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Page added on November 21, 2011

Blog crack-down “is just the beginning”, warns censored blogger

Blog crack-down “is just the beginning”, warns censored blogger thumbnail

The website of controversial Maldivian blogger Ismail ‘Hilath’ Rasheed has been shut down by Communications Authority of the Maldives (CAM) on the order of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The Ministry made the request on the grounds that the site contained anti-Islamic material, a CAM statement read.

CAM Director Abdulla Nafeeg Pasha told Minivan News the Islamic Ministry has the power to regulate website content.

Pasha did not wish to comment on the procedures for closing down a website, but said “if the ministry tells us to shut it down, that’s what we do. We do not make the decision.”

Once closed, Pasha explained, a website can only be re-opened by order of the court.

Islamic Minister Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari had not returned calls at time of press, and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Mohamed Didi had not responded to enquiries.

In a statement issued today Hilath defended his blog as an expression of his Sufi Muslim identity.

“I am a Sufi Muslim and there is nothing on my website that contradicts Sufi Islam. I suspect my website was reported by intolerant Sunni Muslims and Wahhabis,” he claimed.

Under the Maldivian constitution every Maldivian is a Sunni Muslim. The constitution also provides for freedom of expression, with Article 27 reading “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.”

New regulations published by the government in September, enforcing the 1994 Religious Unity Act, bans the media from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio “that humiliates Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith.”

“This also includes the broadcasting of material (on other religions) produced by others and recording of such programs by the local broadcaster, and broadcasting such material by the unilateral decision of the local broadcaster,” the regulations stipulate. Under the Act, the penalty for violation is 2-5 years imprisonment.

Hilath claimed he was being censored for expressing his version of Islam, and called for more freedom of interpretation within the faith.

“I call upon all concerned to amend the clause in the constitution which requires all Maldivians to be Sunni Muslims only,” his statement read.

“‘Unto you your religion and unto me my religion,’ and ‘There is no compulsion in religion’,” he said, quoting Qur’an 109:6 and 2:256.

Hilath believes the block of his website has a political edge. “If Sunni Muslims are the conservatives, then the Sufi Muslims are the liberals,” he told Minivan News. “I think this is a conservative attack on the site. They think if you’re not a Sunni, you’re an unbeliever.”

Hilath said he would approach the issue from its constitutional roots. “If I want to unlock my blog I will have to go to court, where they will say I’m an unbeliever which is illegal. So I will have fight the larger issue of the constitution,” he said.

The label of ‘unbeliever’ was tantamount to ‘enemy of the state’, he said, adding that bloggers such as himself were afraid of the consequences of being labelled as such. Hilath is one of only a few Maldivian bloggers who write under their own names.

In January 2009 the Islamic Ministry shut down several blogs for allegedly publishing anti-Islamic material. The action closely followed then-newly elected President Mohamed Nasheed’s statement that the Maldives would be a haven of free expression.

Hilath said he was ashamed of the government’s maintenance of its original declaration for a liberal democracy. “I know the President said this was a liberal democracy, but I am ashamed that the Islamic Ministry has assumed so much power,” he said. “I call upon the president to address this issue.”

A 2009 review endorsed by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication defined freedom of expression in the digital age as dependent on “neutral” networks “in the sense that the flow of content should not be influenced by financial, cultural or political reasons.”

“In particular, in the case of filtering, the origin of filtering lists and the underlying criteria and processes should be publicly available,” read the report.

The report made three recommendations for the Maldives:

1) To stop blocking websites as was done in March 2009;

2) If blocking is necessary, it should only be pursued following a favorable court decision;

3) To foster open discussions on internet regulation among citizens, government members, NGOs and international parties.

To Hilath’s knowledge, this is the first time a websites has been blocked since January 2009. He believes his website is part of a “bigger conservative fight against the [ruling] Maldivian Democratic Party” and is only the beginning of a new wave of censorship.

