President Mohamed Nasheed has defended Islam and Maldivian culture and traditions, ahead of an opposition-backed religious protest on 23 December that has called for the “slaughter” of “anyone against Islam.”
During his weekly radio address on Friday, President Nasheed said that “in the name of protecting Islam, the real call of these religious protestors is to initiate the implementation of Islamic penalties such as stoning, amputations and execution in the Maldives.”
Speaking at a rally held on Saturday evening, the President also defended traditional cultural practices such as playing and listening to music. He also defended the role of women in society, noting that “women have been in the Maldivian workforce as long as men.”
The President said that political parties must publicly state which form of Islam they support: “the Islam we have been practicing in this country for several hundred years… or a new faction of Islam.” The President said that he wanted the traditional version of Islam to continue to be practiced in the Maldives.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the protest have been questioned by the Maldives Police Force after posting messages on the homepage of their official website, 23December.com, calling on people to “fight against all un-Islamic ideas”, “take the life” of anyone who challenged Islam “regardless of their party affiliation”, and “slaughter anyone against Islam”.
Protest organizers Sheikh Imran Abdullah, President of the Adhaalath Party, and Abdullah Mohamed, head of a coalition of religious NGOs, were questioned by police on 13 December.
The Adhaalath Party initially told local media that the violent messages were uploaded because of “a mistake on the [website] technical teams’ side.” However, senior Adhaalath Party member Shiekh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed later said the messages of violence had been posted by “spies.”
Former President Gayoom’s Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) is also heavily involved in planning the 23 December protest.
Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair said on Monday: “Former President Gayoom, the Adhaalath Party and religious extremists are whipping up hatred, intolerance and xenophobia for political purposes. They hope to topple the government from the streets because they can’t defeat it through the ballot box.”