101 scholars against controversial bill on amendments to criminalize hate crimes

Some of the scholars in the Scholars Union | photo: Avas

Malé, Maldives – 101 scholars of Maldives have raised their voice against the controversial parliamentary bill on amendments to the Penal Code of Maldives to criminalize hate crimes, appealing to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih to dismiss the bill via a petition.

The proposed amendments in the bill which are being highly criticized by the public and several Islamic scholars are amendments to criminalize pointing out that a person is living against the rules of Islamic religion or against the religion in a public place and creating hatred towards a person in the society by relating it to the Islamic faith.

Along with this, the bill also states that it is an offence to describe or be a part of describing a Muslim of being a non-muslim in a public place or accuse a Muslim of being a non-muslim in a public place.

The petition from the scholars explained that the amendments in the bill will not have any benefit on an Islamic society and that the consequences that follow might be irreparable. This is why the scholars request the President in their petition, to dismiss the bill as almost all of the scholars in Maldives coincide on the petition.

The bill was sponsored by MP for Thulhaadhoo Constituency, Hisaan Hussain on behalf of the government. It was accepted with 38 votes, while 17 members were against it. The bill was then sent to the Judiciary Committee for further research.

The bill is an amendment to the Maldives Penal Code proposed by the government to stop hatred by making hate speech and hate crimes an offense.

While the first meeting to discuss regarding the bill was held last night, the committee members agreed on to carry out the research under the rule to keep the bill at the start of the agenda for bills that need to be finished at the earliest. After putting the bill on agenda and deciding a time for it, the MP Imthiyaz suggested on organization’s advise for the bill.

MP Imthiyaz suggested that it would be right to get advice from the Prosecutor General’s Office along with the Islamic Ministry considering that the bill consists of offenses related to the Islamic faith. As this bill also includes the rights of citizens, MP Imthiyaz also suggested to ask advice from HRC as well.

All of the members present at the Committee meeting agreed to the suggestions of MP Imthiyaz and decided that the Committee will finish the work on the bill on July 23, 2021.

The bill was supported by all MDP parliament members accepted MP for Thinadhoo Constituency, Abdullah Sinaf while all the opposition parties spoke against the bill.

The Male’ city council had also expressed their disagreement with the amendment and stated that it opens opportunities for people to mock Islam. Male’ city council conveyed concerns of the people over the amendment to stop hatred saying that the government is allowing people to mock Islamic religion and the Prophet with the power of the law.

Political party of the ruling coalition, Adhaalath Party has also raised concerns over the amendment. Adhaalath Party stated that these offences mentioned in the bill do not adhere to the international conditions required in deciding the offences that would lead to hatred.

The party noted that the offences imply that one of the rightful duties of Muslims, to call on to do right things and to stop individuals from doing wrong things would be considered a criminal offence in the Maldives. The party expressed concerns that the bill may further increase hatred amongst people and called on the government to follow the methods of international committees on creating the bill as a precaution.