Defamation Bill & Its Un-Islamic Defense

Censorship

Source: The English Law Students’ Association

It is being talked about with much fervor today, the Islamic viewpoint behind criticizing the leadership and governance of a country and its head of state. Last year, right after the Independence Day celebrations were held, I wrote about how the government was imminently going to pass legislature that is “required” to put us behind bars for exercising our right to free speech, especially when it concerns the government and its elites. Today would most likely be the day upon which this prediction is going to become a reality, depending on whether government aligned party members pay heed to the sentiments of the people or bow down to their own greed, which has seen them profit most handsomely in recent times.

With the Defamation Bill submitted to the Parliament for the second time around, it went into the committee stage where religious scholars from the Fiqh Academy in the country were invited to have their say. Unsurprisingly, the sheikhs who turned up were in fact in agreement that the Defamation Bill is crucial and an important bill that needs to be passed, and furthermore went onto cite that defamation in fact, is considered to be a criminal offense in Islam. These sheikhs further went onto elaborate how criticizing the leader of a country is not to be done, how Islam forbids this, how Islam asks of society to obey their leaders, even if they turn out to be tyrannical monsters.

Islam on Oppression

Up till now, I have tried to refrain from saying much on the issue, because for one thing, I might not be the best of people to talk about things from an Islamic perspective, given that my knowledge when it comes to the Sharia’ and laws via which Islamic jurisprudence is governed is pretty much limited in comparison to the high heeled scholars of the country, the ones who go through their entire lives with their third eye blind, unable to see or hear of the cries of the sheer injustice that has become the norm in this country of ours.

My knowledge of Islam, the religion I follow and love, which is very much a part of who I am, does not jive at all with what the esteemed sheikhs revealed at the committee floor. In fact, I went on to do some reading to find out what I could about the scriptures being quoted often by the sheikhs who are in support of such a law being passed.

I found out that Sunni scholars agree upon the point that a leader should be obeyed, regardless of how corrupt and tyrannical he or she becomes and tramples the law of the land as they see fit. The only avenue left, according to these groups of scholars, is to advise the despot in place, hoping that his non-existent conscience grows a limb or two before the whole country is engulfed in misery and suffering.

On this note, Shiite scholars disagree and goes as far as to say that a ruler needs to be even forcibly removed from office, if it were to come to the point where he or she starts to trample on the rights of the people, when corruption becomes the accepted norm along with injustice that becomes rampant. According to these groups of scholars, corrupt and tyrannical rulers are not to be obeyed, and they hold the viewpoint that it becomes a “must” upon the people to remove such a leader from that position of power upon which they reside.

Of course, given the Sunni-Shiite split that pretty much makes anything the other group has to say blasphemous over the other, this clearly does not give much insight when it comes to how exactly Islam views the concept of leaders, the sheer magnitude of the responsibility that is thrust upon them, and how society should react and be able to act when it comes to less than stellar behavior from the leaders that govern.

Islam as a religion comes bearing peace amidst above everything else. This does not mean the peace of the kind that exists merely on the surface, but peace of the kind that reigns when there justice to be had in a society, regardless of race, skin colour, blood line or your status of wealth.

Establishing justice in its truest form, the way Allah SWT decreed it might be an impossibility in the context of the world, with its inherently corrupt people, the shifting areas of grey within the established man-made laws and the differences of opinion that arises in defining what the laws mandate, which sometimes are as vastly different from the other as night is to day.

In Surah An-Nisa, Allah SWT says, “O you who believe, be persistently standing firm in justice as witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. Follow not your desires, lest you not be just. If you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then Allah is aware of what you do. [Ayah 135].

Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:Allah the Exalted said: O my servants, I have forbidden oppression for myself and have made it forbidden among you, so do not oppress one another.

Furthermore, Anas (R.A) has narrated that Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” Volume 3, Book 43, Number 624: Sahih Bukhari.

What does all of the above indicate? The simple fact that establishment of justice becomes paramount in a society, more so when we claim ours to be an Islamic one, standing firm in its principles. Thus, it becomes the duty upon the ruler appointed by the people to manage their affairs to establish the system of justice that remains removed from other influential forces at work. It becomes a must upon the ruler to appoint judges who are able and remain uninfluenced by corrupt practices, and to create check and balance mechanisms that works properly to weed out vile practices that breaches the establishment of trust that is forged between a people and their government.

