Persecution of Non-Muslims (Maldives)

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Note that the persecution of apostates and the persecution of homosexuals are covered in separate pages

Transported by authorities, an Indian expat Christian teacher is forced by a huge crowd of Muslim parents to flee the Maldives for "preaching Christianity" (students mistook her drawing of a compass for a cross)[edit]

Authorities in the Maldives last week had to transport a Christian teacher from India off one of the Islamic nation's islands after Muslim parents of her students threatened to expel her for "preaching Christianity."
. . .

"There were only 10 teachers to defend Geethamma George when a huge crowd gathered outside the school," the source said by telephone. "Numerous local residents of the island also joined the parents' protest."
. . .
"Fearing that the teacher would be physically attacked, the officials took her out of the island right away," the source said. "She will never be able to come back to the island, and nor is she willing to do so. She will be given a job in another island."

A few days earlier, George, a social studies teacher, had drawn a compass to teach directions to Class VI students. But the students, who knew little English, mistook the drawing to be a cross and thought she was trying to preach Christianity, the source said. The students complained to their parents, who in turn issued a warning to the school.
. . .
According to local newspaper Haveeru, authorities transferred George to the nearby island of Funadhoo "after the parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island."

The teacher, who worked at the school for three years, is originally from the south Indian coastal state of Kerala. Many Christians from Kerala and neighboring Tamil Nadu state in India are working as teachers and doctors in the Maldives.

Preaching or practicing a non-Muslim faith is forbidden under Maldivian law, which does not recognize any faith other than Islam. The more than 300,000 citizens of the Maldives are all Sunni Muslims.

A string of 1,190 islands in the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka in South Asia, the Maldives is the only country after Saudi Arabia that claims to have a 100 percent Muslim population. As per its constitution, only a Muslim can be a citizen of the country. Importing any literature that contradicts Islam is against the law.

Many of the more than 70,000 expatriate workers in the Maldives are Christian, but they are allowed to practice their faith only inside their respective homes. They cannot even get together for prayer or worship in each other's houses - doing so has resulted in the arrest and deportation of expatriates in the past.
. . .

Many in Maldivian society, along with religious and political leaders, believe religious freedom is not healthy for the nation's survival, although the Maldives does not perceive any threat from nearby countries.

Resort employees humiliate unaware European tourist couple renewing their vows by the celebrant calling them “swine” and “infidels” during ceremony. Witnessed by 10-15 applauding employees who do not intervene[edit]

A video surfaced on social networks and popular video sharing website YouTube, showing employees at Vilu Reef Beach and Spa resort mocking a tourist couple renewing their marriage vows as “swine” and “infidels.”
. . .

While the young ‘celebrant’ referred as “Hussein Didi” performs the ceremony, about 10-15 employees in resort uniform witness the ceremony in and out of the small place built on the island’s beach with coconut palm leaves. No one, however, was seen trying to prevent the ceremony.
. . .
In the video, Didi briefs the couple in English prior to the ceremony that it will be performed in Dhivehi language according to “not only Maldivian” but also “Arabic and Islamic” traditions.

The video shows Didi allegedly using a copy of an employment agreement, which he frequently looks at while giving the ‘sermon’ and jokes about Penal Code.

Didi asks the couple and ‘witnesses’ to raise their hands as is customary for Muslim prayers and begins his rants in a high-pitched voice often favoured by religious preachers while delivering sermons.

The couple, unaware of the humiliation, exchange wedding rings placed inside an open coconut. With loud applauses, the couple move out and plants a coconut palm as was asked by the celebrant, where they pose for a photo along with the officials.

New laws criminalize "spreading a religion other than Islam and using an object that resembles a sign of a religion other than Islam", with a penalty of 2-5 years in prison, banishment or house arrest[edit]

President’s Office has gazetted the controversial Religious Unity Regulation, declaring it an offence to preach a religion except Islam in the Maldives.

The 12-clause regulation makes it mandatory for preachers of Islam, both locals and foreigners, to have a first degree in a field of Islamic education from a ministry-approved college, university or centre.
. . .
The regulation also prohibits comments of hatred towards people of other religions, spreading a religion other than Islam and using an object that resembles a sign of a religion other than Islam.

A person who violates the regulation will be sentenced to 2-5 years in prison, banishment or house arrest.

Indian Catholic school teacher betrayed by colleagues. He is jailed for over 2 weeks and eventually deported, after police raid his home and find a copy of the Bible and a rosary[edit]

Shijo Kokkattu, an Indian Catholic from Kerala, has been languishing in a Maldives prison for more than a week because he had a Bible and a rosary at his home. Both items are banned on the archipelago.

