I just finished watching the now revealed deep state actors in the country – the mullahs of the Maldives. Wow, what a spectacle it was. I am glad this has happened though. The mullahs conference has now catapulted the issues of non-Muslim minorities in the psyche of the mainstream public. We should celebrate this as an achievement. 

To comment on the contents of the conference, and how the proceedings went, these are some of my main observations; 

  1. The mullahs didn’t come at us with jihadi rhetoric, declaring the authors of the report and the members of MDN need to be given sharia punishments. It was odd that this wasn’t their method of approach, given how it is seemingly the apparent approach based on past activities of these mullahs. I would say they almost approached it in a civilized way. How about that, huh?  So much butt-hurt thought.
  2. They laid out what they believed to be the problems with the report, in numbered points – a total of 10 which was greatly expanded upon through out the conference. I find this to be fair for now, at least it gave us a clearer picture of the grievances that these people are holding against the authors of the report, its contents and MDN. We now know what exactly we are dealing with here. 
  3. Then they proceeded to interpret the laws of the land through their Islamic lens and claimed how they believe that “this grave crime of insulting Islam” has happened in the report and how they should be punished for that report according to the religious unity laws of Maldives. They do include everyone involved as including financiers and supporters as a party to the alleged criminality. 

What is notable is this appeal for the implementation of the law in dealing with MDN, minimizes possible jihadi type reactions from radicals within society. And this is despite Ilyas claiming once during the conference that religion is more important that the laws. And all of this comes as an awkward shot at their own feet, as this approach is an implicit recognition of secular laws over Islamic sharia. The religious unity act, as annoying as it is, treats it the points raised in their initial numbered points as misdemeanours almost when compared to potential sharia alternatives. This, my friends, is an essential incremental win. Don’t rest on your laurels yet; we still have a long way to go, however. 

Now given that this has happened the way it has, in a democracy rule of law must reign supreme, and we must be in support of it. Unfortunately, this opens doors for members of MDN and the authors of their report as well as potentially many others to be prosecuted by current laws. This also makes it clear, the specific laws that we must now keep in our crosshairs that is needing to be amended down the line, given opportunities that will emerge.

If authors and MDN members get subjected to this scenario of persecution, they must take it with grace because we all knew the risks we take the minute we entered the activist space we operate in, and we all made decisions to be a part of it. This sucks, but it is what it is. The silver lining in all of this is that all critical persons named currently resides outside of the Maldives. And for the time being, they will remain unaffected by this in a more significant way. 

Having said that, I see more opportunities emerge from this current situation as the #SecularMaldives approach is an online engagement based social engineering approach intertwined with political game theory, so I do want to talk about that in this post as well. 

The Mullahs, despite their constant posturing, appear to concede that given the risks of severe societal instability with the issues at hand, they don’t want to press on to the government in a hardline approach, which could result in a coup. Or they may have recognized despite the weapon of religion they wield, the political landscape has shifted against their favour, and are hesitant to test how strong a leg they have to stand on if push comes to shove. It is after all 30 odd mullahs that the government has to contain to take control of the situation. This is a more transparent and easily defined task if the government is presiding over a police force and the military with full control over them. Obviously, this is an unknown at the moment if they are in complete control, given we don’t fully understand how deep the tentacles of the deep state goes. 

The government, on the other hand, should know through the experience of already once being toppled in a coup back in 2012, the risks they face if they give in to a coup plot. They should be vigilant and prepared that a coup could be brewing. It is in the interest of the MDP government to avoid any coup attempts and continue with political reforms promised in Agenda 19. 

The Agenda 19 platform carries with it the hopes and dreams of the typical Maldivian person and is very much representative of grassroots aspirations of the Dhivehi people for progress and prosperity. And given that the MDP government exists side by side with a parliamentary majority of their own, this gives the government a lot of room to maneuver in the current environment. I believe that the government should take all precautions to avoid a possible coup and should now be seeking opportunities to implement the newly amended anti-terrorism laws to curb the activities of radical Islamists in the country. That leaves all these mullahs of the deep state on their toes all the time to avoid criminality. Any misstep by them lets the state exercise its powers through the police and the military to maintain the rule of law in a potential escalation. The government also has the luxury of invoking powerful military allies in India and elsewhere if they need help in maintaining safety and stability in the country. This is comforting to understand.

Where does that leave #SecularMaldives advocates? I think, we should continue pushing on with #FikuryInqilab activities, and #NormalizingDissent as this will continue to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in society and continue to keep the mullahs on their toes, while the government, using the laws of the land, its institutions of power that it wields keeps the mullah in check.

This new environment, if maintained, would defang the mullahs over an extended period, as the new-normal starts setting in and people begin to become socialized into that new reality, potentially further raising the liberal baseline of society over time. This is key to achieving the #SecularMaldives ambitions of many of us. The fact the events of this mullah conference played out the way it has is a testament to the already shifted of liberal baseline in the country and should be viewed as incremental progress. 

As for the “ilthumaas” demands of these mullahs, its irrelevant to #SecularMaldives activism whether the government follows through and bans MDN. 

As a final note, I wanted to dismiss everything Sheikh Ilyas said as imaginary drivel belonging to a made-up religion. Completely removed from reality and irrelevant! But I advise the good sheikh to reflect on my tweet below.

Your started the dehumanization of everyone else through your religion. Yet it is our rejection of your ideology somehow makes us criminal? How? And why would be accept that? We refuse to give your religion a pass until you address the problems within your religion!

In parting, I remind you all, the waves of time will move forward, and your religion is in the way of human aspirations for progress and prosperity. You will not fare well in the face of that very unique human desire. And we now wield the tools of science and technology at our disposal. And unfortunately, you are just in the way!

We march forward! Have courage my friends. We will win this.

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