Mohammad Nasheed, the former president of the Maldives, was forced to resign his post at gunpoint in February. Nasheed says that remnants of his predecessor’s thirty-year dictatorial reign are running the government now in collusion with Islamic radicals. The United States and India have begun to work with the new government, saying “dialogue” is the best way for Maldivians to decide when and how to hold new elections. The Washington Post quotes Nasheed as claiming that, since Washington and New Delhi turned their backs on his stable and friendly administration, radical Islam has gained a foothold:
South Asia terrorism expert Ajai Sahni said a front organization for the Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-i-Taiba expanded its influence in Maldives by dispensing welfare after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. According to several analysts, hundreds of young Maldivians have traveled to Pakistan to attend madrassas there, several have turned up fighting in Afghanistan or as members of violent extremist groups in Pakistan, and one is being held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.On the day Nasheed resigned, vandals smashed ancient Buddhist statues in the National Museum, in acts reminiscent of the Taliban’s destruction of the giant Buddhas of Bamian in Afghanistan in 2001. Meanwhile, Nasheed says, Islamists are seeking to change the school curriculum again.
From this distance, it is hard to discern the real facts, and at Via Meadia we are looking for reliable sources who can dispel some of the mystery. The Maldives are small and far away, but violent religious fanatics aided by sympathetic governments can cause problems that are global in scale.