Hence, it becomes imperative upon the people to voice out against injustice, corruption, and mismanagement of the kind that hurts the people and society. What the Defamation Bill is geared to do is to stop any voice of reason out there that sheds light on any such practices of the government in the management of our affairs. It is targeted towards instilling fear in the hearts of those that do not want tyranny, injustice and corruption to be the way of life for Maldivians, but are helpless to do much more than voice out their discontent. With humongous fines cited as punishment, not to mention jail terms if people are unable to cough up the fines payable to the state in millions, the Defamation Bill closes the door on the rights of the citizen when it comes to “preventing the oppressor from oppressing others”.

Islamic History & Its Lessons

Looking into the history of how Islam as a religion was propagated through different times, up until the last of the Prophets, Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent, there exists lessons for all of us in what took place then.

If one were to ponder upon, for instance, why Prophet Musa (AS) was sent upon the people of Egypt, the Pharaoh being notorious in the tyranny that he was imposing upon his people, I believe we would identify what is wrong with the statements of the Sheikhs from the Fiqh Academy. Of course, Prophet Musa (AS) undoubtedly was sent to show the people the right way, but he was also sent to liberate the people who had been suffering for years under the tyrannical rule of a leader that was becoming more and oppressive and paranoid by the day. Paranoid enough that he wanted all male offspring born to the people be killed, for fear that the vision of a leader who would end his reign may come true.

A lot of people talk about how Prophet Lut (AS) was sent upon the people of Sadoom and how it all relates back to acts of homosexuality that was rampant amongst their people, to the extent which men preferred their own gender over women. But what most fail to pinpoint is the fact that there existed more severe problems in their society than homosexuality. Injustice was the law of the day, where judges were corrupt, awarding justice to the highest bidder. The poor bore the brunt of the unequal practices of the state and no message that Prophet Lut (AS) delivered upon the people were heeded upon. The sheer injustice of the people of Sadoom, who had become a law unto themselves was a pivotal reason why they perished under the punishment of Allah SWT. But few of the esteemed Sheikhs remember to tell this part of the story when they regale the life of Prophet Lut (AS).

Moving on, let us think of why Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent to us, as a blessing upon mankind. Of course once again, he was sent as a guidance for the Ummah, until the Day of Judgement is upon us. He was sent as the last Prophet, not only for the Arab race, but for all mankind, across the globe. But while establishing the principles of Islam such as oneness of Allah SWT and that one should turn to Him and only Him, what else did the Prophet PBUH propagate and teach and establish during his life?

He taught the Ummah the importance of establishing justice, the benefit of seeking knowledge, the peace that would never be found in a society unless the rights of the collective people are seen to and established. He taught us to listen to the voices of the people, to hear both sides of an argument and the importance in establishing the truthfulness behind testimonies taken into as evidence when delivering punishments and verdicts on civil and criminal cases that arose during his time.

He showed the value behind respecting the other, regardless of the differences, even be it when it comes to their faith. He liberated the people that were suffering under the tyranny of the rich and elite in Mecca from a life of servitude or worse, and he showed us that democracy is not a “modern” or rather “un-Islamic” concept as most would like to point out, but democracy in its truest form comes from the practice all of the above.

Subjugation of the People – What makes it so Easy

Why are societies so afraid of giving power back to the people where it rightfully belongs, so inherent in subjugating the people? Why do tyrannical leaders such as Bashar Al-Assad of Syria, late Saddam Hussain of Iraq, Hitler from Germany and even Pol Pot who led the infamous Khmer Rouge, find their footing in society and are able to repress people in a manner that is incomprehensible to the freethinker?

Perhaps, the answer lies in a mix of factors which includes religion in its midst. Religion that is used as a political tool to suppress, a tool that is used to silence the voice of dissent, the discontent that people feel, to impress upon them the fear of the sovereign being upon which their faith resides, all the while forgetting that the Creator looks upon leaders of society just as much as its people.

