Sunday, February 12, 2012

Maldives falls to Islamists, new President calls for sharia

While the Maldives is known as a four-star resort destination for the well-heeled tourist and honeymooner, it is also a country that has Islam as the official religion but it hides that aspect in order to get the tourist dollars.  Now that the former leader has stepped down (no bloody "Arab Spring" here)there are serious questions as to the intentions of the new government.  Current incidents do not bode well for a future Maldives of a moderate strain.

Two articles are below, the first is from AP/Yahoo Feb 12

 New Maldives leader names conservatives to Cabinet

MALE, Maldives (AP) — The Maldives' new president expanded his Cabinet on Sunday to include religious conservatives who have been demanding the introduction of strict Islamic laws in the Indian Ocean nation that relies on high-end tourism.
Demonstrations over the past year calling for more religiously conservative policies as well as widespread protests over soaring prices had put pressure on the former leader, Mohamed Nasheed. He resigned last week after his order to arrest a senior judge sparked continuous protests. He later said he had been ousted in a coup, leading to a political crisis.
New President Mohammed Waheed Hassan said he was forming acoalition government to help restore stability in the Muslim country ahead of presidential elections due next year. Six members from four political parties were sworn in Sunday as ministers.
They include members of religious conservative Adhaalat, or Justice Party, which wants to see the introduction of Shariah law, and the Progressive Party of the Maldives headed by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former autocratic leader who ruled for 30 years until Nasheed defeated him in the country's first multiparty election in 2008.
The constitution prohibits any religion other than Islam being practiced or preached in the Maldives and specifies that it be governed according to Islamic principles. But authorities have generally been flexible mainly to preserve the country's tourism industry.
Tourism will suffer, as it did in Egypt, especially when things like the story below illustrate.
From Reuters/Yahoo Feb 11 by Amal Jamasinghe
Trouble in paradise: Maldives and Islamic extremism 
MALE — At the Maldives' National Museum, smashed Buddhist statues are testament to the rise of Islamic extremism and Taliban-style intolerance in a country famous as a laid-back holiday destination.
On Tuesday, as protesters backed by mutinous police toppled president Mohamed Nasheed, a handful of men stormed the Chinese-built museum and destroyed its display of priceless artefacts from the nation's pre-Islamic era.
"They have effectively erased all evidence of our Buddhist past," a senior museum official told AFP at the now shuttered building in the capital Male, asking not to be named out of fear for his own safety.
"We lost all our 12th century statues. They were made of coral stone and limestone. They are very brittle and there is no way we can restore them," he explained.
"I wept when I heard that the entire display had gone. We are good Muslims and we treated these statues only as part of our heritage. It is not against Islam to display these exhibits," he said.
Five people have since been arrested after they returned the following day to smash the CCTV cameras, he said.
The authorities have banned photography of the damage, conscious that vandalism of this kind which echoes the 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban is damaging for the nation's image.
The gates of the two-storeyed grey building, which opened in 2010, are padlocked and an unarmed guard keeps watch.
The Maldives, a collection of more than 1,100 coral-fringed islands surrounded by turquoise seas, is known as a "paradise" holiday destination that draws hundreds of thousands of travellers and honeymooners each year.
Visitors' contact with the local population is deliberately kept at bay, however, with most foreigners simply transferring from the main international airport directly to their five-star resorts on outlying islands.
Few have any idea they are visiting a country of 330,000 Muslims with no religious freedom, where women can be flogged for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol is illegal for locals.
Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
Read both articles, there is more

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