Maldives’ constitutional changes fall short for many

By August 14, 2008

The Maldives (MNN) — After four years of debate, the Republic of Maldives has ratified their constitution. This event is receiving praise from some and criticism from others.

The changes are said to have put the tourism-heavy country into the ranks of other world democracies. The Maldives is under the leadership of Asia's longest-serving president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Behind the beautiful sights that draw vacationers is a history of a repressive government, according to World Evangelical Alliance. WEA believes the changes are just as discriminatory as they have been in the past, despite hopes of true liberty. They report that "clearly the Western media still regard religious liberty as a dispensable human right, for the new constitution discriminates and marginalizes non-Muslims." Nowhere in the new constitution were religious freedoms outlined.

Article 2 states clearly that the Republic of Maldives is "based on the principles of Islam." In the past, one official of the country wrote on his personal blog that Maldivians who marry non-Muslims or convert away from Islam risk losing their citizenship. Now, it is written in Article 9 that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives." Article 16 continues, saying that parliament may restrict freedoms in order to uphold the tenets of Islam. The courts are allowed to decide whether the restrictions are "demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society".

Interestingly, Article 20 is in contradiction to the Islamic law it is trying to uphold when it says that all people shall be held equal before the law.

Article after Article has stipulations regarding religious affiliation and the inculcation of Sharia law. Article 72a3 says all members of parliament must be Muslims. 

Considering all this, WEA says it "may be understood that proselytism and apostasy are banned." In the past, Christians have been arrested and physically harmed for missionary activity.

The new law is due to be in place by October 2008. Pray that persecution will not increase for Chrsitians there. Pray that they will carry-on with strength and take bold steps of witness.   

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