Leaders tend to forget that we all share the commonality that is death. Whether one believes in the Hereafter or not, we are all going to die someday. Humans, though we would like to assume that we are the most advanced of species to walk the Earth, have not yet figured out a way to prevent death, or perhaps the secret to an eternal life. Thus lies the stupidity in thinking that as leaders they are invincible. That just because they sit on that throne today, they will be there forever.

We the people cast our votes to elect our leaders, be it our representatives at the Parliament or the head of state of the country. While the system has in place organizations specifically geared towards establishing the check and balance mechanism that should rightly work to remove the unhealthy practices of corruption and injustice, when that mechanism fails, there should be other avenues for the people to address the issue, be it even the last resort of removing an elected official from office. There should be legal avenues that protects the rights of the people to this extent, so that they are not left vulnerable in the hands of madmen who are willing to cross every single line out there to serve their needs.

The lesson that leaders, especially those that claim to be Muslims need to learn is that even if people were to listen and obey them forever because they are left with little choice but to do so, there would indeed come a day when that power would be stripped from them, where they too would face the bitter taste of death. Where I believe that they would face a worse torment than what the people could have delivered if they had the inclination to, where they would be answerable to their Creator for all that they had done in this world.

“The best jihad is the word of justice in front of an oppressive sultan.”

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‘Clash’ of the Titans; Judge Abdulla VS. President Nasheed

Judge Abdulla Mohamed (left), President Mohamed Nasheed (right)

 

Reading the news article on last night’s trial proceedings on Dhivehi Online, such elaborate romanticism was my gut reaction. Judge Abdulla Mohamed is made out to be as innocent as a new born baby’s bum, the poor victim, whose story bears telling over & over again, while President Nasheed’s actions have to be shown to be that of the preposterous ruler, who jailed him and severed a sitting judge of his rights. Oh the blasphemous nature of it all!

The allegations of misconduct whatsoever against the judge which the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the commission entrusted with overseeing the affairs of the judicial sector, and other governing authorities, were unable to investigate, for the lack of a better term, don’t seem to deserve a mention. Responsible journalism, a concept Maldivian media would rather avoid altogether, requires that the countless allegations against Judge Abdulla Mohamed mentioned, & why it got to this point.

In the spirit of that, I’m going to highlight some of the wonderful ‘heroic’ acts that Judge Abdulla Mohamed has committed, in the name of serving justice for the people of the Maldive. I’ll say this time & yet again. The likes of Judge Abdulla Mohamed belongs behind bars for the rest of their natural life & in the deepest recesses of Hell in the Hereafter.

  1. One of the complaints against Judge Abdulla Mohamed stems from 2005, forwarded by the then Attorney General Dr. Hassan Saeed where it was said Abdulla Mohamed who presided over a case of child sexual abuse had ordered the victim to show the court what was done to her & this in front of the perpetrator. Copies of the letter exists, circulated over social media every now & then.
  2. Judge Abdulla Mohamed already had a criminal conviction when he was appointed a judge during President Maumoon’s tenure. The conviction was made during the time of Justice Minister Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed who is currently the Vice President of Maldives.
  3. By April 2009, there were a number of pending misconduct allegations against Judge Abdulla Mohamed pending without inquiry.
  4. On 27 July 2010, JSC announced removal of 32 names including Abdulla Mohamed, but on 28 July 2010 declared him to be fit to remain on the bench. JSC appointed member under Article 158(F) of the Constitution, Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman, walked out of a meeting in protest and announced on media that Judge Abdulla Mohamed did not meet the good character required of a sitting judge in Islamic Shariah and condemned JSC’s corruption.
  5. In February 2011, Abdulla Mohamed released an alleged murderer to “teach the health minister a lesson”, and in 24 hours the released committed a second murder, which in reality should’ve taught the public a lesson.
  6. On November 2011, JSC decided that Judge Abdulla Mohamed was in breach of good conduct, not fit to be on the bench, but refused to take action against him.
  7. On 16 January 2012, Maldives Police Service summoned Judge Abdulla Mohamed for questioning. However, Judge Abdulla Mohamed refused to appear, and instead petitioned the High Court to cancel the police order.
  8. MPs held responsible to hold JSC accountable, and to determine the legitimacy of JSC’s actions on article 285 and re-appointment of judges including Judge Abdulla Mohamed of the Criminal Court, who publicly boasted that there’d be no inquiry of JSC led protests against former President Nasheed calling for release of “Ablo Qaazee”.
  9. Records of Judge Abdulla Mohamed show him raging at JSC, declaring JSC had no power to investigate him. JSC refused to agenda the matter showing impunity for Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
  10. On 7 February 2012, former President Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign, for which the opposition cited “allegations of unconstitutional and unlawful activity with regard to circumstances surrounding the supposed abduction of Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
  11. In July 2012, the Civil Court ruled that JSC, the overseeing body of the judicial sector, could not implement any action against Judge Abdulla Mohamed, and thus he & other judges shall remain above any check & balance mechanisms ensured by the law.

