Non-muslims to be informed of prohibition from openly expressing religious beliefs

Screenshot from the video showing workers from India's Afcons commencing road works in Addu City's Hithadhoo with an act of Hindu worship.

Malé, Maldives – Ministry of Islamic Affairs last week asked foreigners to be informed that slogans of other religions cannot be expressed in Maldives.

The ministry sent a circular to local councils asking for this amid heated controversy over starting the tarring of roads in Addu City with a Hindu religious ceremony by Indian company AFCONS Infrastructure.

Islamic Ministry had since filed a case with Maldives Police Service against the Indian company AFCONS Infrastructure Limited for performing Hindu worship.

The Islamic Ministry on Wednesday sent a circular to councils asking them to pay special attention to ensure that foreigners comply with the Protection of Religious Unity Rules in the country and take necessary action against those who do not.

The circular said that while many foreigners are working in Maldives, many people are also coming from abroad as tourists and that it is very important to advise foreigners and tourists to comply with the laws and regulations.

“Those who bring people to Maldives from abroad are requested to clarify this information and provide guidance to them. City councils, atoll councils and island councils are requested to pay special attention to this and take necessary measures in such cases,” the circular said.

The Ministry said it is very important to provide proper guidance to such persons as will be clear in the Protection of Religious Unity Regulations made under the Protection of Religious Unity Act.

According to the regulations, non-Muslims living in Maldives and non-Muslims visiting Maldives are prohibited from openly expressing their religious slogans and conducting such religious activities in public places. It is forbidden for a Maldivian to participate in any such activities under the regulation.

“In accordance with the above rule, it is strictly prohibited to conduct any activity related to the worship of any religion other than Islam in any public place in Maldives. At the same time, they should be instructed to dress in accordance with the general social standards in accordance with the Rules on Operation of Tourist Guest Houses in Maldives,” the circular said.

The Hithadhoo incident heated up while three Indians were arrested in the island of Bilehdhoo, Faafu atoll over idolatry charges this September. 

According to local sources the men had handmade the idol and painted it themselves to pray and later sunk it in the sea. 

Under the Maldivian constitution non-muslims living in or visiting the country are prohibited from openly expressing their religious beliefs, holding public congregations to conduct religious activities, or involving Maldivians in such activities. By law, those expressing religious beliefs other than Islam face imprisonment of up to five years or house arrest, fines ranging from MVR 5,000 to MVR 20,000 (USD 320 – USD 1,300), and deportation.