world population currently expressing their sadness for the plight of the Nigerian girls via hashtags and other such modern means is also likely to be aware of the plight of the 15-year-old Maldivian girl who was condemned to a 100 lashes for fornication. A popular petition did make the rounds after all. Following the international ‘outrage’, her punishment was suspended. For now. But, as can be seen from the commentary translated above, the radicalisation of Maldivian society continues unabated. Meanwhile Maldives remains top of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations. It is only when the Shekaus begin to reign that worldwide virtual ‘outrage’ translates into something even resembling action.