Above points highlights the nature of the Judge, the victim, whose rights seems to take a precedence over the rights of the people that he sits & judges every single day when he walks into that courtroom & sits down to serve the people. If you can’t see nothing wrong with that picture, well, good luck to you! Former JSC member Aishath Vellezinee has a wealth of information on proceedings of JSC & the how’s & why’s of our arrival to where we are today. The points mentioned just highlights the depth of ineptness & corruption of the state institutes in the face of the ongoing judicial dictatorship the country is experiencing.

The arrest of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, which I refuse to call an abduction, took place on 17th of January 2012. Lawyers from all over the country protested the move by the government, not looking beyond to see the character of the man that had been arrested, a man who had violated over and over again, the very code of ethics of the position he stands for. Two of the three judges presiding over the ongoing trial of President Mohamed Nasheed are those that were present at Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s residence when he was arrested, which is why I have a hard time calling his arrest an abduction.

Getting back to the ‘trial’, if it can even be called that, and the fact that Nasheed seems defiant in front of the judges with no respect for them, well, people respect those that garner respect, i.e. respect is earned. You can’t make someone respect a person just by making it mandatory by law. Elitism of the judicial sector is something I have a hard time accepting & well, let’s leave that discussion for another time.

This farce of a trial currently happening in Maldives, is above all difficult to read about & yes, impossible to accept. No matter how much any media wants to gloss over it, the state of the judiciary shines through in every aspect of this trial. Vindictive, corrupt & unjust are a few choice words that comes to the mind. If President Nasheed deserves to be jailed for the unlawful imprisonment of Judge Abdulla Mohamed, by all means please do so. But award him a fair trial that observes the proper proceedings as required by law. Don’t expect the mindful section of the public to accept the shenanigans that you keep referring to as a fair trial to imprison a former President.

Media makes out Judge Abdulla Mohamed to be the epitome of a well behaved citizen while President Nasheed, who is getting the raw end of the deal in every single manner remains the villain in many a people’s eyes. There was a mention in the aforementioned article of how Judge Abdulla Mohamed never looked up at President Nasheed during his testimony at court while President Nasheed looked on at him with avid interest. I say, if you have a clear conscience, you can look in the other person’s eye when they are talking about what you’ve done. Can’t say the same thing for the ‘victim’ here who couldn’t, not until that last ‘historic’ moment where even the infamous Judge Abdulla Mohamed had to smile back at a man who refuses to show the world that he is being beaten by a system designed to do so, in the form of this heinous & rampant injustice that’s being done.

Like Julian Assange once said, “every time we witness an injustice & do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence & thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves & those we love.”

I sincerely hope that doesn’t become the case with us Maldivians.

Allah knows best.

Colorless, Are You?

One of the many things that happened after the 7th of February 2012 was the emergence of a lot of “political” groups on the social network of Facebook. One such group that popped up was entitled “Colorless” which started promoting peace, harmony and the concept of engaging in dialog with each other, to set aside our differences and work towards the betterment of this country. A noble concept don’t you think?

