Maldives bans dancing in public


September 15, 2012

Men and women caught dancing in public will be charged with “indecency.” Opponents worry the move is evidence of creeping Islamization in the country.

September 15, 2012

Men and women caught dancing in public will be charged with “indecency.” Opponents worry the move is evidence of creeping Islamization in the country.

A group of traditional Maldivian dancers, one of the only types of dancing allowed by the government.

The Maldives government has banned dancing in public as part of a campaign to strengthen "Islamic values" on the tropical islands resort.

Opponents have denounced the ban as evidence of creeping Islamization by hardliners within the government of Mohammed Waheed Hassan, the controversial president who came to power earlier this year following an alleged coup.

Supporters of former president Mohamed Nasheed, who resigned following a revolt by the country's police and armed forces, said the West had turned its back on democracy on the islands and was standing by while radical Muslims impose Islamic laws on the traditionally liberal society.

While the Maldives has seen militant activity from a small group of al-Qaeda supporters, it is regarded as liberal Islamic society compared with countries like Saudi Arabia. While men and women do not dance together in public at nightclubs, they do at private parties where women wear western clothes.

According to a circular sent by the Islamic Affairs ministry on Thursday, the party is now over and men and women caught dancing together will be considered guilty of “indecency.” It said the government should not stage singing and dancing performances at events to mark official occasions.

Performances by children, but not by adolescent girls, would be acceptable, along with military parades, singing the national anthem and performances by scouts and girl guides. The country's traditional Thaara tambourine folk dance was also acceptable, the ministry said.

The country's Youth Affairs minister Mohamed Shareef told AFP the circular contained "guidelines" on behavior regarded as "indecent."

"There is a public debate on music and dance and what is permissible according to religion and culture What the guidelines are saying is that if people are dancing in an indecent manner, it should not be allowed," he said.

But Hamid Abdul Ghafoor, spokesman for the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, a sister party to Britain's Conservatives, said he feared the police will now raid events where they suspect young people are dancing together.

"We have spa resorts which have been raided by the police because they have massage therapy. Now we will see the police raid private parties, the police will crack down," he said.

Half the islands' 300,000 population is under 35, high numbers speak English as a second language, and attitudes are sufficiently liberal to shock Arab or Pakistani visitors, he added.

The marriage of divorced women to younger men "doesn't raise an eyebrow here," he said, and few leaders' wives or daughters wear the veil. "This is a home-grown democracy with very liberal values," he added.

Courtesy: Daily Telegraph


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