Tagged: Salafi Jihadism

Maldives tries to kill ex-President for not being Muslim enough

A message posted on FB by a group calling itself the Extreme Cartilages an hour before the attack on former President Mohamed Nasheed

by Azra Naseem

Former President Mohamed Nasheed who has dedicated his life to the struggle for democracy in the Maldives; who was imprisoned, tortured and kept in solitary confinement for using his voice to express the distress of the voiceless; who has promised to expose the people in power that stole hundreds of millions from us; who is valued voice in the global fight for climate action and climate justice; a father, son, brother, relative, friend, human being– Mohamed Nasheed of Kenereege, one of the most influential figures to have emerged in modern Maldivian history, reduced to nothing but ‘a piece of shit’.

Someone tried to blow him to pieces last Thursday evening in Male’, because Nasheed is not Muslim enough.

Other motives have been considered, such as Nasheed’s determination to expose the MMPRC scandal. There is almost always a convergence of politics and religion in the Maldives. Because state and religion are so interwoven, it’s hard to know where the perimeters of one ends and where the other begins. But, in the end, it’s the dehumanisation allowed by militant Salafi discourse against non-Muslims that makes these killings, and the impunity that surrounds them, possible.

Maldives today (for Maldivians) is a place where violent death awaits those who openly disagree with the religious establishment that dominates society. A powerful IED, sophisticatedly put together, was exploded right beside Nasheed as he walked to his car parked a short distance from his house. The culprit was waiting for him with a remote control device, ready to detonate the explosive hidden under a motorcycle parked between Nasheed’s home and his car. He sustained serious injuries. After an entire night in the operation theatre and multiple surgeries later, he is now recovering in hospital.

This attack should have surprised no one. It is the culmination of a long, nationwide campaign of vicious hatred against Nasheed based on Islam. It dates back to the collapse of the first coalition government in 2008, and the subsequent political power struggles. Adhaalath Party which, having wrangled an Islamic Ministry out of MDP as part of their demands for staying in government, reneged on the deal in 2011 citing Nasheed’s reluctance to follow their religious advice as the main reason. Nasheed is not Muslim enough to be the leader of the Maldives, was their message. All Nasheed’s political rivals fell on Adhaalath’s accusations of anti-Islamic behaviour from Nasheed like birds of prey on the carcass of a lion. The media, most privately owned by political rivals, declared open season on him and his alleged non-Islamic behaviour. Every action was poured over, scrutinised for its anti-Islamic implications not visible to the naked eye, and labelled as Laa-Dheenee.

This word–Laa Dheenee–a neologism created specifically by religious leaders to variously mean Irreligious, Anti-Religious, or Anti-Islam, is the most pejorative label that can be applied to a person in contemporary Maldives. Nasheed and Laa-Dheenee became woven together in millions of sentences said by politicians, journalists, and Salafi clerics every day throughout the day on different platforms on mainstream and social media.

A recent effort to explain what LaaDheenee means by a supporter of death for Laa-Dheenee people

This project for making Nasheed into a “Muslim-hating Jew”, a Jesuit, a Christian Missionary, An EU Spokesperson for Gay Rights in the Maldives, an anti-Muslim crusader on a mission to annihilate Islam from the Maldives–or any of the other covert irreligious motives assigned to him–was strategically and enthusiastically pursued for years jointly by political rivals and religious leaders led by the Adhaalath, Salaf Jamiyyaa and other such groups. People who knew better, like Dr Hasan Saeed–who co-authored books such as Freedom of religion, Apostasy and Islam —joined in the free-for-all against Nasheed, publishing material such as President Nasheed’s Cunning Plans to Destroy the Islamic Faith of Maldivians, a 30-page booklet alleging that the Nasheed administration harboured an overarching anti-Islamic agenda that underpinned all governmental actions and policies. These political/religious leaders took to every available podium to denounce Nasheed as La-Dheenee.

It’s not personal. I am devoting so much time to Nasheed because the Qur’an says the ignorant should be made aware […] Nasheed is an enemy of Islam. He is an agent  trained, briefed and sent here by people who want to destroy Islam and our nation.

