By Philip Sherwell and Ben Leapman in the Telegraph:
Fears have been growing in the Maldives that Islamic radicals would bring violence to the Muslim island state.
There were concerns that yesterday’s bombers had deliberately targeted foreign tourists — as Islamic terrorists did on the holiday island of Bali in 2002.
Despite its reputation as an Indian Ocean paradise, the former British protectorate is no stranger to unrest, riots and attempted coups. But this is the first time that it has been bombed.
“The Maldives has become an increasingly radicalised society in recent years and there was a sense of foreboding that something like this could happen,” said a British media consultant who advises the government of the autocratic president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
“This has been threatening to rear its head. Islamic groups have complained that tourists have imported Western values and undermined traditional Islamic culture.”
Another Western adviser to the government said: “I would immediately suspect this has been done by enemies of the state. The government has been concerned that radical Islam is infiltrating the country.
“The government has taken a hard line against radical Islam.”
President Gayoom is Asia’s longest-serving leader and has been in charge of the Maldives since 1978. Educated in Islamic jurisprudence in Egypt, he has run the country as a one-party state with a legal system based on Sharia law.
Was this a slip of the tongue? The implication here is that “radical Islam” — which the government is resisting — and Sharia — which the government is based on — are somehow at opposite ends of the spectrum. Both statements are, of course, wrong. “Radicalism,” i.e., violence, and Sharia are both entirely within the mainstream of Islam. Et tu, Telegraph?
Amnesty International has reported allegations of arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and torture and rape in custody.
The main opposition, the Maldivian Democratic Party, was founded by Sri Lanka-based exiles and is led by Mohamed Nasheed, an author who was educated at Liverpool University and has spent more than a year in solitary confinement.
Tourism has brought greater affluence to the teeming city of Male, home to one-third of the country’s population, but there is little mixing between foreign visitors and locals.
Drug abuse is a growing problem, prompting calls from another opposition group, the Islamic Democratic Party, for the execution of drug smugglers.
Best keep the pot at home, friends.