Malé, Maldives — Islamic Ministry, on Tuesday, has advised the Parliament to include ‘actions against Islam’ as an offense in the Bill submitted by MP Hisaan Hussain, which targets hate speech and crimes.
A statement released by the Islamic Ministry revealed that discussions were held among certain Islamic scholars and lawyers since the Parliament Judiciary Committee sought the ministry’s recommendation on the proposed bill.
Based on the discussions, the Ministry has iterated its stance, focusing on three main points. First, the inclusion of actions against Islam as a hate crime, followed by forbidding actions that may harm a person’s reputation, property, and soul. The final recommendation was to amend the bill in such a way that it does not decree actions that the ministry sees as impeding one of the rightful duties of Muslims as being a criminal offense. That is, the duty of Muslims to spread Islam, call on people to act righteously, and act to prevent them from veering towards an un-Islamic path.
The ministry noted that at a time when there is hate spewed and hateful actions against the religion, they believe that it is vital to specify the criminalization of hate against Islam in such a law.
However, the Islamic Ministry agreed that inciting hatred amongst the populace and labelling every Muslim with opposing views as being irreligious or an infidel is categorically wrong, just as blind accusations made towards Islamic Scholars or Muslims of spreading hate is wrong.
The religion of Islam itself stands against such acts, stated the ministry.
Proposed by the parliamentary representative for the Thulhaadhoo (Baa Atoll) constitutency MP Hisaan on behalf of the government, the ‘Hate-crime Bill’ proposes the addition of a clause under Chapter 120 of the Penal Code of the Maldives, describing the legal repercussions for Assault, Endangerment, and Threat Offenses. If it comes to pass, the new portion will enter the Penal Code under Section 124 and refer solely to hate crimes.
Since the bill was brought to the table, it has been subject to loud criticism by the public as well as several Islamic scholars. Most of the concerns relate to the criminalization of calling persons ‘non-muslim’ or pointing out he/she is living in a way that defies Islamic law or speaking against the religion, and over the offence of ‘creating hatred towards a person amongst society by relating their behaviour to Islamic faith’.
Additionally, if the bill becomes law, it will be an offence either to label or participate in the labelling of any Muslim as a ‘non-Muslim’ in a public space.
Following public outcry, the Judiciary Committee of the Parliament moved to consult with the Prosecutor General’s Office as well as with the Islamic Ministry, in consideration of the fact that the bill consists of offenses related to the Islamic faith.
As this bill also includes the rights of citizens, the committee also called upon the Human Rights Commission of Maldives to express their opinion on this matter. Thus far, only the Islamic Ministry has officially publicised its stance on the debate.
It should be noted that the Constitution of Maldives (2008) already grants citizens freedom of expression, under Article 27, stating, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the expression freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam”. Hence, it is already unlawful to critique Islam or speak against Islamic values.