Advice for Laadheenee Activists by Burakashi

First published in The Laadheenee Digest #02

  • Trust no one. Not your family. Not your friends.
  • Be aware of Maldivian geography. There is nowhere for you to run.
  • Do not underestimate the power of gossip.
  • Express your ideas for people who want to listen. Don’t limit your audience to extremists who hate your guts.
  • Write for each other. Listen to each other.
  • If you don’t like each other, that’s ok too. Everyone doesn’t have to get along. Equality can be achieved when we are all afforded the same rights, not when we all become friends.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of having to constantly justify your existence.
  • You deserve to be Maldivian just like everybody else. Nobody can take that away from you no matter what they say.
  • Think of the bigger picture. What would you do if you were already free? What kind of art would you create? How would you contribute to society? How would you help people like yourself? Build resources and help your community.
  • Understand that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and their own stories. We all have our own paths to salvation.
  • Anonymity is your friend. Don’t feel like you’ve got to martyr yourself in public to affect change. If you have an idea that can help laadheenee people, and you don’t feel safe enough to use your own name, do it under an alias. You know who you are. Take strength from this fact.
  • You are no help if you’re dead. If you’re gonna put yourself at risk, make it worth it. Don’t make yourself a target for simply being an edgelord.
  • Many people will try to extract information from you by asking questions in bad faith. Don’t take the bait and reveal more about yourself than you are comfortable with. They know such questions will be deeply personal to you and they will try to make you drop your guard by making you emotional.
  • If you’re going to debate someone, stay on topic. If you’re off topic, stop the debate. Many Maldivians don’t want to debate you as much as fish for info on whether you’re a munafiq or infidel. This is as much a danger for progressive Muslims as much as non-Muslims and LGBT people. Many progressive Muslims are baited into revealing their support for minorities, only to get labeled as an atheist or gay person.
  • With that said most debates are useless.
  • Document, document, document. Someone send you a death threat? Document it. See some terrible article? Document it, archive it. Keep a folder of threats you have gotten personally.
  • Document threats to people like you. Document dog whistles and document blatant bigotry. If the day comes when you have to prove to someone that you need asylum, you will need to provide them with this evidence for them to accept your case. We are all familiar with the methods and context of our oppression. The world is not. This is why the Maldives is still such a hot tourist destination for western stars who claim to be human rights defenders.
  • Learn self defence. Learn to hit back. Not just with your words but with your fists. If they are going to come you will not go down easy.
  • Don’t travel alone at night. If you must always let someone know where you are going. Have an emergency contact on speed dial. Know your own neighbourhood. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you are wrong. This is the curse of being born Maldivian.
  • You are not something for people to test their faith with. Many people will harass you with questions like “if you’re laadheenee, what about this hadith?!”. Let such people figure out the problems they have with their faith on their own.
  • You do not have to accept or respect people who do not accept and respect you. It is okay to feel angry and frustrated at such people. However instead of becoming like them, try to focus your frustrations into a more productive outlet.
  • Don’t let your struggle take over your life. You are more than the label put onto you by society. Do not waste your youth trying to justify your existence to people who don’t give a shit about you.
  • Learn that you will never please some people. Most bigots are similar to narcissists in that they will never be satisfied. They will make you feel like if you give them the right answer they will finally accept you for who you are. Such people will never accept you because it was never about you in the first place. Their hatred of you is a projection of their own insecurities.
  • Your story is the most valuable thing you will ever have. Never underestimate this. Never let anyone feel you are worthless. You are a beautiful human being just the way you are. You are as Dhivehi as any islander that has ever called our isles home. Nobody can ever take that away from you.

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