Islamic radicalisation a problem, admits Maldivian Ambassador to U.S.

| Updated: Feb 02, 2017 12:41 IST

Washington D C [United States], Feb.2 (ANI): The day Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America, the Ambassador of Maldives to the United States Ahmed Sareer, in an Opinion piece titled 'The future looks bright for Maldivian-American relations' published in a Washington-based news paper The Hill, made an attempt to reach out to the new US administration. In this article, that largely focused on the issue of terrorism, the senior diplomat acknowledged that Maldivians had travelled abroad as foreign terrorist fighters and that security against terrorism remained top priority for the island nation. The envoy, while enumerating the long-standing history of cooperation between the Maldives and the US, took time to explain his country's keenness to cooperate with the United States to defeat the 'scourge' of terror. Understandably, through this article, the majority Sunni Muslim nation that depends heavily on tourism, was clarifying its position on Islamic terrorism, an issue on which the new President had passionately spoken on many occasions. In this attempt to woo the new administration, what the article did not mention was that the present government of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom had failed to take seriously it's the work of eradicating the flow of foreign fighters from the Maldives. Instead, it has used the new Anti-terrorism Act, promulgated in 2015, to eliminate political opponents. As a result, at least three senior leaders including the former President Mohamed Nasheed and former Defence minister Mohmad Nazim had been booked under charges of terrorism. The present government's moves to severely undermine fundamental freedoms and the institution of democracy , thereby curtailing vital civil liberties and human rights has resulted in growing unrest among the citizens. The latest step in this direction was the passing of the Defamation Bill by the Maldivian Parliament which criminalised defamation. The bill received widespread international condemnation, including from the US, that called it the serious setback for freedom of expression. As per the 2015 U S State Department 'Report on Terrorism', sections of young Maldivians were at the risk of becoming radicalised and some had already joined violent extremist groups. This trend has continued and Maldives has witnessed a rise in religious conservatism spurred by funding by Saudi Arabia. Maldives also would have one of the highest ratios of foreign fighters per capita. With an average estimate of 125 Maldivians having joined foreign terrorist groups in the past few years, the island nation, with a population of 350,000 probably has one jihadi in every 2750 citizens. As civil unrest grows in the island nation coupled with increasing conservatism, an increasing number of youth are attracted to take up terrorist activities. There is also a growing anger within the radicalised Islamic population over deep-set inequality, both domestic and international, with wealthy foreign tourists seen to represent this discriminatory system. Whereas it was previously assessed that radical elements would not carry out terrorist activities within the country, the threat of an attack against wealthy western tourists is now a growing concern, according to Maldivian security officials. Factors like secluded island resorts and absence of security checks for local short haul flights in the country, make Maldives a soft target for terrorists. (ANI)
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