MALE - Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in the Maldivian capital of Male to urge the government to enforce Islamic law and halt anti-Islamic activities, including a plan to allow direct flights to Israel, Agence France Presse reported on Saturday, December 24.
We are here to show that will not support those policies, yet we are not extremist, Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, who heads the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP), was quoted saying by the privately-run Minivan News website.
We will stay forever as an Islamic nation.
Answering a protest call by the opposition Adhaalat, or Justice, Party and several other groups, more than 3,000 people accused President Mohammed Nasheed's government of compromising principles of Islam and call for Islamic law.
Islamic Shariah is equal to peace,'' read some placards carried by protesters.
Going in mass rallies on Friday, thousands of protesters urged the Maldivian authorities to stop the sale of alcohol in the islands, shut down brothels operating in the guise of massage parlors.
Protesters also demanded demolishing monuments gifted by Pakistan marking a South Asian summit last month because they see them as idols.
Debates on religious issues have emerged since a group vandalized a monument gifted by Pakistan marking a South Asian summit last month with the image of Buddha.
Similar protests emerged last month following calls by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay to end the practice of flogging women committed of having extra-marital sex.
The UN rights chief's call has sparked protests in the island nation, with some protestors calling for Pillary's arrest.
Protestors surrounded the UN Building, and demanded an apology from the UN and parliamentarians.
As the protesters rallied in the capital, other Maldivian residents also rallied Friday in support of the president who called for a tolerant form of Islam.
I asked you to come here in support of the middle, tolerant path, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed said, addressing ruling party supporters on Friday, AFP reported.
Nasheed urged the country of 330,000 Sunni Muslims, to reject religious extremism and support the traditional form of Islam that has been practiced in the Maldives for the past 800 years.
Nasheed said moderate Islam was vital to preserve the tourism industry which generates more than two-thirds of the country's earnings.
To build our economy we need foreign investments and we need to create an environment in which foreigners can invest, he said.
We can't achieve development by going backwards to the Stone Age or being ignorant.
The Maldives is a cluster of 1,200 islands renowned for its luxury resorts.
The Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of the cultures reflecting the peoples who settled on the islands, probably from southern India and Sri Lanka.
According to CIA factbook, a 2011 July census put the number of its people at 394,999.
Islam is the official religion of the country with almost 100 percent of its residents practicing Muslims.