An activist in the Maldives has received death threats and is being investigated for “blasphemy” after posting a tweet in response to President Abdulla Yameen’s comment that his government would not allow any other religion in the country than Islam.
Shahindha Ismail, executive director of the Maldives Democracy Network, tweeted: “Religions other than Islam exist in this world because Allah allowed for it. No other religion would exist otherwise, is it not?”
Her tweet was shared widely on social media, with critics accusing her of blasphemy and apostasy, both of which are illegal in the Maldives and can be punished with a prison sentence, or in some cases, the death penalty. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said Ismail faces a five-year sentence if convicted.
At last year’s opening of parliament, President Yameen vowed to enact a national programme to “promote Islamic unity and foster religious and national spirit”.
The Maldivian legal system has been increasingly aligned with a hard-line interpretation of Sharia since Yameen, who has employed the language of Islam in re-orienting Maldivian foreign policy away from a pro-Western stance, took power in 2013.
Ismail has also been a vocal critic of the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan and the murder of blogger Yameen Rasheed, who was found dead in April last year. The criminal case against six men who stand accused of his murder was set to start today (8 January), but was cancelled by the Criminal Court, with no reason provided, national news site Avas reported.