Monday, March 29, 2010

Spoken like a true liberal

I am often criticized by liberal Maldivians because I refuse to censor religious groups.

I am criticized because I won’t crack down on the fundamentalists.

But my point is this: the ends do not justify the means.

You cannot arrest and imprison people just because you disagree with their views.

Moreover, the battle between liberalism and fundamentalism is a battle of ideas.

Liberally-minded Maldivians must organize, and reclaim civil society if they want to win this battle of ideas.

People with broader viewpoints must become more active, to create a tolerant society.

A few nights back, 32 young people came to see me.

They were furious about the rise in extremism.

To my mind, these are just the sort of people who need to reclaim civil society, if they want to foster a more open-minded society.

We must defeat the rejectionists, who hanker for a return to authoritarian rule.

We must overcome the vested interests that want to stymie economic progress.

And we must win the battle of ideas against extremists who want to replace democracy with theocracy.

I believe we will not win by going for a crack-down, or a witch-hunt or mass arrests.

To my mind, violence only begets violence.

President Nasheed at Maldives Donor's Conference, March 2010.
Full speech available here. Unlike the self-styled liberals in Maldives, especially in the blogosphere, who calls for the crack-down on extremist (their words, not mine) religious groups, President Nasheed knows what liberty is. Same message goes for those who call for violence and hatred, and those who use religion as a political tool. Oppression and crack-downs are not the way forward. We should move away from authoritarianism & totalitarianism to freedom, peace and tolerance. George Orwell put it best when he said,
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Photo - courtesy of dhitoons


axee said...

So it seems when things are not going to their liking, the self proclaimed liberals want the state to be involved.

As long as they can do and practice what they want...oh thank you

Let us live and don't let the liberal is that!!

imdhaah said...

great post and good speech by our prez

Anonymous said...

It's ironic that Arabiguitar has that very quote in their header. Question is, under the current Maldivian constitution can we tell people what they don't want to hear? Do people have the freedom to criticise Islam without being killed or arrested? Can I go on TV and say that I'm a Christian or an atheist? Can MinivanNews publish a letter on gay rights without being pressured to remove it? Can someone openly satirise the sermons of Farid and Ilyas without death threats being issued? Can I say that buruga and polygamy are simply cultural and are demeaning and degrading to women? Can I say that Islam is just an ideology invented by an Arab man and has nothing to do with God? Can I say that God does not exist? Can I criticize Shariah and call for the separation of mosque and state? Yes maybe I can. But what guarantee do I have that I wont be arrested or killed? Does Nasheed give such a guarantee? If he doesn't, then how can you say that he knows what true liberty is?

I don't know any prominent liberal who has asked for the arrest or death of any religious group simply because of their beliefs. Unless those groups are directly killing or calling for the killing of innocents (eg Himandhoo group), I haven't seen any liberal calling for a crackdown. I'd like to see some examples of these.

No one should be arrested for their beliefs. This was how Maumoon controlled extremism and it failed. It only made the situation worse and led to a strong reactionary backlash. I dont see liberals calling for people to be arrested because of their beliefs. I see the Maldivian government who are denying people of different faiths their right to worship or citizenship, their right to marry, or their right to criticise Islam. So who really knows about true liberty?

meekaaku said...


No, its not ironic that arabiguitar has that same quote. For me liberty means liberty for all, even including the most bigoted and fringe ppl. Where to draw the line is where it starts infringing on the rights of others. I know this is not clear cut, but the principle still holds.

As you say, currently, you do not have those freedoms that you speak of. Freedom of speech and freedom of thought are fundamentals, we should move towards them not away from them. That would also mean giving the 'extremists' and 'liberals' alike their right to free speech. To achieve that, we cannot take the road of oppression. The result is pretty clear from what you said also from Maumoon regime.

'Extremists' wish for the day when the 'liberals' are oppressed and they have full power. And 'liberals' tend to wish the same.

"I don't know any prominent liberal who has asked for the arrest or death of any religious group "
I was referring to those self-styled religious groups who were calling for violence and hatred. Those who use religion to stifle freedom.

If you read my other posts, you will realise that I do support free speech, freedom of religion, seperation of religion and politics.

Anonymous said...

Its ironic to me because they're doing exactly what Nasheed is asking, and yet what they're doing is criminal by Maldivian law. The fact that you quote it is ironic - as if you don't realise it (although I'm sure you do).

"Unlike the self-styled liberals in Maldives, especially in the blogosphere, who calls for the crack-down on extremist"

Who are these self-styled liberals?

"President Nasheed knows what liberty is"

How does he, when under he's calling for an impossible and unfair dialogue? (between non-existent Maldivians and Islamic fundamentalists?)

meekaaku said...

- The blame for the fact that the constitution and laws do not allow that freedom cannot be put on the president.
Yes he has a role to play in making a tolerant society, and is taking some steps.
If the 'extremists' had their way, minivannews and other blogs be shut down right away.

