Laadheenee Challenges by Hoonu Mas Roshi

First published in The Laadheenee Digest #02

Maumoon’s Legacy

  • “100% Muslim” rhetoric. Creates a false reality where the majority of the population believes in this impossible statistic. No two humans can share the same beliefs 100%. How can an entire country.
  • Loss of cultural identity. Maldivians have no idea what their cultre is. Official sources present a sanitised version of events that is compatible with tourism propaganda and nationalistic rhetoric.
  • Continuation of Arab colonisation. Started when the Maldives was forcefully converted. These wounds have never healed. Our original writing system is only known by historians. Modern thaana is based on arabic numerals.
  • Religion entrenched in politics. All politicians must fear god. A good politician is a religious politician. A bad politician is someone who is somehow irreligious.
  • Nationalism and religion impossible to separate. People think the constitution is divine law, not some document made without much thought by conservative old Maldivian men. To be Maldivian is to be religious. The secular identity of Maldivians is poorly understood and not often celebrated.

Small Islands with Small Populations

  • Everybody knows one another. Gossip is currency. Family viber and telegram groups, and their extremist versions, share the latest info on literally everything. They bolster the pre-existing culture of having your nose in everybody’s business. Accusations against suspected laaadheenee people spreads like wildfire.
  • No “countryside” to flee to, the Maldives is mostly ocean. There are no safe havens. Just tiny islands that suddenly end with a beach, harbour, or reef. Barely anyone owns their own boats. The islands are a trap. The transport between island are a funnel.
  • Nobody, especially people in power, is trustworthy. Telling the police that extremists are targeting you could result in you getting arrested for blasphemy or worse. Laadheenee school kids like LGBT youth cannot trust their teachers or any authority figures.

Spineless civil society

  • Will not even publicly acknowledge that laadheenee people exist, let alone do anything to help.
  • Deliberately censor their own publications and research in order to avoid controversy. They practice erasure by leaving laadheenee people out. You will never have the data for questions you never ask.
  • Laadheenee rights is not a priority for civil society leaders. The lack of freedom of conscience is not seen as something that is extremely oppressive. The truth is most leaders are conservative Muslims who benefit from being able to call other people laadheenee.

Systemic Oppression

  • Secularism is impossible. How do you begin to seperate religion from politics and governance when the entire constitution is theocratic?
  • Constitution is extremely theocratic, outlaws other beliefs, there is no freedom of conscience / religion / belief / thought. It is illegal for Maldivians to think for themselves. Most Maldivians are proud of this fact.
  • Laadheenee people are not allowed to participate in politics, have their own NGOs or media. You cannot be visible when your existence is illegal.
  • This results in a a society that always leans towards extremism. It is the only direction that is possible. The effects of this on the mental health of Maldivians cannot be understated.
  • The police will not help you. They think you are illegal. There are also many extremists amongst them.

The Dhivehi Language

  • Extremists and conservatives alike use Dhivehi as a way of obscuring their communication from the world at large. There are no mainstream solutions to auto-translate Dhivehi. This means that hate speech in Dhivehi goes undetected by social media moderation teams. Reporting such hate speech / abuse is usually completely useless.
  • This allows extremists to get away with all manner of abusive and threatening behaviour. There are many pages on Facebook, and even telegram groups etc that act like religious police. They post photographs/screenshot and leak details of people they suspect of being laadheenee. In Maldivian society this is pretty much a death sentence. Any number of religious vigilantes may take up the task of “saving” the Maldives from the laadheenee menace.
  • Very few resources exist for laadheenee people in Dhivehi. Most information is in english, and even that is not written with Maldivians in mind. There are massive gaps in areas like LGBT sexual health etc. This is not to mention the depressing lack of laadheenee oriented art and prose written in Dhivehi.

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