History of Conservatism In Maldives

First published on Minivan News in 2010

      • How Violent Thought First Developed in the Maldives
      • Spread of Salafi Based Islam
      • How Fundamentalism Was Spread to the Islands


Towards the early 1990s, men came together to form a more moderate version of Maldivian extremism, beginning a Neo-Salafi Movement. This philosophy called for a rejection of violence and sought to provide a facelift for what they identified as the “Wahhabi Myth.” This group sought to redefine people’s perception of “Wahhabis” by clarifying Salafi ideology and promoting the Hanbali School of Legal Theory (the most conservative of the four recognized schools of Sunni Islamic thought) upon which Salafism is based. Salafi ideology calls for a return to the principles, practices, and the way of life represented in the Arabian Gulf during the time of the Prophet (PBUH), while scorning all forms of interpretation. Today, due to our increasingly polarized society, the scholars following this school of thought represent some of the more moderate voices in our community.

Unfortunately, along with the Neo-Salafi Movement, radical Jihadhi groups developed in the country – some along the same old lines and with the same ties that had once been predominant during Former President Gayoom’s early years. Among this new group were many of the young men who were recruited in various institutions and Madrasas in Pakistan. Terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (the largest and most violent Islamist organization in South Asia) preyed upon Maldivian students preaching a message of intolerance and calling for violent upheaval in the name of Pan Islamism. Maldivians, having gone to these institutions in Pakistan in order to learn about Islam were easy targets as this philosophy of hatred was structured around the Salafi principles that are being taught in these externally funded institutions.


These young men then returned to Maldives bringing videos, books and recordings of the call for violent Jihad. Men like Ali Jaleel (Moscowge’) choose to approach young men in secondary institutions of learning like the Center for Higher Secondary Education (CHSE). In Male’, Jaleel would hold classes for young people in order to indoctrinate them with his ideology of hate. And yet, corrupting the young people of our country was not enough for him. In late 2006, he was caught along with six others trying to board a plane from Colombo to Qatar – attempting to go on Jihad. However, the previous government chose to sentence him to only two years of house arrest for a lesser crime, in spite of the evidence of his fundamentalism. Luckily for the young men who would become future victims of his ideology, it seems that he was finally able to go on Jihad; as sometime around May 2009 his family was informed of his demise in holy war (undocumented by our government till recently). But extremism in our country is not just one man or a rag tag group of miscreants.


The extremist groups within the Maldives have been highly organized, well funded, and extremely capable. By 2004, the groups were well developed and had clear hierarchical structures. Along with Ali Jaleel’s group, there was the Muhajireen which was based off of the ideology professed in the website: www.azzam.com (now disabled because it was one of the most prolific supporters of holy war on the internet). This group came to be known to most Maldivians as the “Dot Com” group because of their online origins. In the aftermath of the Tsunami, these two groups joined forces creating leaflets and audio cassettes supporting their radical ideology. They then sent delegations across the nation to every atoll and designated members of their group to stay and promote their views.

The Tsunami is God’s Wrath

They spread the word of fear and hate and violence. They chastised our population, telling them that they were responsible for the Tsunami that came. That their irreverence and hedonism resulted in the worst socio-economic disaster of our time. Unchecked, these people manipulated, harassed, and cajoled much of our population into adopting Salafi style ideology. These groups were organized and dangerous, and by 2006 there was an estimated 1000 hardcore Jihadists nationally who support going to war abroad. Men like Abu Qatada (an Islamist Jihadist associated with Al-Qaeda) have been in direct contact with Maldivians over the telephone. Even today, organizations like Jamiyathul Salaf refuse to reject current violent conflicts like that in Chechnya. Political parties like Adaalath would refuse recognizing Israel and a “two-state solution,” which the Palestinian people now call for, because of their adherence to some values of hate that are predominant in some Arab populations of the Middle East.