I’ve always been fond of writing. It began during the year of 2004 when my family moved back to Male’ from Addu and visiting the National Library (back then) to find books that sparked my interest and took up the habit of reading. My mother is an avid reader and she would read almost anything that she can get her hands on. So, taking her example I did the same. But writing was a whole new ball game. It required a lot of effort, imagination and creativity. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and many other that build worlds, characters and excitement that I held in between my hands blew my mind. It started off with the thought, “what if I…”.
At first, I was not reading works of fiction, hence I was more mesmerised with this book called Civilisations of the World. Well, at least it is what I think it was called as my memory was never good. It taught me that one of the features of civilisation was writing. Maldivian literature that took forms like “lhen”, “mazumoon” and various others. My childhood started during Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom and teenage years started with Mohamed Nasheed (Anni) and anyone whom witnessed the era between 2002 to 2008 would tell you that Maldives slowly paved a way towards a change. Back then there were “noos majahlaa” that only wrote about films, food,
history and basically anything that the government did not prohibit to write about. Even news was controlled. Rebels rebelled, and reform of the constitution included freedom of expression and was codified in chapter 2, article 27 which said, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and the freedom to communicate opinions and expression in a manner that is not contrary to any tenet of Islam.” I was 13 when I first read the constitution and this at that time it did not ring as much as it should have back then.
Time to time, I still go back to the past news which these days is a little bit more difficult to find. I thought about all the people that were very vocal about the issues that were happening in the society, many who faced backlashes for it. If I can give you an example, the first thing that comes to my mind is the rally that happened in 2011, the protest against religious intolerance.
I grew up knowing only one religion and it is Islam. For me, as long as I said that I believe in Islam, I would not be facing any harassment, threats or violent attacks. The biggest lesson that I learnt about Islam is that it is the most peaceful religion on earth. But, what does that say about my countrymen who went through attacks just because they had a different opinion? What does that say about my countrymen who are different from the heteronormative philosophy in Islam? What does that say about all the violent
crimes and infringement on human rights under the name of Islam?
The answer is simple. Freedom of thought, opinion and expression as long as it is not against any tenet of Islam. Other religious thoughts and opinions out of the window. Love can only be expressed unless it fits a certain criterion. Oppression is justified in the defence of religion.
With the short time that I have on my hands, I wish to tackle the theme of this volume of the “Laadheenee Digest”. What does the word “laadheenee” means to me? I do not wish to go into the details such as the “isthilaahee” meaning of laadheenee since everyone can get the gist of it. It means anyone who is against religion, specifically Islam and refuses to accept, believe or practice religion.
There is clear conflict between being a muslim and treating any other faith or belief on equal grounds. Ever since we were little children our Quran classes revolved around the miracle of Quran and how divine the words are and also how stupid were the people for not believing and how Allah exacted punishment on to those disbelievers. We have all heard about the stories of the people of Lut, Pompeii and how Muhammad ibn ‘Abdallah defeated the “jaahilun” and claimed back the holy land of Mecca. Just like all the super hero stories, the good will win and the evil shall perish. Evil being anyone who is not a muslim. Basically, almost
everyone grew up with the mindset that if you are a muslim, you are without a doubt good and anyone who is a “kafir” is not. Given the many trips I have had taken with my parents to foreign countries, their willingness to trust a stranger because they acted and had the appearance is of a muslim is all the time. Sadly, for them, the case is the result of trusting these people and meeting an honest person have the same probability as trusting anyone regardless of their religion. It did not stop their preference, but it made their minds to open up a little.
“You can commit any atrocity there is made available for you to commit but you are fine as long as you do not say anything against the religion”, this sentence reminds me of something my father said to me one day. “It is not a crime unless you get caught”. When he said this, I was baffled that this came out from his mouth and laughed about it. But it was later dawned on me that majority of my friends who belong to different sexual orientations, faith and belief had to live this way all their lives. Often, among friends, couples form, and they hide themselves from the world and stay hidden, it affects their relationships. If you are a straight person, think about this. What if, you cannot tell your parents about your relationship? You having to hide away to a secret room so that you can the least tell your partner that you love him or her? You cannot hold their hands in public? Face harassment and abuse for being with the person you love?
Can you imagine how difficult it is for you to live your life like that? I know this might not be the case for some, but I am very close with my parents. It would break me for not being able to tell them and keeping it all a secret. How about those being forced into praying and doing other “religious obligations” whilst they do not believe any of it. Faith is something very close to your heart. Faith can give you strength and even redeem your hope. Can you imagine being forced to practice something you do not want to believe in and you cannot be vocal about it because you are simply not allowed to? Many of us goes through psychological conflict because of this. For them, they are committing sins in the eyes of the society and are in constant fear of being exposed if they said anything about it. Can you stay quiet and endure all of this in silence?
We have seen the cases of what had happened when you got vocal with these issues. From blogs to You Tube videos, people have been vocal about not just for the existence of a more religiously tolerant society but also did tackle many other social issues. We all know why Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla (@moyameehaa) was kidnapped. We all know why Yameen Rasheed (@yaamyn) was brutally murdered whilst waiting for his elevator in where he lived. We all know why Hillath Rasheed had to flee the country. I do not know anyone of these people personally, but I have read what they have written.
One of the features of a civilisation is writing. Writing was the reason why we
know what we know about our history. Different forms of literature and art came to be because of it. Anyone who wrote their philosophy, idea or story is forever immortalised because of that writing. More importantly writing is the reason why we still can refer to it. To me, it is a great source of power. It is used to make people aware, convey thoughts and most importantly it is the physical evidence of the existence of an idea. What if I … use this great tool to start aiding my friends and family to help them get their rights back? What if I … use my writing to share stories of these people forced to live their lives in closet? But if I start writing all of these, I will become “#laadheenee”.
If laadheenee is what I become because I defend my friends and family, advocate for a more secular country, call out for the reformation of the constitution so that it includes every dhivehi meehaa out there then I’ll wear the tag with pride. To me laadheenee is not a derogatory term. To me, laadheenee does not define my beliefs as evil or as what is corrupting the society. To me, laadheenee is a movement for a better change. To me laadheenee is strength and hope.