“The lack of justice and the degree of religious intolerance” on the islands “are reflected by the actions of the Maldives government,” said Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). “This is the worst form of religious persecution. The Indian government should demand an apology for the shabby treatment inflicted on one of its citizens.”

Islam is state religion in the Maldives. There is no freedom of worship. In 2008, a constitutional amendment denied non-Muslims the right to obtain Maldivian citizenship.

Shijo, 30, has taught at Raafainu School on Raa Atoll for the past two years. Recently, whilst transferring some data from his pen drive to the school laptop, he accidentally copied Marian songs and a picture of Mother Mary into the system. Some teachers reported the matter to the police who raided his home and found a Bible and a rosary in his possession.

Shijo Kokkattu’s case shows the paradox of the Maldives, a nation that “claims to be a major tourist destination, yet arrests innocent people,” George said. “This shows its intolerance and discrimination towards non-Muslims as well as its restrictions on freedom of conscience and religion.”

“Religious freedom remains a taboo on the archipelago,” the GCIC president explained. “Muslims refuse all other forms of worship other than the one approved by the state. Doing the opposite means arrest. Kneeling, folding one’s hands or using religious symbols like crosses, candles, pictures or statues can lead to government action.”

For George, “All this is a clear violation of universal human rights. If Muslims living in non-Muslim countries can enjoy religious rights, the spirit of reciprocity should apply to countries like the Maldives and Saudi Arabia.”
Indian Catholic jailed in the Maldives over a Bible and a rosary
Nirmala Carvalho, AsiaNews, October 7, 2011
Police in the island nation of Maldives held a teacher from India for about 15 days before deporting him on Oct. 14 for having a Bible in his house, a source said.

Shijo Kokkattu, a 30-year-old Catholic and teacher at the Raafainu School in Raa Atoll, had been arrested in late September after police found a Bible and a rosary in his house during a raid, a foreign source in the capital city of Male told Compass by phone.
. . .
Police raided his home after Kokkattu’s colleagues found Christian materials on a school computer he had used and reported it to authorities. While downloading material from his pen drive, Kokkattu had mistakenly downloaded some Catholic songs in the Malayalam language (used in a south Indian state) and a picture of the Virgin Mary.

“The videos were in Indian, so I don’t know what they were saying, but the images were Christian,” school principal Mohamed Shiraj told Minivan News, an independent news portal based in the Maldives.

Kokkattu, a parishioner from Tellicherry Archdiocese in the south Indian state of Kerala, had been teaching at the school for two years.

“He was a very good teacher, we’ve not had any complaints of him in the past,” the principal reportedly said.

A "very serious case", a Bangladeshi and Maldivian are seized by customs officials at an airport, handed over to the police for carrying 11 books about Christianity, face possibly 5 years in prison[edit]

Customs officials at the Male’ Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on Thursday seized 11 books about Christianity, typed in Dhivehi, from a Bangladeshi expatriate who came to the Maldives via Sri Lanka.

Speaking with the press last Thursday inside the Customs Building, Chief Customs Officer Ahmed Samah identified the Bangladeshi expat as Jathish Bisvas, 44.

Samah said the 44 year-old man had arrived to the Maldives on a tourist visa and that it was the first time he visited Maldives.

According to Samah, customs officials were suspicious that the expat who had tried to bring the banned items into Maldives had links with a person in Male’. Samah said the Bangladeshi man had made a booking with a hotel in Male’ but did could not identify which hotel it was.

Samah said later the same day a Maldivian national was caught with similar books, after arriving to the Maldives from Sri Lanka.

The books he brought were not typed in Dhivehi, according to Samah.

Furthermore, Samah said it was highly possible that a Maldivian was behind the illegal smuggling operation given the quality of the Dhivehi language used to type the book. He also said it was a “very serious case if a Maldivian is behind this.”

He told the press that it was difficult to identify or provide further details about the suspected Maldivian man.

The pair have been handed over to police and customs and police are conducting a joint investigation into the case.

According to the Maldives Religious Unity Regulations, it is illegal in the Maldives to propagate any faith other than Islam or to engage in any effort to convert anyone to any religion other than Islam. It is also illegal to display in public any symbols or slogans belonging to any religion other than Islam, or creating interest in such articles.

It is also illegal in the Maldives to carry or display in public books on religions (other than Islam) and books and writings that promote and propagate other religions, and the translation into Dhivehi language such books and writings on other religions.

Violation of the Religious Unity Act is subject to two to five years in prison and fines up to MVR 20,000 (US$1300).
Custom seize two men carrying books about Christianity
Ahmed Nazeer, Minivan News, September 30, 2012