Imran Abdulla of Adhaalath Party, now Minister of Home Affairs, at a rally in 2013.

It is clear from the words of Nasheed that he is not a Muslim

– Sheikh Fazloon, December 2020

The campaigns, which still continues, incited so much hatred against the former president that it persuaded a large portion of the population that he was a clear and imminent danger to the survival of their faith and should be removed from office. Not only did these people strip him of the presidency, they also dehumanised him as much as possible. Reduced him into nothing but a non-Muslim. In other words, according to Maldivian jihadists, a piece of shit. Whose life is worth nothing.

The bombing of Nasheed is the result.

That’s how it goes, the story of every person labelled Laa-Dheenee and singled out as anti-Islamic by Salafi/political leaders. We are all legitimate targets.

A culture of hate

Mushfiq recently wrote about the impunity with which violent criminals can act in the Maldives, especially Salafi Jihadists. The DDCom report says the Commission examined Afrasheem’s death as possible to have been committed by either political rivals or religious rivals. Ultimately the Commission was satisfied Afrasheem was killed by Jihadis. Afrasheem believed differently to the Salafi, and he had to go. DDCom found Al Qaeda Cells to have been behind the abduction and murder of Ahmed Rilwan and the murder of Yameen Rasheed. The three men were labelled LaaDheenee and singled out for harassment, abuse and finally murder. They were ‘pieces of shit’ that, according to this sadly widespread ideology in our society, needed to be killed.

After so many murders and attempted murders, and after talking to several people whose lives have been made impossible in the Maldives by Salafi activists–violent and non-violent–it is possible to see a certain process at work. First, Salafi influencers, like former pop-star Ali Rameez, single out people who are not Muslim enough. Then someone like @SiruArts, an ‘artist’ whose oeuvre is a ‘portrait’ collection of should-be Jihadi targets, starts disseminating infographics with pictures of Laa-Dheenee Maldivians who should be hated for the sake of Islam because because they have been deemed not Muslim-enough, anti-Islamic, or an Apostate. Their followers everywhere then begin adding to the graphics, or making their own, until hundreds of posters commanding the public, as Muslims, to hate the figures so singled out.

Here is an example of a typical hate campaign in the name of religion, at the beginning stages:

Had this particular campaign not been interrupted by the attempted murder of Nasheed, this campaign against Sabra Noordeen, senior policy official at the President’s Office, and Aminath Shauna, the newly appointed Minister of Environment, would have taken on a momentum of its own at this stage. By now they would have been publicly maligned, their characters assassinated, their looks scrutinised, their children and family brought into the mud-slinging, their private pictures leaked to the media, and every possible means of social humiliation, often gender-based, would have been brought to play against them.

These women, and other outspoken women like them, have always been targets. Simply for being women, for having influence, for speaking out, and for not being submissive. Enough to be Laa-Dheenee in some books. The new campaign against them was meant to escalate the abuse, to get them to be the focus of the hate that Salafi influencers can command nationwide almost at will, in the name of Allah. The Laa-Dheenee label, which has already been applied to them quite successfully, would have been amplified with hashtags and Facebook posts, Telegram posts and Viber group chats.

Had it run its full course, the campaign would then have gone ‘viral’ as believers take up the mantle of hate in various islands and atolls of the country. The two women would soon have ceased to be human, becoming only LaaDheenee beings. The formal and informal networks of religious clerics across the country would at this stage have whipped up such performative outrage against them that, in the end, they would be faced with a simple choice: leave the country, or be killed.

Below is an example of how the ‘artwork’ of these pious believers progress once a campaign of hatred is launched.

Jihadi ‘artwork’ against Hindha Ismail of MDN, hounded out of the country for being Laa-Dheenee, shows the type of content produced by Maldivians who agree Maldives is only for a certain type of citizen

This kind of ‘artwork’ and other such publications focusing on Nasheed has been produced in their thousands and distributed across all media platforms in the Maldives and on the Internet for a decade now, with no consequences for any of the ‘artists’. It is simply accepted as a given today that speaking against the repressive control of society in the name pf religion would–and should–get you killed.

What happened to Nasheed, to Afrasheem, to Hilath, to Rilwan and to Yameen will happen again. Because nothing happens to the killers.

