The term ladheenee is by far the most irritating tagline used in Maldivian politics at the moment. Ladheenee, meaning un-Islamic, irreligious or secularist (depending on the context), was popularised during the pre-2008 campaigns to ‘de-throne’ Gayyoom and more recently it has been used to delegitimize Nasheed’s administration in the run up to February 7th 2012. The religious hooligans in the country, led by Adhaalath Party, are the main protagonists in the on-going religious strife in the country, defining ladheenee as it best fits their agenda and interests; and using Islam as a tool to delegitimize its opponents.
Adhaalath Party, ultra-conservative and extreme in their views, surfaced into Maldivian politics in 2005 using the liberties granted by what they call ‘dheenmugura’ or what we call democracy. Back in the Gayyoom days, whilst some people were genuinely fighting for civil liberties, Adhaalath Party hopped on to the democracy bandwagon to spread their ultra-conservative religious agenda into mainstream politics. This agenda was partially based on characterising opponents according to what they perceive as Islamic and un-Islamic. Calling themselves ‘dhanna beykalun’ (meaning: know-it-alls) they began a campaign to rile up a country that was practicing Islam peacefully for 800 years.
On 22nd September 2008, 44 religious scholars, of whom a large majority were from Adhaalath Party, released a statement against Gayyoom, criticizing him for advocating secular and ladheenee ideas. Gayyoom’s stance against death penalty, compulsory veiling and attempts to control religious extremism earned him the label ‘ladheenee apostate’ by the religious conservatives. In the run up to the election in 2008, Adhaalath Party leaders were crying on podiums and begging the country to free themselves of Gayyoom.
Three years down the line, how mighty the tides have changed.
Adhaalath Party still exists, but the Gayyoom they judged as a ‘ladheenee apostate’ has become their current political guru. Almost all of the 44 religious scholars that released the statement against Gayyoom in 2008 now belong to Gayyoom’s party, Progressive People’s Party (PPM). And the man they rallied support for in 2008, Mohamed Nasheed is now labelled as the ‘ladheenee apostate’.
For Adhaalath Party, being put in charge of their own ministry to spread their venom did not suffice. School children’s singing competition was ladheenee. Celebrating New Year’s Eve was ladheenee. The tomb of Abul Barakaat Yusuf al-Barbari was ladheenee. The democratic ideals that empowered them to open their big mouths also became ladheenee. In short, the whole world except the Wahhabi clan in Saudi Arabia became ‘ladheenee’. However, much to their disappointment their targeted audience was not too receptive to their ridiculous callings.
Nasheed’s administration became the obvious target to direct their religious frustrations and what better way to rile up anti-government support than to use Islam. They had already experienced success with this political tactic in 2008. By making people feel as if their religious identity was under threat, together with the backing of power-hungry politicians, a movement to remove President Nasheed developed. And this, they did very well – with public statements, tears on podiums, brotherly love developed in the name of Islam, protests and of course who can forget the melodramatic 23rd December Ithihaad! As I have said before, some of the criticism directed towards Nasheed’s administration was well-deserved; but religious fanatics used this as an impetus to create an anti-Islamic conspiracy around President Nasheed. This drama unfolded with President Nasheed being ousted on 7th February 2012 and now, guess who has two seats in the current cabinet?
Clearly their ladheenee gibberish worked its magic because as fools we have begun to characterise politician’s behaviour according to the Adhaalath-endorsed ladheenee scale. The irony is that a lot of people that now use the term ‘ladheenee’ are liberal advocates, only using the term in an attempt to mock the current regime. When President Waheed attended a church service in honour of the Queen’s diamond jubilee, his opponents (including liberal advocates such as Dr. Farahanaz Faisal) criticised his attendance purely for spite. If she was invited I’m sure she would have attended as well but obviously the opportunity to point his ladheenee behaviour was too good. The ‘Bon Aqua incident of hand holding with a strange woman’ by Sheikh Shaheem, a photograph of President Waheed and his wife in front of a temple, the recent video of President Waheed’s daughter speaking at a conference about a ‘Dark Mother God’ and the hiring of a foreign women as a legal consultant by the current regime are examples labelled and popularised on social media by the liberals as ‘ladheenee’. People do this for fun, to mock and scapegoat, to spite and out of anger, but who wins in the end?
The whole basis of me writing this piece is because I wanted to highlight the repercussions of the continuous moral categorisation and judgement of individual behaviour for which ever reason.
Firstly, by calling people ladheenee and supporting the accusations of our so-called religious scholars we are empowering them. When President Waheed attended the church service many tweets were directed towards Sheikh Shaheem asking his opinion, obviously in sarcasm. My view is that if you make mullahs feel as if their gibberish matters and their opinions count, they will act as if they have a moral authority over people (even if no one is listening!). It makes them feel important.
Secondly, the continuous use of the term ‘ladheenee’ sends the wrong message to young people. If both the religious conservatives and the liberals in the country continuously pick on each other’s behaviour and label each other for mockery or for religious reasons, young people read and dwell in an environment where intolerance is emphasized. How can we create an inclusive culture and teach our children to respect equality and diversity if we continue to morally police each other? The political unrest in the country is not hidden from young people and the language we use will be emulated by them. Furthermore, it may make young people fearful of doing entirely normal things or fearful of questioning anything because they may be deemed ladheenee.
Finally, calling each other ladheenee and pointing fingers will never let us be in peace. Sensationalising each other’s private lives or every action to show whose the worst ladheenee is petty and a waste of time – time we could spend to try and resolve our differences. The current political mess we are in is not some high school drama – remember that every action has a repercussion which shapes the stability of this country.
Enough said, shall we stop with the ladheenee talk!