“This time I think the conservatives behind the Islamic Ministry think they can put pressure on the government to see all these things as anti-Islamic, like with the SAARC monument issue. More blogs will probably be blocked. I think this is just the beginning.”

The opposition to Hilath’s blog “is a minority of the population, but it’s very vocal and active,” he said. By contrast the younger generation, which composes approximately half of the Maldives population, may take a different view, he claimed.

“The younger generation is educated and enlightened about religion and freedom and Islamic principles. I think the majority will support my move. But few feel free to speak out,” he said.

Mohamed Nazeef, President of Maldives Media  Council (MMC), said he was not familiar with the blog in question. However he said that the media – even bloggers – were subject to the society it served.

“Even when you talk about democracy there are ethics, and you have to respect the prevailing culture of the country and the needs of its people. Even in the name of freedom there are boundaries. That’s why we have a media code of ethics.”

When asked whether a citizen’s blog could arguably represent or oppose the greater good, Nazeef explained that a balance between people and the law was important.

“The constitution must be respected because people are under the constitution. Nobody is above the law. If you want to do something that is not allowed you have to properly amend the law.”

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41 Comments on "Blog crack-down “is just the beginning”, warns censored blogger"

  1. mohamed on Mon, 21st Nov 2011 10:53 PM 

    ‘Religious Unity Act, bans the media from producing or publicising programs, talking about or disseminating audio “that humiliates Allah or his prophets or the holy Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet (Mohamed) or the Islamic faith.” ‘

    I’m not sure who’s humiliating whom.

  2. Pyaar on Mon, 21st Nov 2011 11:09 PM 

    Don’t say that I warned it before.

  3. me on Mon, 21st Nov 2011 11:14 PM 

    radio atoll nazeef does not know hilath blog? tsk tsk

  4. Hamdhun on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:10 AM 

    A sad day for Freedom of Expression in the Maldives! A good day for the religious fascists.

  5. Haarut and Maarut on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:11 AM 

    Maldivian constitution go to hell, I am not a Sunni Muslim, neither a wahabi, no a shia Muslim, nor a damn sufi creep either.

    I am a Muslim.

    Like our former President His Excellency Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said, we should have the right follow what ever religion we choose.

    hope hope Maumoon, hope hope Maumoon.

  6. sim on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:55 AM 

    Hilath is a lunatic!!! He is a puppet in test phase by the social experimentation done on Maldivian society by world order control by satan worshipers in Maldives and globally!!! Lets all be honest…hilath openly calls and promotes gay’s and nudism! his website was promoting it. Repeatedly abuse Islam!!! Sufism is veil he is now wearing.

  7. tsk tsk on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 2:28 AM 

    Hilath’s blog is the only website TAM has blocked since 2009?

    Funny….try this one http://www.tamilnet.com/

  8. yaamyn on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 4:05 AM 

    Censorship is the tool of the tyrants, and when a citizen’s personal blog can be shut down because a certain Government minister cannot take criticism levelled at him / his party, then the tyranny is obvious.

    If President Nasheed wants to pretend his government is a ‘liberal democracy’, then he’s doing a poor job of it.

    There are a few of us who have been warning of this since the very first day the government banned ‘DJ’s and several websites soon after it came to power.

    It is unfortunate that people like Nazeef are at pains to show deference to authority by claiming to not even know of Hilath’s blog – and moreover, suggesting that bloggers should be subservient to the ‘prevailing culture’ in society.

    No, Mr. President of the Media council, that is NOT the role of the media.

    It is the media’s role to question authority at every moment, and hold them accountable for their actions, of which censorship is a particularly nasty one.

    Such a spineless media, and media watchdog, is one of the reasons why the government can get away with censorship and silencing critics.

  9. HassanK on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 4:55 AM 

    Hillath, if every man’s religion is for themselves, why do you have this overwelming urge to write and criticise the form of the religion Maldivian majority wishes to practise? Why can’t you be happy with the form you want to tractise and leave others to practise theirs?

