Committee proceeds with bill to criminalize hate crimes

Chair of the Judiciary Committee of Parliament, Imthiyaz Fahmy (Inthi) | Photo: Majlis

Male’, Maldives – The Parliamentary Judiciary Committee on Wednesday night, decided to proceed with the bill on amendments to criminalize hate crimes following a minority of the committee voting to dismiss the bill as proposed by MP of Guraidhoo Constituency Ibrahim Riza.

Speaking at Thursday night’s committee meeting, MP Riza said that the bill on amendments to criminalize hate crimes should be dismissed. He said that several religious scholars and associations have expressed their concern over the bill.

Following MP Riza’s proposition on the bill, MP of Maafannu North Constituency and Chairperson of the Judiciary Committee Imthiyaaz Fahmy said that they opened up the bill for opinion from the Islamic Ministry, PG Office as ell as the Human Rights Commission and that none of the aforementioned authorities proposed to dismiss the bill. He added that the authorities suggested for the bill to be amended.

MP of Kendhoo Constituency Ali Hussain took the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion, supporting MP Riza’s motion to dismiss the bill. MP Ali Hussain also noted the concerns of several authorities, highlighting the local councisils which have stood up against the bill. He also noted that the Human Rights Commission requested for section 126 of the article to be completely omitted and that those are the important parts. He also added that while Islamic religion is the official religion of the country, criminalizing speaking up against practices that are against the Islamic faith would cause major conflicts. MP Ali Hussain noted that if a bill brings more harm to society than it does good, the best option is to dismiss the bill.

The committee then opened up for a vote on the motion put forth by MP Riza to dismiss the bill Two members voted for it while 7 members voted against. The committee is to proceed with the bill following the decision by the Committee members.

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 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.

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

Some city councils including the capital city 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.