Here is a little of that Muslim tolerant, ‘non compulsion of religion’ for ya:
18 November 2009
MINIVAN NEWS… MPs called for lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines in a bill to outlaw places of worship for non-Muslims in the Maldives.
At today’s sitting, a bill proposed by Fares-Maathoda MP Ibrahim Muttalib on making it illegal to either build places of worship for “false religions” or practice other faiths in public was sent to committee for further review with unanimous consent.
Presenting the legislation, Muttalib said he submitted it because inquiries had been made with the government to establish places of worship and there was no law to stop it.
“The other thing we have to think about today is that the government is considering establishing wedding tourism in the country and this will indirectly set up churches in the country,” he said.
While the bill states that foreigners or expatriates will be allowed to worship in the privacy of their homes, involving Maldivians or encouraging them to participate will be an offence.
The bill specifies a jail term of three to five years or a fine of between Rf36,000 (US$2,800) and Rf60,000 (US$4,669) for those in violation of the law.
During the debate, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MPs and some independents called for harsher penalties to serve as deterrents.
“I propose that those who violate the provisions in the bill should be jailed for at least ten years,” said Thohdhoo MP Ali Waheed, adding the fine should be increased to Rf500,000 (US$38,000) or Rf1 million (US$77,821).
Waheed said the government was trying to introduce wedding tourism to build churches in the country.
He further said nobody had ever seen the president attend Friday prayers and his administration was intent on destroying the country’s Islamic culture.
Some MPs said foreigners who violated the law should be deported and not allowed back for ten years.
Although all MPs supported the spirit of the legislation, MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) argued the bill was redundant as article ten of the constitution states that Islam shall be the basis of all the laws of the Maldives and no laws contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted.
Further, the constitution states a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of Maldives.
Some MPs argued the provision to authorise practicing religions other than Islam was unconstitutional.
Ihavandhoo MP Ahmed Abdullah said they consider the implications of enacting a law to allow foreigners to worship privately.
“Even now we are unable to check and monitor illegal activities,” he said. “So after authorising something like this, how can we make sure Maldivians aren’t involved?”
Mathiveri MP Hussein Mohamed said laws were still needed to enforce the articles in the constitution.
Gemanafushi MP Ilham Ahmed of the DRP said the constitution was not an obstacle to building places of worship. “The reality is that this constitution paves the way to build temples,” said Ilham.
Several MPs said the scope of the bill was too narrow and comprehensive legislation was needed to protect Islam.
Feydhoo MP Alhan Fahmy of the DRP, who was recently suspended from party activities for voting against the party line, said the bill was not necessary as tradition and cultural norms were more powerful than laws.
But, he added, he supported the bill to ensure that there would be no room to advocate freedom of religion in the future.
Thulhaadhoo MP Nazim Rashad, an independent, said the bill was important because human rights organisations were trying to impose freedom of religion on the country.
“These aren’t things that we can accept so easily. And they can’t make us accept it either,” he said.
Dhandhoo MP Mohamed Riyaz of the MDP said the previous government authorised a large statue of Buddha to be imported for a resort party on a Friday afternoon.
In March 2007, a birthday party for British millionaire Sir Philip Green in Ladaa Giraavaru featured an 11-metre tall statue of the Buddha and topless dancers.
Other MDP MPs referred to religious scholars being persecuted and tortured by the former government.
Maduvari MP Visam Ali of the DRP said Islam in the Maldives was facing serious challenges and the government had failed to protect it.
“I am saying this for a lot of reasons. We have seen what the government did to Kuliyya, our Islamic education institute. We have seen the government announce that it would close down women’s mosques. We have heard that money wasn’t included for mosques in the PSIP [public sector investment programme],” she said.
She added the government had turned a blind eye to religious literature translated into Dhivehi, had decided to establish diplomatic ties with Israel and had agreed to teach Maldivian school children Jewish culture.
Visam said the president spoke out against death penalty although it was a punishment in Islamic sharia.
Nolhivaram MP “Colonel” Mohamed Nasheed of the MDP argued that the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) allowed Jews and Christians to practice their faiths in Medina.
“So the basis of Islam is, after allowing people of other religions to practice their faiths freely, going forward to ensure it doesn’t adversely affect our society,” he said.