Maldives: sun, sea, gangs and extremists

escapist: an inclination to or habit of retreating from unpleasant or unacceptable reality, as through diversion or fantasy

Why is it that incumbent government’s always have a tendency to deny everything that’s ever wrong with this country?

Maldivian governments are well known among locals as being escapist when it comes to any serious matters that the country faces, from religious extremism to political uprising to criminal activity.

Wouldn’t it make far more sense to accept it, address it and correct it? That, afterall, is why you’re voted in to power.

But no. As long as you listen to the government’s side of the story: Problems don’t exist. Maldives is sun, sand, sea and lots of “obedient disciples” who have nothing to say against the government.


The most recent example is ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) Parliamentary Group Leader Ahmed Nihan’s incredulous statement that there are no gangs in the Maldives.

Being a parliamentarian, he has, with this statement, dismissed the concerns and fears of a large majority of citizens by refusing to even admit that their fears are well-founded.

“Although little incidents occur while the youth frequenting street corners go about their lives, we cannot call it gang related crimes. There are no gangs in the Maldives anymore,” Nihan is quoted as saying in local media.

The ugly truth is that the “little incidents” Nihan speaks of often ends in assault with sharp objects, or worse, murder. In fact, such a case of assault happened immediately following Nihan’s statement.

I find it alarming and disgusting that a lawmaker would attempt to trivialize the serious crimes committed by street gangs which are becoming increasingly rampant in this country.

While Nihan denies the existence of gangs, the same government’s Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer has often declared combating gang related crimes to be one of the main goals of his time in office.

In September, Umar announced that the police have identified approximately 30 gangs, with 50 gang leaders and 500 gang members active in the Maldives, with a large majority of them operating in capital city Male’.

A report published by the Asia Foundation in 2012 titled The Gangs of Male’ portray somewhat higher figures, stating that there are 20 to 30 gangs in Male’ with 50 to 400 members in each group.

Home Minister Umar Naseer has further announced that efforts are being made to combat gang activity through the introduction of stricter laws.


This government, too, continues to deny the existence of radicalized Islamic thought within the country. Anyone who stays at an inhabited island here in the Maldives for a few days will see otherwise.

Not the resorts, though. There’s a huge paradigm shift between what the tourists see as the Maldives, and what we as residents experience.

The government, in addition to denying the existence of religious extremism in the Maldives, also condemns anyone who dares to speak of the issue outside of the Maldives.

However, there are continued reports of Maldivians going to Syria for jihad. Of schools in remote islands forcing children as young as 8 years old to wear headscarves. Of enforced female genital mutilation. Of sermons promoting all kinds of religious intolerance.

And most frightening of all, of strengthening ties between radical Islamic groups, criminal gangs and factions within the security forces.

Here’s hoping that the government will come to accept these problems and address them before they get further out of hand.


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