Growing Islamic radicalism threatening tourism in the Maldives

Published on : Monday, June 19, 2017

tourism in the MaldivesThe Maldives was in the news recently for a reason other than its pristine beaches and lovely resorts. It was the ghastly killing of a liberal blogger, stabbed to death by multiple assailants.

The killing in April of Yameen Rasheed, 29, a strong voice against growing Islamic radicalization, has given rise to safety concerns — particularly for foreign tourists, a highly vulnerable group and one that the islands’ economy depends on. Last summer, the government introduced the country’s first state policy on terrorism, calling for increased safety awareness at resorts and security assessments at seaports and in airports.

In January, the Republic of Maldives’ Islamic Ministry released policy recommendations that included a provision instructing tourism companies to provide visitors with written rules on how to conduct themselves in a Muslim country. But according to critics, such initiatives are cosmetic, doing little to ensure safety policies, and have come only after international stakeholders pressured the Maldivian authorities to acknowledge the threat extremism poses to visitors.

A collection of about 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives hosted 1.2 million visitors last year, including over 30,000 Americans.

It was governed as a moderate Islamic nation for three decades under the autocratic rule of the former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. But after the country made a transition to democracy in 2008, space opened up for greater religious expression, and conservative ideologies like Salafism cropped up.

Over the years, efforts to report on radical cells have been met with violent resistance. In 2014, a prominent Maldivian journalist who wrote about secularism and extremism, Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla, was abducted.

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