The Daily Panic

Maldives in South Asia: Let’s talk about Saudis

Azra Naseem has a great essay on the Saudi funded upheaval of Maldivian society in which she also recounts a startling encounter with the Dean of Maldives National University. Below is an excerpt. Read the full essay at on DhivehiSitee.


I showed pictures of Aminiya students in the 1980s, and at present, pictures I took in 2012 of Maldivian girls from other islands, all wearing headscarves. I showed them women from the Mahasintha, the Sharia marches. I bring up the Maldivian women’s appearance not to explain away the change as ‘extremist’ or ‘radicalisation’ but to demonstrate the astonishing—so visible yet silent—change the Maldives is undergoing. This is not to reduce the changes to simply cosmetic—the visual changes have a multitude of underlying reasons which must be explored in its own right. It was presented as a visual representation of the dramatic change that has occurred at a much deeper level in Maldivian society.

This revolutionary change occurred in almost total silence because the only voice allowed to speak on the subject were that of different types of Islamists whose only interpretation of what Islam says about the headscarf is that it is an absolute must for a Muslim woman. People who said otherwise were punished, and ostracised. They were given the label of un-Islamic. The increasing hegemony of Salafist/Wahhabist ideologies over Maldivian religious and social cultures and thought, and its control of religious discourse, forbid Maldives from speaking of not just another religion but also to pick up on any other strand of thought in Islam other than their own. Sufism, which is so much a part of South Asian Islam—and however much we may deny it, underpins many cultural and socio-religious practises in traditional Maldivian Islam—is discouraged in the Maldives if not outright outlawed. The Maldivian constitution says every Maldivian is a Muslim. And nothing can be said or done in the country that ‘contradicts Islam’. Wahhabi and Salafi missionaries have used the clause to market and spread—both online and offline—their ideologies as the ‘true Islam’. If this is the case, criticising and disagreeing with their ideologies is disagreeing with Islam…

[Read more on DhivehiSitee]


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