- You will have to dig the blogosphere to see who they are, according to ur notion of liberalism, not mine.

- Because he is a champion of freedom on all axes, be it religious, personal, economic etc. Atleast thats what it appears to me.

f i Я a s said...

i am a liberal too...

Liberalism is a religion like Secularism, Atheism, Islam, etc... it is yet a belief, which YOU think is the right one and a belief, which YOU are trying to propagate and impose on others.. and the beauty is that it can be anything and everything...

therefore i am a islamic liberal... and i want a fundamental islamic shariah rule in maldives...

...or am i a li'l bit confused here??

axee said...

me too...i also want to jump into the being liberal bandwagon...

I'm a liberal who supports Hezbollah, Hamas and couple of other "radical" freedom movements...are all other liberals going to tell on me to President Nasheed..

Anonymous said...

meekaaku for president

meekaaku said...

Not every belief or concept that someone believes good is a religion. Ppl believe in democracy, peace, human rights, charity etc. Does that make these religions too? I think not. Liberalism entails liberty. And it applies in multiple axes such as personal, religion, civil, economic, social, cultural etc.
Liberalism has different meanings in different places. Someone who calls himself a liberal in US is very different from one in Europe. But most of these have their origins in the classical liberalism of 18th century.
In short, you are confused. Is confusion a religion too?

Shhhh.. the liberal police might come after you. Or the religious police for that matter. :)

f i Я a s said...

why did i see liberalism as yet another religion? coz liberalism seeks to replace the existing religions... so does secularism.. and atheism... i consider all these religions that simply wants to challenge the existing beliefs... nothing wrong (or right) with that.. after all it IS the battle of the ideas..

so how would you like a Liberal to behave themselves in the Maldives? like the wannabe-blogosphere-Liberals? Anni-Liberals? or Meekaaku-Liberals?

or is it engraved in the Holy 18th Century Scrolls of Liberalism?

axee said...

"Liberalism has different meanings in different places"

Indeed, the definition of liberalism is a matter of scholarly debate. In Maldives I propose liberalism to be defined as,
"A political or economic orientation that favours state intervention in anything and everything that is not in the liberals favour" hehehe.

meekaaku said...

No firas. Liberalism seeks to give the liberty to choose religion to each individual, as opposed to being coerced into a particular religion by those in power or even by the democratic majority.

Secularism (as in political philosophy) seeks to separate religion from political power. Because religion is and will be used as a political tool. But in a democratic system, ppl are free to vote based on their religious belief or other convictions.

I cant comment on atheism because I am not an atheist.

Like I said, liberalism entails many axes. Personal, civil, social, cultural, economic etc.
Just to give an example. Who should decide whether I should read a novel XYZ? Liberalism seeks to give that decision power to that individual. Authoritarianism seeks to take that decision power to someone else other than that particular individual (be it a democratic majority, president etc). If you believe it is that individual who should decide, then you are a liberal in the personal-freedom-reading axis.

So each of these axes involve liberty to choose on ur own or bow to the whims of an authority at the two opposite ends.

Different ppl fall in different places in these axes, and that defines where they fall in the political spectrum. Very roughly speaking, modern day Left-wing favour liberty in personal, social and cultural freedoms, but less economic freedom. Modern day Right-wing favour economic freedom, but less personal, social freedoms. This is clearly evident in today's Left's support for drug decrim, gay marriages, anti-discrimination, civil rights, privacy, heavy business regulations etc, and Right's support for less business regulation, anti-gay-marriage, less-privacy, pro-wiretapping etc.

Someone who is a Totalitarian will not favour liberty any sphere. While some type of anarchists favour liberty in all spheres. I say some anarchists because there are anarchists (more precisely anarcho-communists or libertarian socialists) who do not favour economic freedom, example being Chomsky.

meekaaku said...

Thats circular reference!

Actually, most ppl love dictatorships, as long as its their dictatorship.

f i Я a s said...

the religions of Liberalism, Secularism and Atheism are indeed used as political tools, and aslo to suppress other religions.. in fact, the MAIN purpose of these religions is to undermine all other religions...

meekaaku said...

so u would rather have a system where there is no freedom of expression, where even the slightest critical comment will land u in jail. Where religion is but and moulded to the benefit of the one in power. Where u dont have a right to peaceful protest. Where u dont have the presumtion of innocence.
yes we just toppled such a regime.

f i Я a s said...

so the teachings of the 18th century scriptures of the religion of liberalism are quite similar to those of other religions, after all.. justice, freedom, innocence until proven otherwise, fairness, accountability, punishment, good, bad, etc, etc, etc...

The Shadowrunner said...

I believe in "live and let live."

But when some people want to throw acid at your sister's face for not wearing the burugaa, it's time to start rattling some sabers.

And if it happens, then so much for "live and let live"!.