Maldives Constitution to be questioned
The Qur'aan teaches one to live and let live, accept** and respect other people's way of life. Islam is about justice and peace. This act clearly violates Justice to those who are not Muslims. I hope the international community ropes Maldives into the civil societies with incentives and education.
** The word accept does not mean change, it simply means acknowledgement of the otherness of other.
American NGO Condemns Maldives Constitution
Over Religion Clause
By Olivia Lang in MaléAugust 9, 2008
An American-based NGO promoting religious pluralism has
condemned the Maldives’ new constitution over a clause requiring
all citizens to be Muslims, saying it does not conform to
international norms and human rights. The Institute on Religion
and Public Policy (IRPP) says the regulation in the country’s new
constitution – ratified on Thursday – undermines basic guarantees
of rights and freedoms.
The move follows criticism from US Ambassador Robert Blake, who also said the clause violated international covenants, describing it as a “concern” earlier this week.
The clause was left unchanged in the constitutional drafting process – despite being flagged up as a controversial issue – due to its sensitive nature in an Islamic country.
Article 9, Section D of the constitution now states that “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives,” which the IRPP says violates minorities’ freedom of worship.
“This denial of citizenship to non-Muslims is an extraordinarily harsh measure which places the Maldives among the worst countries in the world in regards to the legal foundation for freedom of religion and belief,” the Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski is reported to have said.
The Maldives government says the country is 100 per cent Muslim, and also bans the import of un-Islamic texts or symbols.
Ambassador Robert Blake said last Wednesday that the clause was a concern, but added that the Maldivian government was working to find a solution.
“Religious freedom is a very important part of our constitution. The [Maldivian] government understands our concern that this clause contravenes international conventions it is a party to,” he said.
But religious parties appear to support the new rule. Both Sheikh Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, head of the religious Adhaalath party scholars’ council, and Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) presidential candidate Umar Naseer have said they agree with the tightening of the regulation.
The clause could affect those who convert away from Islam, or who are children of Maldivians married to non-Muslims, but it is not clear whether it will ever be put into practice.
Despite being flagged up as difficult to implement prior to the constitution being passed in the Special Majlis (constitutional assembly), it was left unchanged in the final draft.
Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed has said this was due to the sensitivity of the issue. “No Maldives politician would want to take the case up,” he told Minivan News in May.
“It will be very difficult for Maldives mentality to accept Maldives citizens may belong to a different faith,” he added.
Politicians have been reluctant to condemn the rule ahead of upcoming presidential elections, the country’s first multi-party polls.
Former attorney general Dr Hassan Saeed, an independent presidential candidate, disregarded the issue saying it wasn’t relevant as “we do not have a non-Muslim population”.
Tenets Of Islam
In addition to denying non-Muslims citizenship, the new constitution establishes several other precepts regarding religion.
It limits freedom of expression to that which is “not contrary to a tenet of Islam.”
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy is reportedly drafting an analysis of the new constitution for expected release in September.
The Institute is an international, inter-religious non-profit organization which aims to ensure freedom of religion.
The Maldives’ previous constitution stipulated individuals must be Muslim in order to vote in elections, but not in order to be a citizen. Maldives became an Islamic country in 1153.
Maldives’ New Constitution Ratified
Maldives Warned By US On Freedom Of Religion
Non-Muslims To Lose Citizenship Under New Constitution