    The bottom line is that for any administration in office, religion is a political issue not a religions issue. You need to make people spiritually happy just as much as socio-economically. So you need to stratgise how you will manage the religious affairs from a political perspective for the benefit of the country. This is somewhat independent from practising religion in the intent of going to heaven.

  10. Ahmed on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 7:40 AM 

    The cornerstone of a free society is freedom of speech. This is a fundamental human right and injustice. Disgusting. Keep your spirits and motivation up Hilath. You have a lot of people who defend your right to express yourself as you choose even if they do not agree with you. We no longer live in the DARK AGES!!!

  11. ibrahim Mohamed on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 8:36 AM 

    there are also so called Islamic blogs which gives false information about Islam and playing foul with politicians, in the name of Islam. They use Islam as a political tool. Islamic Minister also should ban these websites. If so called Islamic Scholars can say anything they desire, the common public also should have freedom to express it in a similar scale, If they can preach to keep women in closed doors and marry underage girls, we should also be able to take our stand on the public. We need healthy debates on issues such as these and also on monuments. There are so many of us who believe that this whole monument saga is nothing to do with Islam or religion, but political propaganda. In Iraq Saddam had erected his own sculpture, yet it was considered the very heart of Muslims. A monument or a sculpture can never be assumed as an idol of worship (assumption is the mother of all F****ups). The law clearly says idols of worship is banned. in this case we should ban logos of HRCM and Elections Commission as well coz it shows the Buddhas Palm in praying position.If a people get brainwashed they can fall in to an enigma and see anything their minds can create!You could even see Jesus when DJ Baree stands to preach on Friday prayers. These are all crap we can feed in to the minds of brainwashed people!

  12. Ali on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 8:50 AM 

    sufis are not a sect, they can be sunni or shia. And also i didnt know there is anybody in the maldives with Pasha as surname

  13. Sobah on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 8:50 AM 

    I personally blame the islamic mnistry for this. The religious leaders still fail, I believe, to understand that while islam and religion are the fundamental basis of our constitution, the islamic ministry is by no means an absolute authority where the enforcement of said constitution is concerned. The ministry is not a tool for religious zealots (pardon the expression) to exert their personal opinions and pet peeves unto the general (or specific) public… the “mullahs” (as hilath so often refers to them) have outstepped their bounds… and CAM has violated the “law” here by failing to:

    a) obtain a court order to ban the website in the first place
    b) adequately notify the concerned parties of who filed a complaint, which articles in particular are offensive, why they are offensive etc…
    c) issue an adequate public statement identifying the reasons for blocking the website, when it was blocked, why it was blocked, under what procedure or law it was blocked – and information about oppotunity for people who wish to contest this action.

    this whole thing sounds too much like it was settled over tea or coffe and NOT in any formal capacity. I personally view this move to be unacceptable!

  14. hassan ahmed on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 9:24 AM 

    There is no freedom of thought, communication and expression in Maldives.
    There is no so-called democracy either.
    Religion is forced here in Maldives. I’ am not surprised of the fact that personal blog are been blocked. But I’ am surprised by the government not taking action against the bloger, maybe why they are not arresting the blogger is because of international community.
    Once again religion is been used here in Maldives as a tool to be in power. Now the government of Maldives should not crap about being a liberal democracy.

  15. Mariyam on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 9:34 AM 

    Totally agree with Mohamed and Sobah. Religion is a powerful tool and when raving lunatics with their own selfish agendas are given such authority under a Ministry, it has the power to do more harm than good, for the religion itself and for the population at large. President Nasheed, time to rethink your policies and make some real changes before its too late.

  16. Zeena Gasim on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 9:55 AM 

    When someone became a lunatic and a drug addict there is no reason to leave him alone for the good of the society. A promoter of gay rights and nudism can’t be considered as any sect of Islam. Drugs has failed this talented individual and we must stop others before reaching the dead end.

