It is always appalling to see news like Protesters calling for religious tolerance attacked with stones, threatened with death followed later by Reporters Without Borders condemns stabbing of Hilath Rasheed: “All the hallmarks of a targeted murder attempt” making headlines in every media, especially when someone you know is involved.
|It's not extremism or hypocrisy either, |
but we'll get to that in another post soon...
To be clear, let's go back to what the country is suffering from right now. What comes to mind?
If you think coup government, theft, violence, corruption, drug abuse, murder, religious extremism, child abuse, ambergis... you're wrong.
All these are symptoms... symptoms of an age old problem that has been begging to be identified. Several international agencies have been pouring millions of dollars into bandaging these gaping wounds without thinking about eliminating the only cultural evil.
Discrimination, in the form of Xenophobia, Racism and Class Discrimination.
Now now, don't pretend that you're not. Nearly every Maldivian you know have these in varying degrees. What did you think when you passed that group of Bangladeshi workers on your way to work this morning... "Oh God the Stench!", or, "Poor fellers, they don't even have enough time or even water, to take a good shower." ?
Chances are, you thought of the first.
Why not? It's short, it requires you to think less, right?
Think more, and think back, (and I urge everyone to), to all the struggles for freedom and independence by America, India, France, Russia and so on during the renaissance and the industrial revolution. All the fighting, riots and anger wasn't about religion, or anything else.
It was about being treated fairly and equally.
Xenophobia in the Maldives is more along the lines of treating everyone with contempt. While this is deeply veiled in interactions with Europeans and people from the Far East, everyone else gets treated with something short of open hostility.
Hence, the 'smelly Bangladeshi', the 'cheating Indian', the 'servile Nepalese', the 'difficult Sri Lankan', the 'Thai and Philippine prostitutes', and so on and so forth.
The Maldivians are adversarial among themselves too. Communities in the same physical island pretend that they live on separate islands (Isdhoo and Isdhoo-Kalaidhoo, Laamu Atoll), going so far as to dig trenches to cut each other off. Marriage between two people of different islands was considered taboo, unless it's someone from the capital. People from the capital, Malé, on the other hand were hostile towards anyone from the islands, or the 'raajjethéré' (countryside).
All these problems still exist, but manifest themselves in new and more dangerous forms.
I could go on and explain a bit more, but you need to think about these "problems" and tease them apart. You'll see that these are just symptoms, which reveals the ugly truth, that, for example, behind Drug Abuse lies overcrowded living conditions, which is because everyone wants to live in Malé, because of the availability of jobs and facilities in Malé, because of centralization, because of the belief that 'raajjethéré people would take advantage, or aren't smart enough.
Or, Drug Abuse because of differences in reconciling between traditional norms and one's own self, due to poor parental support because of religious or cultural upbringing that dismisses any behavior that deviates from norms as 'la dheeni' (irreligious) or simply, bad.
Every single symptom can be traced all the way to this problem.
In a perfect world, of course this problem wouldn't exist. As this isn't, Xenophobia exists all around the world in varying degrees. The difference is that in a highly dispersed population living in geography like the Maldives, along with a healthy dose of a profound lack of humility mixed with the "I want to show the world that I'm the best!" part of rivalry, Xenophobia is greatly exaggerated.
Coming back to the original topic then, religious tolerance can only be achieved by lobbying for the rights of expatriate workers and foreign nationals, including the freedom to practice their own religion. This will gradually spread awareness on treating everyone equally, regardless of nationality, race, culture, or religion.
Ultimately, conservative groups in the Maldives and elsewhere will have to understand that there is no compulsion in religion.
I'll have to say that this is the roughest sketch of a roadmap to achieving religious tolerance. It's important that we have religious freedom, well... I'll have to put that in another post, so stay tuned!