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Maldives Presidency 2013: Islam emerging as the central platform for the elections?

Male', Maldives.
Unfolding events in the Maldives show that Islam will indeed be a central platform for the Presidential Elections, 2013.

Adhaalath Party yesterday put President Nasheed in a tight fix, by requesting him to explain to them what "mid level Islam" is and what the pillars of "that religion" are. In a letter to Nasheed, Adhaalath Party's Council of Religious Scholars requested that Nasheed provide these details to them in writing before the 17th of this month.

Adhaalath Party's request was in response to an MDP campaign called "mid-level Islam", launched by Nasheed on December 23, 2011 as a counter attack on the historic civic protest against Nasheed that same day. The Civic Protest, estimated to total over 25,000 civilians, had proclaimed its objective as the defense of Islam against attacks on Islam by Nasheed and his administration.

In his speech at his failed counter rally, Nasheed had stated that Maldivians should follow the "mid-level Islam" of their forefathers. Nasheed's counter rally could not muster even a thousand followers and was quickly wrapped up that day.
Adhaalath's request has left Nasheed scrambling around for an Islamic scholar willing to provide some religious scholarly remarks to substantiate his statements on Islam. Last night's MDP rally showed that Nasheed has had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in a country rich in its religious scholarly expertise. The only candidate for Nasheed appears to be the discredited Shaikh Hussain Rasheed Ahmed, Nasheed's State Minister for Religious Affairs, who was recently thrown out of Adhaalath Party.

The little Shaikh was marched out on to the MDP podium last night as chief guest to launch an MDP campaign called, "You cannot say that now". The Shaikh's instruction was probably to give what was hoped would be a rousing attack on Adhaalath Party's religious platform. Sadly for Nasheed, instead of giving even an adequate response to Adhaalath, the Shaikh got diverted to his favorite past time of bashing away at Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The most comic part of Shaikh Hussain Rasheed's speech was his statement that if a Muslim became an apostate, the matter would be tired in a court of law, and not amongst the public. Such allegations should not be levelled against a person on the roads, but should be taken to Shari'a, the Shaikh said. Such statements coming from the very person who ran around publicly accusing that President Gayoom was not a Muslim is indeed hilarious. It seems that Shaikh Hussain Rasheed has conveniently forgotten that he himself did the very same thing on the very same streets against the then President. The Shaikh's public allegations against Gayoom show that Shaikh Hussain Rasheed does not even now the basic teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Indeed, by these actions which contradicts the basic teachings of Islam, Shaikh Hussain Rasheed is not fit to speak on Islam in any public forum.

Leaving aside the comic relief provided by watching Nasheed and MDP hunt for a religious base, the unfolding drama puts into perspective the strength of Adhaalath Party in the Maldivian political arena today. Indeed, it also highlight the crucial importance of a strong religious support for any candidate for the Presidency in 2013. Nasheed overcame this glaring defect by entering into coalition with Adhaalath Party very early in the presidential elections run-up. However, it is remains to be seen whether he will have access to this resource again.

Even leaving aside Adhaalath Party, Nasheed's opposition all have greater strength on the religious platform than MDP at present. Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) boasts a religious scholar respected throughout the Islamic world (Gayoom) as its leader, while the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) leadership is filled with legal scholars versed in Islamic Sharia. In the case of DRP, while the leadership may not have any religious weight, it has a strong Islamic wing, which holds a position in the party council. Membership in the DRP Islamic wing includes religious scholars of the calibre of Adhaalath Party and PPM.

However, if anything, DQP is possibly in the strongest position, headed by two top class lawyers educated in Islamic Sharia and law in Malaysia, Dr. Hassan Saeed and Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed. Dr. Hassan Saeed's elder brother, the world respected Professor on Islamic Law, Abdulla Saeed, gives additional religious weight to the DQP leadership. DQP, although in coalition with larger DRP at present, has the potential to be a potent force in its own capacity, even to the extent of leading an opposition coalition into the next Presidency.

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