  17. Nash Rafeeq on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 10:01 AM 

    The bearded creeps are feeling conered and lashing out against any one and any thing they feel is a threat to the status quo that has them rule by defecto disguised as guardians of faith. I have asked this question more than once is the faith of the so called pius so fragile that any that challenges their world view should be banned ? if so then they should look into them selves and ask why is their faith so fragile rather than banning things left and right…

  18. riyaz on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 10:25 AM 

    Bala thoa gossela thakahalei meehun thibi thaakah balaaverikamaa!!!

    Bala Islam dheen baibai keraakah mi qaumakun furusathah nilibeyheh…

    Thoa blog hadhaah jawwah, vayah, fazaah ebey…dhen lalalaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  19. aminath on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 11:39 AM 

    this anti islam bigot of a reporter who was running after girls in an island need to be contained.

  20. alibeyya on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 11:40 AM 

    I don’t understand why religious unity forces all citizens to follow only “Sunni” sect. Why cannot we follow “Sufi” sect as Hilath does.

    Shutting down blogs do no good in terms of faith of Maldivians. a total isolation from the rest of the world is the only way block information these days.

  21. Maldives Defenders League on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:05 PM 

    Minivan news, you are next!
    Stop publishing anti-islam materials or we will force you to shut down and the foreign “reporters” to deport.
    Respect the maldivian constitution, rules and regulations.
    This is a warning!

  22. ahmed on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:11 PM 

    Congratulations to Ministry of Islamic Affairs for their brave decision in defense of our constitution. I hope more such actions follow. We are firmly with you.

  23. maldivian on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:21 PM 

    i wonder what the current ruler, mohamed nasheed, will do regarding this.
    nasheed is the one who relaesed this hilath character from jail when he was caught red handed with a massive drug overdose and with posession of illegal drugs.
    why? because nasheed has family relations with the hilath character. and he very much support what hilath is doing.
    if nasheed over turn the islamic ministeries dicision, then we will teach a thing or two to him.

  24. ainth on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:37 PM 

    Reading this news report by Elinor Johnstone, her anti-islam bigotery is just too aparent. Lady, if you want to work here, know that this is maldives!

  25. Fathi on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:47 PM 

    What about websites like Raaje Islam, that openly misleads people about Islam, promotes hatred among Muslims, between Muslims and Non-Muslims?? If they have the freedom to express what ever they believe, why does the Islamic Minitry have a problem with what Hilath, one individual believes in?

    Although I do not agree with Hilath on everything, I think he’s at least someone brave enough to come out of the closet and fight for what he believes, rather than many hypocrits in our society..

  26. Mohamed Ubaid on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 12:53 PM 

    Outraged by banning of Hilath’s blog, I have finally submitted my blog to be listed in MvBlogs.

    So far, I took Hilath’s advice and refrained myself from submitting my blog to be listed on MvBlogs, out of respect for Maldivian “Islamist” extremists, because Hilath told me that, whatever they are, they still don’t deserve a daily dose of gay “porn.”

    But not anymore!

    Since the so-called “Islamic” Ministry banned Hilath’s website in Maldives this is just too much for me to digest, and I’ve decided not to give any further respect to these so-called “Muslim” extremists. If they are really Muslims, they should respect not only Hilath’s but other people’s right to freedom of religion and free expression.

    So today I have submitted my blog to MvBlogs and I hope they list it so that these so-called “Muslim” extremists will get a daily doze of penises and go to Hell for all Eternity!

    Peace,
    Ubaid

  27. Maldivian Apostate on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 1:18 PM 

    Well, I agree with Hilath on this. Maldives currently restricts freedom of speech in more ways than it dares to show the world. And to make it worse, the wahhabees are slowly taking over all institutions, which is why terror websites like dheen.info are still available. Luckily, Facebook remains a very good platform.

    Well, there is a new group on Facebook which encourages debate between Maldivian apostates and muslims, and you should check it out.

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/305378736139758/

  28. MaldivianSkeptic on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 3:57 PM 

    This is really unacceptable..

