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Maldives passes hate crime bill to check extremism; bans public usage of terms ‘non-believer’ and ‘kafir’

The Maldivian Parliament has passed a bill  banning the public usage of words like “non-believer” and “kafir” in its efforts to control hate crimes and the growing threat of extremism, which the government considers one of its top national security challenges

Nov 17, 2021
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Maldives passes hate crime bill to check extremism

The Maldivian Parliament has passed a bill  banning the public usage of words like “non-believer” and “kafir” in its efforts to control hate crimes and the growing threat of extremism, which the government considers one of its top national security challenges. 

The Hate Crimes Bill, which came after long deliberations among different government institutions, was passed on Tuesday by unanimous vote. Former president Mohammed Nasheed, who is currently serving as the house speaker, has long advocated the need for having such a bill to reign in hate crimes. 
 
Under the bill, publicly accusing a person of being a "non-believer of Islam" or "standing against Islam" and using Islamic faith to incite hatred against a person is to be criminalized, reported Raajje news. 

Further, accusing a person or labeling them as a "kafir" or "anti-Muslim" unless the person carries out an act of ‘kufr’ (disbeliever) will also be considered a crime.

Alarm bells rang a few years back in the archipelago when close to 300 Maldivian nationals joined the global terrorist organization ISIS, making it the country with the highest per capita foreign terror recruits for the group. 

The ruling coalition led by the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), which came to power in 2018, had promised to take on the challenge of the growing extremism. However, the coalition which also includes a hardline religious party had failed for a long time to form a consensus on any such crucial bill. 

The turning point came in May this year when Nasheed, one of the top leaders of the MDP, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in capital Male. Officials concluded the attack was carried out by religious extremists. Nasheed, who often faces the wrath of fundamentalists in the Maldives for supporting liberal and tolerant values of Islam, pressed the government-led President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih to pass the Hate Crimes Bill.

Despite terming extremism as an existential threat to the country’s national security, Solih kept delaying the legislation, drawing public criticism from his own party leader Nasheed. 

Another amendment added to the bill removes hindrances from declaring what is Sunnah (traditions and practices of the Prophet) and what is stated in the Holy Quran in connection to various matters. The bill retains the provision of criminalizing disrespectful and negative remarks against Islam. Furthermore, it also criminalizes spreading “false information regarding the religion, Quran, and Prophet Mohamed.”  

(SAM) 

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