In the Maldives, a tiny Indian Ocean nation of 1,200 islands, a group of men stormed into the museum last Tuesday and ransacked a collection of coral and lime figures, including a six-faced coral statue and a 1 1/2-foot-wide representation of the Buddha’s head. Officials said the men attacked the figures because they believed they were idols and therefore illegal under Islamic and national laws, according to the New York Times.
The Maldives were Buddhist from around 250 BCE until the 12th century, when the king converted to Islam.
The vandalism is reminiscent of the Taliban’s 2001 destruction of the giant statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan, in Afghanistan.
The destruction of the Buddhist artifacts is just a symptom of a wider problem in the Maldives; it took place the same day that Mohamed Nasheed, who won the presidency in 2008 in the country’s first democratic election, was forced from office in a coup. Islamic and other opposition parties had complained that Nasheed was not enforcing morality strongly enough, and were enraged that he proposed to allow the sale of alcohol in hotels.
According to a Maldives news source, the destruction included a coral stone head of Lord Buddha which was one of the most significant pieces at the museum. “Other pieces vandalised include the Bohomala sculptures, monkey statues and a broken statue piece of the Hindu water god, Makara, while the two five faced statues discovered from Male’ were also damaged – the only remaining archaeological evidence proving the existence of a Buddhist era in the Maldives.”
Ali Waheed, the director of the National Museum, which was built by China as a gift to the country, said on Monday that officials might be able to restore two or three of the damaged statues, but that the rest were beyond repair. “The collection was totally, totally smashed,” Mr. Waheed said. “The whole pre-Islamic history is gone.”
Jakarta. A defiant declaration of atheism by an Indonesian civil servant has inflamed passions in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, pitting non-believers and believers against each other.
The trouble began when civil servant Alexander Aan posted a message on the Facebook page of Atheist Minang, a group of Indonesians with godless beliefs. It read: “God doesn’t exist.”
The post so enraged residents in Aan’s hometown of Pulau Punjung in West Sumatra province that an angry mob of dozens stormed his office and beat up the 30-year-old.
To add insult to injury, police then arrested him and now want to press blasphemy charges that could see him locked up for five years.
Muslim extremists have called for Aan to be beheaded but fellow atheists have rallied round, and urged him to stand by his convictions despite the pressure.
“Dear Alex, stick to your beliefs. This country has no right to restrict your faith,” Fahd Singa Diwirja wrote on the same Facebook page, where Aan is one of the administrators.
“You’re facing narrow-minded people, but this is the true Indonesia, a fertile ground for the spread of fundamentalism,” Diwirja added, advising Aan to escape persecution by seeking asylum in a European country.
Aan has also gained the support of the US-based International Atheist Alliance.
The group, together with Atheist Minang, has written to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, calling on him to ensure that the blasphemy allegations are dropped.
“This is a law that has been used to promote mob violence and intimidation against those who do not agree with … vigilante groups,” said the letter, copies of which were also sent to the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
Aan’s proclamation has been removed from the page, but the Facebook group has doubled to 2,000 since the controversy made local news reports.
Most of the postings, however, are diatribes against Aan and his supporters.
“These atheists should be beheaded, that’s what they deserve,” wrote a man who identified himself as Putra Tama, a Muslim from neighboring Jambi province.
Other posts challenged atheists from the group to dare show themselves, instead of hiding behind the anonymity of social media.
“If you think your arguments are true, why don’t you just have a face-to-face meeting with us, people who still believe in God? You’re just a group of cowards,” taunted a post by another Muslim.
Although Indonesia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, it only recognizes six faiths: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Confucianism.
Perceived blasphemy against any one of these religions carries a maximum five-year jail term.
Local police chief Chairul Aziz said this week that Aan, who had written on his Facebook page that he was brought up as a Muslim, had expressed his willingness to revert to Islam but that it would not be enough to escape punishment.
“He expressed his intention to convert to Islam but he has not performed an Islamic declaration of faith. Even if he does so, he still can’t escape from justice due to his blaphemous act,” Aziz said.
He said Aan could face additional charges, including falsely declaring himself a Muslim when he applied for a civil service job years ago.
The Islamic Society Forum (FUI), an umbrella group for several hard-line groups, said that a five-year jail term for Aan would not suffice.
“He deserves the death penalty, even if he decides to repent. What he has done cannot be tolerated,” said Muhammad al-Khaththath, FUI’s secretary-general.
“It is important to prevent this group from spreading atheism in this country,” he added.
Indonesia has seen a spate of attacks on minority religious groups in recent years and the country’s judiciary is notoriously unsympathetic towards their plight.
In 2011, three Ahmadiyah sect members were killed in a mob attack.
Those convicted received light sentences of between three and six months while one of the Ahmadiyah survivors, a man who almost lost his hand in the violence, got six months for defending himself and his friends.
This kind of thing is completely intolerable. Thanks for sharing.
Saudi man to be beheaded for Twitter comments .
On the occasion of the Muslim prophet’s birthday last week, 23-year-old Hamza Kashgari tweeted: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you.”
“I will not pray for you,” he added.
The controversial tweet sparked a frenzy of responses – some 30,000, according to an online service that tracks tweets in the Arab world.
In one response, Abdullah, a lawyer, said that since Mr Kashgari was “an adult… we should accept nothing but implementing the ruling according to Islamic law” or sharia.
Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam, and is a crime punishable by death.
Sheikh Nasser Al Omar pleads to the king that Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari gets executed for supposedly writing “shameful” comments about prophet Mohammed on Twitter.
Mr Kashgari quickly apologised for his remarks, but the calls for his execution only multiplied.
The Saudi government’s response was to contact Interpol and have him extradited from Malaysia by issuing a “red notice” declaring him a wanted man. He is now on his way back, with nary a peep from the UN, and dead silence from the EU and the Obama administration.
p.s In December Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bought a stake in Twitter for 300 million. Alwaleed, a nephew of Saudi Arabia’s king who was estimated by Forbes magazine this year to have a fortune of over 19 billion, already owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp and plans to start a cable news channel.
If the Saudisare trying to stifle free speech throughout the world was not bad enough, now they have Interpol doing their work for them as well.
This is a horrific situation, but “Saudi man to be beheaded for Twitter comments” is inaccurate. He may possibly face execution, but it’s not definite that that will happen.
Police confirmed to the BBC that Hamza Kashgari was sent back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday despite protests from human rights groups.
Sheikh Nasser Al Omar pleads to the king that Saudi writer Hamza Kashgari is executed for writing “shameful” comments about prophet Mohammed on Twitter.
go to 2.17 on the video
seems clear to me.
and full story
and update on his deportation from Malaysia
the punishment for apostasy under sharia is death.
The depth of intolerance and hatred of outsiders in some religions is frightening. I am grateful for The Buddha’s path which peacefully accommodates other paths.
thank you for your comment,
Tariq Fatah of the Canadian Muslim Council