The failure is not just that of the law enforcement officers who are blaming the public for not having foiled the plot. It is also the fault of those in society who agree that unless you are confirmed as a good Muslim (by the Salafi establishment), you are a worthless piece of shit that cannot be allowed to exist in contemporary Maldives.

See how they gloat.

To be, or to conform, that is the question

by Azra Naseem

On International Human Rights Day 2011, a group of young Maldivians met in Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu, Male’, to silently protest their lack of religious freedom. A similar protest had been held on the same day in 2010. Article 9 of the Maldivian constitution requires that all citizens be Muslims; and the State imposes an ever-increasing litany of punishments on those seen as falling short. Should the State fail in its ‘religious duty’ to punish such transgressors–as the aftermath of the small yet impactful protest revealed–Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists are ready, swords drawn, eager for their internal domestic Jihad: to maintain the ‘100 percent Muslim country’ status of the Maldives. 

The 2011 silent protest marked the first physical altercation between Salafi activists and secular-minded Maldivians. On that December afternoon, Ismail Abdulraheem Adam, a Salafi Jihadist who would later be deported from Turkey while attempting to enter Syria, was among many such warriors who followed the protestors to Lonuziyaaraiy Kolhu. Abdulraheem hit Hilath Rasheed, a journalist and prominent blogger, on the head with a rock, cutting him.

It was the first in what would become many violent attacks on anyone in the Maldives insisting on advocating for rights not recognised by, or contrary to, Salafi beliefs, practices and teachings. Since then, two people linked to the protest have been murdered, another barely survived an attempted decapitation, and almost all the others who participated have been threatened, harassed, have no choice but to live in fear, or have had to flee the country. The attack on the protestors also set the tone for all future investigations into crimes committed by Salafi Jihadists and their non-/less-violent brothers: nobody will be punished; not even in the face of overwhelming evidence to convict.

Police knew who attacked who and why on 10 December 2011. They arrested no one.

Five months later, on 10 May 2012, Abdulraheem, acting with two fellow Jihadists, attacked Hilath again. “Repent, repent! We don’t know, the public doesn’t know, you have repented!”, they shouted, hitting him around the head, surrounding him with motorcycles.

Only weeks later, on the evening of 4 June 2012, they returned to slit his throat. Three Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists, waited for him to return home from work late at night, cut his throat with a Stanley knife, and left him to die outside his home. 

Hilath lived to tell the tale; but no one listened, really.


Allowed to get away with murder, the Jihadists widened their campaign to rid Maldives of any citizens that dared contradict their manhaj, or disagreed with their teachings. They found their next prey within a few short months.

MP Afrasheem Ali was a politician with a doctorate in Usul al-Fiqh from the Islamic University of Malaysia noted as a rising star in conservative politics. For several years after he returned from Malaysia in 2007, Maldivian Dheenee I’lmverin–dominated by Adhaalath Party and other Salafi influencers such as Jamiyyath Salaf–ostracised Dr Afrasheem for “contradicting the manual of the Salaf al Salahin”, for suggesting music may be as pleasing to the ear as the sound of Qur’an, for not using the appropriate language to address the Prophet Muhammad, and among other things, for saying beards are not necessary for men. Basically, for not aligning his thinking with Salafi thinking. Afrasheem was banned from expressing his opinions and forbidden from leading prayers unless he repented. Endorsed by Adhaalath and other Salafi leaders, followers harassed Afrasheem online and on the streets, sometimes violently, once in a mosque in the presence of his young son. His religious opinions—which included endorsement of practices dominant Salafi clerics rejected as bid’a—were deemed unfit for the Modern Maldivian Muslim. A definition that must be approved by Salafi leaders to be accepted as true.

In the early hours of 2 October 2012, Afrasheem returned to his apartment on the south-eastern waterfront of Male’ after appearing in a late-night show, Islamee Dhiri-ulhun, on state television. He parked his car, entered his apartment building, and was walking up the stairs to his flat when three Jihadists attacked him on the stairwell. He had finally given into the immense pressure on him to conform or else; and agreed to appear on public television to repent. The station, channel and programme on which he should do so was decided by those demanding this public spectacle of him. Adhaalath Party held a special screening in their headquarters to gauge his performance. The killers knew exactly where he would be and when that evening. Afrasheem tried to explain his aqida on TV that night; and he apologised–for expressing his own opinion. However well-informed, considered or well-intentioned it was, it was not valid for it contradicted The Most Learned Men of Salaf Jamiyya, Adhaalath and other such groupings.

