Muizzu with Erdogan 2023

By P.K.Balachandran

Colombo, April 5:

The Maldivian parliament has called for trade and tourism sanctions against Israel for its atrocities in Gaza. But President Mohamed Muizzu and his cabinet are yet to respond to the parliament’s call. Given his commitment or rather his election promise to Islamize the Maldives, he might implement the resolution.

The Maldives is the only country in South Asia in which there is a serious demand for taking punitive action against Israel for its brutal war against the Palestinians in Gaza. Even in Islamic Pakistan and Bangladesh, there has been no such demand. Let alone punitive action, even demonstrations in support of the Palestinians have not taken place in these Islamic countries.

Last Monday, the Maldivian parliament passed a resolution seeking a ban on the entry of Israeli passport holders and the import of goods manufactured in Israel in condemnation of Israeli aggression in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

The resolution was proposed by Saud Hussain, Member of Parliament for Villingili, on October 14, 2023. The parliamentary committee that reviewed the resolution presented its report last Monday. The debate that ensued was marked by strong condemnation of the atrocities perpetrated by Israeli forces against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

This legislative action followed a letter sent to President Mohamed Muizzu on 16 November 2023, in which parliament sought the cessation of entry permissions for Israeli passport holders.

This legislative action aligned the Maldives with numerous Arab nations and member states of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which have implemented varying degrees of restrictions on the entry of Israelis.

But President Mohamed Muizzu is yet to react to the resolution, according to A communication from the President’s office on 28 January had indicated that the cabinet’s economic and social councils were reviewing the parliament’s request, the website said.

President Muizzu would have to weigh and consider the economic consequences of losing Israel’s patronage of Maldivian tourist resorts, which are trying to recover from the on-going Indian boycott. But he may agree to implement the sanctions given his commitment to Islamize the Maldives. 

In fact, Islamization has been one of his election promises. In October 2023, even before he assumed office, Muizzu issued a statement in which he said: “The conversion of Maldives to Islam was the most positive historical event that brought about the most positive changes in Maldives.”

“Islam is the true foundation our freedom, noble customs, rich culture and unity of the people. We have remained a 100 percent Muslim country in the long past, which is an example for the whole world. My government will give top priority to Islam.”

Islamic Radicalism  

According to an article in the Indian media outlet Goa Chronicle, Islamic radicalism is firmly rooted in the Maldives. Islamic radical ideologies like Salafism and Wahhabism have not only penetrated the minds of the youth, but 250 Maldivians had travelled to Syria to fight and 432 more attempted to go according to the site.  

In the forefront of Islamic radicalization in the Maldives is Jamiyyath Salaf (JS). In 2019, JS was investigated by the government of Maldives on allegations of supporting and encouraging terrorism in the country. The report of the Presidential Commission Investigating Murders and Enforced Disappearances revealed that an extremist religious organization (referring to JS) was behind the murder of the religious scholar and MP, Dr.Afrasheem Ali.

A closed-door meeting was held by the 241 Committee to discuss taking action against the Jamiyyath Salaf.  The then Speaker Mohamed Nasheed stated that he had received information that the sub-committee formed by the 241 committee had decided that Jamiyyath Salaf is a religious group that encourages and supports terrorism and that the committee should take action against the organization.

In 2019, the Maldivian Parliament sought immediate action against Dr. Mohamed Shaheem and Jamiyyath Salaf and others involved in the murder of Dr. Afrasheem Ali.

Local extremist groups that were flagged in the report included; the local Al-Qaeda branch, local groups affiliated with Islamic State (IS), Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria or al-Qaeda in the Levant), and extremist groups that operated near Masjid al-Furqan.

Jamiyyath Salaf (JS) has been in support of Jihadism in the Syrian Civil War since it began in 2011, the Goa Chronicle said. It has been reportedly inciting Maldivian youth ideologically, financially, and physically to participate in Jihadism and the Syrian Civil War.

On May 30, 2012, JS leader Adam Shameen openly encouraged Muslim youths to go to Syria to wage Jihad. He stated on social media: “Praying for Syrian Muslims is not the only thing you can do. There are Muslims doing other things too. Jihad is also being done in Syria. If you are able, you also go – don’t wait. Different people have different excuses and Allah almighty shall judge according to each person’s situation,” the Goa Chronicle quoted him as saying.

On May 24, 2014, Adam Shameen stated on social media: “May Allah accept the martyrdom of all the Muslims and the Maldivian brothers who died at the hands of the enemies in Shaam (Syria) and elsewhere. May the victory be given to Jihadists.”

During the election campaign in Maldives in October 2023, former President Ibrahim Solih’s campaign team levelled various allegations against the current President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, labelling him as a “Salafi candidate”. Muizzu, however, denied these allegations.

In its allegations against Muizzu, Solih’s group stated that he was a member of the Islamist Adaalath Party from 2010 to 2012. And the Adaalath Party had a cordial relationship with Jamiyyath Salaf.

On September 10, 2014, known Jihadist Arifi was invited to the Maldives by the Adhaalath Party’s Mohammed Shameem Ali Saeed backed by Jamiyyath Salaf. On September 22, 2014, another known Jihadist Nasir Umar was invited to the Maldives by Adhaalath Party, Goa Chronicle stated.

Ties with Turkiye

The Maldives under Muizzu is building ties with Turkiye, one of the leaders of the Islamic world. Muizzu’s visit to Turkiye immediately on becoming President and his avoidance of India, indicated a definitive shift towards the Islamic bloc.

According to the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation (ORF),  Turkiye has emerged as a crucial defence partner of the Maldives. Male has signed a US $37 million agreement with Turkiye to buy several drones which will be patrolling and conducting surveillance of the Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Maldives has stayed out of the India-led Colombo Security Conclave, though its participation in the Dosti Exercise with India indicates that it would like to keep some defence cooperation with India.

Muizzu is keen on strengthening the Maldives’ defence capabilities with other “friendly nations” which includes China, but not India.

The Maldives and China have signed a defence pact under which  Beijing will provide non-lethal weapons, and train the MNDF personnel for free. The docking of the Chinese research vessel/ spy ship, Xiang Yang Hong 03, in the Maldives was against India’s wishes.

The Maldives has agreed to revive the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China and is currently negotiating an FTA with Turkiye to reduce tariffs on fish exports, enhance trade and cooperation, and import staple food like rice, sugar, onion, flour, etc.



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