Lately, I stop myself from blogging most of the time and on the occasions that I do go onto publish something, I make sure it's something pretty mundane... mostly because expressing myself has come at a cost that I do not wish to bear for the moment. However, the recent terrorist bombing in the Maldives
agitated me too much to keep my big mouth shut.
One of the most shocking things to me about the incident was that there seemed to be not much of public outrage or unrest following the explosion. Maybe it is because people have, for the most part, grown apathetic to what is going on in the country or perhaps people were expecting such an attack as if it was an already overdue eventuality. Whatever it is, we all seemed to be very interested in knowing exactly who perpetrated it. Most people, apart from Maumoon & Co
ofcourse, were quick to point fingers at a particular group of people in the country – the religious extremists (or rather Islamic extremists to be more precise). It may not have been fair to single out any group of people at such an early stage but given how things have unfolded and the status of the police investigation (as of now) it seems almost certain that the confessed culprits that organised and executed this utterly unjustifiable attack did what they did based on their particular religious conviction.
However it is that you choose to classify these savages, be it “extremists”, “fundamentalists”, “jihadists”, “religious fanatics” or perhaps simply “deluded insane misfits”, it is important that we skip semantic disagreements and instead concentrate on the heart of the matter – WHY. A query into their exact motives gives an independent, unbiased and more complete description of who these people are and what sort of mentality and beliefs led to the atrocity they committed. I will refrain from engaging in speculation on what their motives are/were since the investigation is still ongoing and the police have not released any statement on the issue. However, I do wish to raise my concern over the growing religious extremism which seems to be a reality that many people refuse to accept (still).
An objective, independent observer would most certainly agree that there has been sudden and dramatic increase in the religiosity of the Maldivian people in the past 2-4 years. Maldivians have been Muslims for the past 1000+ years yet there probably never was a time, atleast in my living memory, where so many men wore snipped trousers and long beards and women wore black burka covering head-to-toe and withdrew from social life and work to a place in the home. It is essential that we honestly ask where this sudden religious “enlightenment” arrived from and why it is taking root and how it is spreading because it is along with this movement that extremist thought was imported and is being cultivated.
The religious (Islamic) enlightenment in the country certainly had/has a lot to do with the growing freedom with which preachers are able to spread their message. The political “changes” that started a few years ago certainly made all the difference in that restrictions on the freedom to publish were then relaxed, making it possible to break away from the Maumoon-only fatwas. The public was then suddenly bombarded with all sorts of material from all sorts of writers and groups – both from within and without. Now, there are books, booklets, flyers, speeches, Q&A sessions and all sorts of religiously themed events going on each day where religious “scholars” preach to their heart’s desire. The freedom and reach is increasing evermore as weekly’s, radio programming and TV slots dedicate more time and space for such material. What is alarming though, is that there is nothing to keep things in check.
Maldives is a 100% Islamic nation by (implicit) assertion in the constitution and the prevalent mode of thought makes it almost impossible to say something that can be even remotely perceived as anti-Islamic. There certainly was/is no room for criticizing a preacher’s message or engaging in intellectual debate on religion and related issues
. Aniya was quickly shot down due to her now famous article in Minivan for allegedly offending and attacking Islam and its principles. The reaction to her article certainly set the ground for what writers and intellectuals who disagree with the “religiously enlightened” can expect – there was zero tolerance on anything that is remotely critical, there wasn’t room for scepticism. This important lack of freedom of expression is what I think seeded the roots of extremism.
The lack of freedom to criticise or voice scepticism on any matter within the grasp of religious preachers gave them a lot of room to spread their particular interpretations of the Quran, the Hadith and Islam itself. It is essential to note that ANY position on Islam (or most, if not all, other religions for that matter!) is all down to the particular interpretations a person chooses to adopt and the resultant ideologies that a person chooses to accept. To someone that has taken the leap of faith to adopt a particular interpretation as the ultimate truth, all other competing interpretations of “truth” are invalid and sinfully wrong. Extremists justify their position using the same material and with equally valid “arguments” as any other and only differ in that they are willing to engage in immoral, unjustifiable violations of human rights to enforce their beliefs. It is all too easy to move through different religious modes of thought without realizing where the buck stops – for blind faith is deemed a virtue. It is truly saddening and worrying when people, especially young adults barely in their twenties (such as the perpetrators of the Maldivian terrorist attack), gain such conviction that they are ready to harm and kill others in the name of their beliefs.
Religious extremism may now sadly have made its first bloody mark with the first ever terrorist attack on the Maldivian people and our guests. The Maldivian WWW sites run by extremists offer a peek into what maybe really going down in their clans and how far they are willing to take it. Witness some of the Maldivian calls for jihad at the videos at
and writings at http://noorulislam.wordpress.com/
. How long are we going to give a blind eye to this madness???
If we do seriously intend to tackle extremism (irrespective of whether it is religious or not), we need to immediately start engaging in free, open intellectual debate on all matters, improve education (especially science) and generally open the public’s eyes to the beliefs, ideas and lives of people elsewhere in the world and throughout history.
Seems Raajje.tv decided to kill the videos that I had linked above - the videos certainly aren't available no more. How or why they censored it is beyond me but I suspect the Maldivian government had some influence. Anyway, a friend found out that the same user kokko007 had uploaded the same videos to YouTube