Being the pessimist that I am at certain moments, I found the concept of being “colorless” and “neutral” when evidence of police brutality towards unarmed civilians on the 8th of February showed Maldivians just how barbaric a society this can become in the face of injustice. Yes, it is an injustice to all of us, not just those who support MDP and its policies, the way in which the first democratically elected leader of this country was brought down from power by mutinying forces within the Police and the Military. And in my opinion promoting peace and harmony when society is rife with injustice is like throwing a spoonful of water to put out a raging fire. Varied are the views on how the incidents actually unfolded, main reason being the contradicting versions of the events that began to surface as the days passed.

The rage that grew to life deep inside of me after seeing the utter disrespect that the law enforcement officials showed towards peaceful protesters that day just multiplied by tenfold upon the government staying silent on the atrocities committed by the very people whose oath demands from them to serve and protect the public. Couple it together with my frustration at how the people were cheated out of their basic rights to democracy, the right to vote and the right to elect the leader in power, and how the authoritative bodies remained silent as if in a deep state of coma, I just didn’t see any point in promoting the concept of unicorns running around in a field of flowers while the sun shines down, where everything is just merry and the people are high on Prozac so that they don’t see anything wrong or any injustice in the way the “new” government came into power.

And then there is the hypocritical media of this country, a place where the concept of free, fair and unbiased reporting is a myth rather than a fact. While the same TV channels that for the past 2 years had spread half-truths, hate speech and propaganda to incite loathing towards Nasheed’s administration all of a sudden changed tune to promote peace and love between the people, admonishing the society to come together to support the leader in power because that is what the religion preaches us just got me madder. To top it all off, the airing of videos of the great “sacrifices” that the armed forces had made for the betterment of this country? Insert an eye rolling session here. Total and utter shame!

So somehow I managed to voice out my frustrations on the said group and well, I did get well meant advice from group members, similar in nature to the concept of the “road map” towards peace that Dr. Waheed seems to be dabbling with these days. My take on the pointlessness of peace when there is no justice, when the judiciary remains in the clutches of the corrupted and most elite businessmen of this country disappeared into a million other posts that promoted love, peace, harmony and the care bear stuff that I just couldn’t take in. My post on the current “state” of the country’s media received the following feedback. Since I was so passionate on the issue, I could create a separate group on the issue and advocate for it. Hocus Pocus!

And then, there are those friends and acquaintances, who hide behind the concept of being “neutral” and wears the “I’m not a member of any political party” banner so proudly that  they might as well have the slogan tattooed on their foreheads. I too am not part of any political party. But I have enough brain cells left (even after countless attempts by the previous regime to brainwash them into submission) to be able to read, observe and then make up my own mind about what I see, hear and feel. I know how to separate right from wrong and what took place on February 7th and 8th of this year was just plain wrong!

Does being neutral and “colorless” mean that you don’t see with your own eyes? Hear with your own ears? Think with your own brain? Does it mean that you remain unfeeling even at the face of thousands of peaceful protesters being dismantled by the force of pepper spray and batons, the way they handled the ex-President who had just “resigned” the day before? Does it make you unable to see the hypocrisy behind the most famous tourism resort owner of this country alleging to “save” a religion that he “mocks” by reaping profits off of selling the very items that are considered as prohibited in our religion? Don’t you just find it ironic that the pamphlet that was created by Dr. Hassan Saeed and Dr. Jameel hypothesised on a lot of aspects rather than providing us with the facts as to why they seem to have arrived at the conclusion that Nasheed is trying to drive away the religion everyone seems to cling on to even if praying 5 times a day is a thing that most Maldivians treat rather casually? What makes you say that people who were beaten up badly and some of who were knifed in places deserved what they got if you think of yourself as a true Muslim? What makes you mock those who cry out at the injustice of what took place and still label yourself as being neutral and colorless?

If being colorless, odorless, tasteless and neutral means being deaf, dumb and blind and turning my back on every injustice that is done to the people of this country, I would rather remain labeled as a “colored” person. I would rather go down fighting for what I believe in, standing up for the rights that we deserve as per the constitution of this country rather than staying silent, as silence in the face of injustice is just another way of saying yes, I agree with the atrocities that are being committed and I find nothing wrong in what happened. And for me, that can  never become the accepted norm.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.”  Long live people’s power. Long live democracy!