    What is Anni’s govt becoming? A totalitarian regime?

    Dhivehi Observer too had some offensive material in it but when it got banned everybody went crazy.

    I call upon the govt of Maldives to lift the ban as soon as possible..

    IF you don’t lift the ban expect painful retaliation and non cooperation from Apostates. Anni, most of us work for you, in the govt, if you want it to be successful you better unblock our Hero Hilath’s website.

    Long live Hilath, may his name be ever praised by Maldivian Apostates. Truly, his courage inspires all of us.

    My message to those who banned the website: “Kaley mennah hallaku huri”

  29. hi-l"gayath on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 7:52 PM 

    Dear commentors!!
    Where is the freedom in this world to openly defame religious values like Hilath does?? We all know “some Maldivians” want to practice their deviant satanic practices in the Maldives openly!! BUT be assured even one Maldivian breath left..we will never allow that to happen!! You cowards just have to hide or blog like Hilath!

  30. katy on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 8:19 PM 

    wheres journalist association

  31. Mohamed Ali on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 8:23 PM 

    Freedom of speech must come with a sense of responsibility…it also works both ways.

    I do not wish to see my country become a taliban haven, neither do I have the desire to see it turn into a nudist camp!..

    Let’s calm down now here, act responsible, and not mix freedom of speech with total liberty to publish immoral values. On the other hand, let’s not violate the right of speech and the right to express oneselve in the name of religion…

    Peace

  32. EnquiringMind on Tue, 22nd Nov 2011 9:30 PM 

    Plenty of countries have restrictions of free speech.

    These delusional secularists who think that their agenda should be some kind of national priority are as stupid as the Wahhabi’s and their Penguin spouses, if they think their goals being implemented at the political level would adress the numerous issues we face as a nation.

    If the law deems these types of blogs threaten national stability, so be it.

    Stability and economic progress, not necessarily liberty is the foundation of prosperity. Ask the Chinese.

  33. Omar Saeed on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 2:34 AM 

    Dear EnquiringMind

    Why are you willing to sacrifice liberty and the pursuit of happiness for something as base as ‘worldly wealth’?.

    We dont want to be ruled by the Taliban tyrants or a Maumoon tyrants or even China tyrants.

    Here’s something more dangerous to stability and economic progress; letting some backward bedouin-wannabes decide what ‘law’ is.

  34. alien from another galaxy on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 10:19 AM 

    And in China adults can eat barbeued pork while sipping glasses of wine!

  35. Ben Plewright on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 1:46 PM 

    Hilath’s courage to speak his mind inspired many, including myself, to resist the fear which suffocates the beautiful, creative soul of so many Maldivians. It is a violation of the will to dignity of all oppressed to remove such an inspirational force. now that the freedom has been tasted by those Hilath inspired, there is no going back into the darkness of oppression again, no human being should live in fear. This is an act of oppression against humanity, I am very upset.

    I am going to write a series of letters to our foreign minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd, who happens to be a great admirer of President Nasheed, (yes he must be as deluded as I was believing Anni to be some great liberator (this proves we were wrong)) and yes he would possibly ignore me at first, but until Anni can prove he is the great liberator he proves to be, his Government should not receive assistance from any nation until it does MORE to free its ppl from slavery!

  36. Ben Plewright on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 2:07 PM 

    One thing which is painfully more apparent than ever. Freedom from fear to express oneself cannot be given by anyone, not even by the great liberal Mohammed Anni Nasheed. Self realization, the expression of ones soul, can only be realized through ones own courage for resistance. Resistance is morally empowering, it gives one the capacity to take whatever consequences come ones way. In the end, the pain of the repression of what is in ones soul will become too much bear, and soul power, freedo, self expression will be realized, as the pain of the consequences will be less than the pain of repression. Nothing is more painful than living in constant fear… The soul must escape, and neither Maumoon, nor Yameen, will be able to repress it. The longer it is repressed, the more powerful it will be when it is unleashed.

