Parliament Members against bill on amendments to criminalize hate crimes

Chair of the Judiciary Committee of Parliament, Imthiyaz Fahmy. | Photo: Mihaaru

Malé, Maldives – Several Parliamentary Members on Wednesday’s parliamentary sitting, expressed their concern and spoke against the bill on amendments to criminalize hate crimes, saying that the bill will cause further controversy.

The statement released with 10 Parliamentarians’ signatures stated that it was essential to stop the hate crimes among citizens as they result in injuries and losses to the parties involved. However, they stated that amending article 124 of the Penal Code and enforcing new laws is not the way to resolve these problems.

In addition to this, the statement read that the amendments brought to the bill by the Parliamentary Judiciary Committee might worsen the situation rather than bring a solution to hate crimes among citizens. They added that the bill might affect the religious unity among citizens and cause further conflicts and controversies.

The Parliament members who spoke against the bill further said that bills relating to religious origins and essential human rights must be passed after thorough discussions with the relevant authorities. The Judiciary Committee investigating the bill has not done so in passing the bill, noted the members. Members also raised their concerns over the committee not taking into account the amendments proposed by the Islamic Ministry and Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) when passing the bill.

Furthermore, the MPs stated that it was essential to properly discuss decently, before amending the laws to resolve the controversies surrounding the bill and bring a stop to hate crimes among citizens.

The proposed amendments in the bill which received criticism 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 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 offence. 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.