Solih asks Maldivians to rise against extremism

President’s comments come after Nasheed urged him to ‘course-correct’

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on July 26 called upon citizens to rise against religious extremism, in order to safeguard the country’s independence and sovereignty.

In a special address to mark the Indian Ocean island nation’s 57th Independence Day, Mr. Solih said some “erroneously” believe in and “propagandise bloodshed” in the name of Islam. “Everyone of us who wish to safeguard the independence and sovereignty of the Maldives must readily rise against this dangerous movement,” he said, adding, “those countries, particularly a number of Islamic countries embattled by war and unrest have been swept by this very extremist ideology.”

The President’s reference to threats of religious extremism comes weeks after Parliamentary Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed urged him to “course-correct before it is too late”, amid a growing rift between the two leaders from the country’s ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Mr. Nasheed is currently in the U.K, recovering from the multiple injuries sustained in an explosion targeting him in Male on May 6. Maldivian police who termed the incident a “terror attack” have so far arrested 10 persons in connection with the case. No evidence of a direct link between them and ISIS has been found yet, the police chief told a media conference on Saturday. However, the suspects “support ISIS”, and are involved in “propagating the terror group’s ideology” in the Maldives, he said.

Recurring concern

Religious extremism has been a recurring concern in the Maldives, from where dozens are known to have joined the Islamic State terror group as fighters in Syria and Iraq. Further, extremist groups in the Maldives have in the past been linked to the murder cases of dissident journalists and bloggers who sought to challenge their ideology. While acknowledging the problem in his speech on Monday, President Solih emphasised that legal actions alone will not solve the issues of religious extremism, or blasphemy directed at Islam that caused “social discord”. “The lasting solution to these two issues is instilling Islamic faith in our children,” he said. His government “exploring options” within the education system to resolve the matter.

“As long as such divisive forces exist in our society, our peace and harmony will be at persistent risk of disruption. Our position to manage other major crises will be consequently weakened if we allow our national affairs to spiral to that extent,” President Solih said.

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