  37. Baazu on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 7:03 PM 

    …and we call our country democratic?

  38. Mohamed Ali on Wed, 23rd Nov 2011 7:08 PM 

    Hilath may be excentric, but still, he’s a voice from deep down the darkness of the Maldives deepest hollows…

    To some, sounding perhaps like shark teeth ripping through one’s flesh, to others, like the healing sound small waves make under a bliss of sunshine along a deserted finolhu surrounded by turquoise waters… That same finolhu, that one day shall harbour soil where trees shall grow tall, breathe and give us the air we need and finally, where life shall prosper…in other words a breath of fresh air!

    To smother one’s voice is not the answer. Although it must be spoken from a rightfull, truthfull and constructive mind, a voice must not be suffocated before it is first allowed to express regret, for what might have been said wrongly or just interpreted wrongly…

    Just think before you speak!… Words are more powerful than swords.

    Peace

  39. Hilath Rasheed on Thu, 24th Nov 2011 2:15 PM 

    It’s sad that extremists think that for their cause, even spreading lies about people are halal.

    It’s true that President Nasheed is my second cousin but I wonder which Majeediyya boy I slept with in school because I clearly remember very openly writing on my blog that the 21-year-old man I lost my virginity to was when I was at the “old” age of 29. Since I left Majeediyya at the age of 16, I am wondering how those extremist commentators got mixed up. Perhaps they failed maths in school and now pissed off at me.

    And about the drugs: I was let go by Police because I didn’t test positive for drugs and no drugs was found on me in that uninhabited island. It was not President Nasheed coming to my rescue. Anyone can ask Police Shiyam about it.

    I don’t think I get any special protection. And if Anni is that powerful, why is he acting so cowardly with regard to SAARC monuments? Assumption is the mother of all f***-ups.

  40. idreesbe on Thu, 24th Nov 2011 5:55 PM 

    Here is another view about Hillath.
    1) Hillath is in this to create a name for himself. HE is not after a cause, rather wanting to promote himself.
    2) He knows noting about sufis. He definitely doesn’t seem to have heard about Rumi or Ghazali. Using thise “I am a sufi” clause to mislead moderate local muslims to win their support and using the same thing to confuse outsiders to make them believe we have clash of sects.. vile cynicism.
    3) HE is hurting the position of the liberals by promoting his own agenda with president Nasheed likely to loose either way by either supporting Hillath or supporting the majority opinion that is islamic
    4) He is and is trying to be the Geert Wilders of Maldives.

  41. longimanus on Mon, 26th Mar 2012 11:34 PM 

    i guess PORN sites are an all time favourite by all ministries and people …. a large percentage of internet surfing and dowload is possible ..

    All world famous pornsites can be excessed as well sex cam sites … why have these been not blocked …

    i am pretty sure a lot of these bearded bigots like to watch porn …


  • waste of time: @cabs I think Saudis would be more than happy to let Maldivians do the migrant labor jobs (and confiscate passports, deny salary payment, etc.) Saudis...
  • waste of time: habibib-No worries, I’m only going to sit back and watch it all go wrong.
  • Fishy: Jihaadh is prescribed in Quran for Muslims to fight to spread the words of true God. In this fight you can do no wrong, this holy struggle is well organized...
  • scholar: It’s also cool at 32C. In fact it was cool at 33C for thousands of years in the Maldives. No one ever had been adversely affected by a cool 33C....
  • Logal Sumaari kaleyge: The poor family is into a rude awakening, most Syrians/Iraqi’s are full of assabiyya… They the majority of them would not want them...
  • Minivan baby: Good good. Hope more of them leave. I for one am willing to start a fund box for a few charter flights to help them all go over there. Let us...
  • Mohamed Naseem: A land full of Hippocrates people go to no sooner the come out the Mosque they commit sins.
  • LOL: ‘Sun, sand and Sin’ – this may actually boost tourism.

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