MALE - A proposed bill requiring political parties in the Maldives to have a minimum number of registered members is drawing fire as an attempt to dissolve the country's only Islamic party.
This is a big political and legal challenge [they] placed before Adhaalath Party, party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla told Minivan News on Sunday, December 30.
The way the political sphere in the country is shaped today, it is very important for a political party like Adhaalath Party to exist.
The parliament passed Thursday a bill that requires political parties to have a minimum of 10,000 registered members.
A clear majority voted in favor of requiring parties to gain 5000 members before it can be officially registered and 10,000 members before becoming eligible for state funds, said Kutti Nasheed, the head of the Independent Institutions Committee.
When the law is passed, the current registered parties with less than 5,000 members would be given a six month period to reach the figure, he said.
If a party fails to reach that figure by the end of the period, the particular party would be dissolved.
The minimum number of members was later raised to 10,000 and the period shortened to three months before Thursday's vote.
If the bill is signed into law, parties without 10,000 members would have three months to reach the legally required number or face being dissolved.
Imran said a person with a brain would not deny that the decision was made because Adhaalath Party would be disqualified at that number.
He argued that bill was intended to eradicate Islamic ideology from Maldivian politics and defeat the party's efforts to oppose alleged attempts to secularize the country.
There are 16 registered parties in the Maldives.
The Islamic party insisted that the new bill is meant to silence the religious conservative party due to its efforts on behalf of Islam in recent years.
Religion and politics cannot be separated, Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, head of the party's religious scholars council, wrote in response to a question regarding the Shari`ah judgment on signing for Adhaalath Party.
Calls by some secular individuals to separate religion and politics are dangerous.
Their [secular individuals'] intention is for religious scholars to not criticize any affairs of state and just stay in mosques praying and giving religious advice, he wrote, adding that it was compulsory upon all Muslims to enjoin good and forbid evil.
Sheikh Hussain argued that efforts to get rid of Adhaalath Party were intended to erase Islam from the Maldives and spread secular activities in society.
Adhaalath Party is the only party formed to protect religion in the country. To say that all other political parties were formed for worldly purposes would not be demeaning them, he said.
A religious political party in the Maldives was therefore necessary and obligatory, he contended.
Echoing a similar belief, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz said the membership clause was intended to get rid of the religious party due to its efforts on behalf of Islam.
He referred to the party's successful campaign against proposed regulations to authorize sale of alcohol in city hotels as well as its opposition to making Dhivehi and Islam non-compulsory subjects in higher secondary education.
The party also put a stop to former President Mohamed Nasheed's attempts to strengthen ties with Israel and bring Jews to allow them to exert influence in the country, he said.
Muiz, who also serves as the Adhaalath Party's secretary general, called on all citizens who love Islam to sign up for the party.
According to CIA factbook, the Maldives, a country of 1,192 Indian Ocean islands scattered across the equator, has a population of 394,999 based on a July 2011 census.Islam is the official religion of the country with almost 100 percent of its residents are practicing Muslims.