Despite the apology, Afrasheem was unable to save himself. They still cut his throat.

When the news of his murder reached the leader of Salaf Jamiyya, he responded: “It was an atrocity in Islam to kill Afrasheem after he had admitted to his sins and after he repented last night”. Without repentance, he had been fair game.   

Afrasheem has now been dead almost 10 years. It is now known Dhivehi Salafi Jihadists, operating domestically as one among several Al-Qaeda cells, were behind the planning and the execution of Afrasheem. They have not been prosecuted.

The dust may seem to have settled on the murder of Afrasheem’s death with no consequence for those who laid the plans and paid for it. Society, on the other hand, paid a heavy price. No religious scholarly longer dares publicly challenge the Salafi doctrine in the Maldives.


In July 2014 Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi of the ISIS declared an Islamic Caliphate from Iraq, further emboldening Maldivian Salafi Jihadists, both as foreign fighters and as local warriors on a holy mission to cleanse Maldives of the secular and the shirk. Less than a month later, in the early hours of the morning of 8 August 2014, Jihadists kidnapped Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist and blogger. At the time he was covering the activities of Maldivan Jihadists flocking to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as a journalist for Maldives Independent. One Dhivehi Jihadist in Syria accused Rilwan of not being a proper Muslim and issued a warning that his days were numbered.

Just as the earlier Jihadists waited outside the homes of Hilath and Afrasheem with their sharpened blades hidden in the darkness of the night, they waited for Rilwan outside his home in the early hours of the morning. Instead of decapitation on the spot—the apparent goal behind both previous attacks—they kidnapped Rilwan, bundled him into the boot of a red car, forced him onto a boat, took him out into the open ocean, and made him recite the Shahadha. Then they decapitated him. 

Rilwan’s family only learned of his fate in 2019, years after the Jihadists abducted him. They are still campaigning for justice. In vain.


On this day four years ago, Salafi Jihadists picked their next target: Yameen Rasheed, 29, a blogger and writer who not only disagreed with the Salafi vision for the Maldives but also often satirised various aspects of it online. Yameen and Rilwan shared more than an ideological kinship; they were also bound by strong ties of friendship. After Rilwan’s forced disappearance in 2014, Yameen dedicated much of his energy towards campaigning with Rilwan’s family for justice. In vain.

On 23 April 2017, Yameen returned home from work in the early hours of the morning. The Jihadists were waiting for him in the darkness of the stairwell inside Yameen’s apartment building. They stabbed him 34 times in a frenzied attack. His cries for mercy fell on deaf ears. The young writer died in hospital later that morning. Yameen’s family now dedicates much of their energy to campaigning with Rilwan’s family for justice. In vain.

Salafi Jihadists are allowed to kill non-conforming Maldivian citizens with impunity. 

A Maldivian citizen that openly criticises Salafi beliefs, teachings and practices—does not matter whether you are a pious Muslim; a scholar of Islam; a ‘moderate Muslim’; a relaxed one; a lapsed one; an apostate or an atheist—can be, has been, and will be killed. And the Jihadists who kill them will remain unpunished. The reason is simple: the government and most of contemporary Maldivian society accepts death—or at the very least expulsion from society—as a suitable form of punishment for citizens identified as insufficiently Muslim, anti-Islam, or Enemies of Islam. ‘LaaDheenee’ people, marked as such by Salafi influencers according to their own criteria, are made into figures of public hatred to such an extent that Jihadists feel they must kill them to rid their society of Kuffars, and the public feels convinced the killing was for the ‘greater good’ of the ‘100 percent Muslim’ country.

That is why the courts of law in the democratic republic of Maldives are failing to deliver justice in these killings. According to the religious ideology that dominates the entire government and state apparatus, and most of society, true justice has already been done. By killing these men.