UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay went to the Maldives, and there she said some things. She said some things relevant to human rights.
In an address delivered in parliament last Thursday, Pillay said the practice of flogging women found guilty of extra-marital sex “constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”
The UN human rights chief called for a public debate “on this issue of major concern.” In a press conference later in the day, Pillay called on the judiciary and the executive to issue a moratorium on flogging.
Well yes. Commissioners for human rights can be expected to say things like that, unless they are merely window-dressing commissioners for human rights. Flogging women for extra-marital sex does strike contemporary supporters of human rights as incompatible with respect for human rights. Flogging itself, flogging as such, is seen by people like that as incompatible with respect for human rights, and extra-marital sex is seen as a private concern as opposed to a state concern.
On article 9(d) of the constitution, which states “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives,” Pillay said the provision was “discriminatory and does not comply with international standards.”
There again – mandatory religion is widely considered incompatible with respect for human rights. So far so unsurprising. But the top people in the Maldives didn’t see it that way.
Statements by visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling for a moratorium on flogging as a punishment for fornication and criticising the Muslim-only clause for citizenship in the Maldivian constitution have been widely condemned by religious NGOs, public officials and political parties.
Shortly after Pillay’s speech in parliament, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari told local media that “a tenet of Islam cannot be changed” and flogging was a hudud punishment prescribed in the Quran (24:2) and “revealed down to us from seven heavens.”
Bari noted that article 10 of the constitution established Islam as “the basis of all the laws of the Maldives” and prohibited the enactment of any law “contrary to any tenet of Islam,” adding that the Maldives has acceded to international conventions with reservations on religious matters such as marriage equality.
In his Friday prayer sermon the following day, Bari asserted that “no international institution or foreign nation” had the right to challenge the practice of Islam and adherence to its tenets in the Maldives.
And there you go – as usual. It’s in the Quran; it can’t be changed; it was revealed. Islam is the basis of all the laws; any law contrary to any tenet of Islam is prohibited; the end. Allah said we can flog women if we want to (and that we, meaning men, are the only ones who count), so we’re going to, so shut up and go back to UNistan where you belong. By the way if you were a Maldivian we could flog you, so ha.
Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party issued a statement on Thursday contending that tenets of Islam and the principles of Shariah were not subject to modification or change through public debate or democratic processes.
Adhaalath Party suggested that senior government officials invited a foreign dignitary to make statements that they supported but were “hesitant to say in public.”
The party called on President Mohamed Nasheed to condemn Pillay’s statements “at least to show to the people that there is no irreligious agenda of President Nasheed and senior government officials behind this.”
The Adhaalath statement also criticised Speaker Abdulla Shahid and MPs in attendance on Thursday for neither informing Pillay that she “could not make such statements” nor making any attempt to stop her or object to the remarks.
Funny that the Adhaalath Party doesn’t seem to have read the memo about religion not being literal and being all about compassion.