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Editorial: Fascism, a threat to Democracy.

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The turn of the 20th century was marked with an unprecedented wave of globalization aided by the fast growing airline industry. And with improvements in communication due to the declassification of  military technology from the world war 2, ironically aided in bringing the world closer. Thus began the Third Industrial Revolution with the advent of semi-conductors, computers and satellites.

The third Industrial Revolution also paved way for a global wave capitalism taking over the far eastern states. The traditionally socialist China even tasted the tempting yields of Capitalism, leading to profound changes in their system. But if we are to learn of anything from our past, it is that history repeats.

Globalization and capitalism boosted the global economy but with the lack of watchdogs in many nations, this only lead to a polarization between the working class and the ultra-rich while many nations suffered irreversible degradation to their environment while many governments regressed from democracies and monarchies to fascist dictatorships. At the turn of the 21st century, Political Scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt studied the fascist regimes of the last century. From Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Francisco Franco’s Spain, Suharto’s Indonesia, Augusto Pinochet’s Chile to Benito Mussolini’s Italy and he found striking similarities between each of these regimes. Below is a list of observed similarities between fascist regimes.

Powerful hold over institutions and emphasis on separatism.

In each of these fascist regimes, the ruling class had absolute control over the state and its institutions amending the constitution and the independent bodies as they saw fit. The fear of globalization and an irrational fear driven by eugenics, mixing of “bad blood” led their obsession with separatism and often ethnocentrism. The regimes’ obsession with separatism only further isolated the voice of opposition in those states from reaching world leaders.

Identification of Enemies as a unifying cause

The most common feature between each of these fascist regimes and even to those of this century is their identification of an enemy as a unifying cause. Demonization of a minority religion, race, class, uniformed body or even a political view has been used to fuel hatred amongst the ruling party members. These regimes were noted to have consistently targeted a group of individuals to unify the masses. It is also often noted that after the persecution of minority groups, these states resolve to targeting their uniformed bodies including the police and the military as a last resolve.

A common way to achieve this was to spread elaborate conspiracies regarding the minority group or to stage an assassination attempt on a beloved or controversial figure and use it as means to rally the masses against the target group. This also served a secondary purpose of diversion from state authoritarianism. Just as how the Roman Caesar’s kept the masses distracted from rampant corruption with the violent glories of the coliseum, Fascist regimes kept the masses distracted from corruption and authoritarianism by keep the attention on a targeted group of minorities.

U.S President Donald Trump has beend escribed as a fascist.

Controlled Mass Media

The absolute powers of these fascist regime was fuelled by separatism and persecution. Doing this however would draw criticism from other groups within the nation, hence the state had absolute control over not only all institutions but the mass media as well. All forms of mass media from television to printed media was under constant scrutiny by the ruling powers.

Often these medias were under the direct control of a Propaganda Minister who would have the final say before publication. One of the more famous of these Propaganda Ministers was the Nazi Germany Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels who had absolute control over all mass media, was known for scrutinizing all publications released within the Nazi Germany as well as order the publication of propaganda pieces by the Ministry of Propaganda.

Nazi Propagand Minister Joseph Goebbels was a charismatic orator.

Obsession with National Security

The fascist authoritarian regimes were only able to get away with their crimes by diverting the attention of the masses to elsewhere. While targeting a minority was used to fuel hatred as a unifying cause, the fascist regimes had an obsession over national security often using it as means to further consolidate absolute power. In the case of Suharto, he used an attempted coup to take over the Indonesian government and blamed the Indonesian Socialist Party (PKI) for endangering national security. The following massacres left an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 PKI members supporters or alleged supporters dead.

Protected corporate power and Suppressed Labor Power.

In all fascist governments, their absolute authority over the state is maintained through support from few elite corporates close to the ruling party. The oppressive state suppresses the voice of the laborers allowing the big businesses to subjugate workers to poor conditions and poorer pay while reaping massive profits, a part of which goes to fund the ruling party. This predatory practice of the state paving way for labor suppression and oppression was key to maintain the financial means for the ruling party to continue their bribing and self-enrichment.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment

The egocentric eagerness to scapegoat minorities to distract from the authoritarian oppression meant that these regimes had to find means to persecute the targeted minority. During the Nazi regime in the Germany, laws and the constitution as a whole was amended on a daily basis slowly removing the civil rights of the targeted minorities one by one enabling the state to punish the minorities for even the pettiest of crimes. One of the most critical aspects of this was seen in the case where the Jewish minority in Poland was asked to leave the state, but travel was banned, forcing a crime upon the Jewish population of Poland, which ended with internment camps, now known as concentration camps.

Rampant Nepotism, Cronyism and Corruption

The absolute power a fascist regime has is only enabled when the voice of the opposition and the oppressed are suppressed. In every single fascist regime state officials indulged in acts of corruption often enriching themselves and their families and close allies. This egocentrism also meant that key positions of power were reserved for the family and close allies of the ruling power.

If we take a look at Indonesia’s Suharto, by the early 1990’s several charitable foundations were made in his name which raked in an estimated $3 billion while all his 6 children amassed a massive financial empire with over 260 companies under their names, while the state amassed a massive debt from the 4 million bureaucratic employees appointed from amongst the families of the ruling elite.

Indonesia’s Suharto and his family.

Fraudulent Elections

Oppressive fascist regimes from Mussolini to Suharto all indulged in fraudulent elections. One such example is when the Italian National Fascist Party led by Jounalist turned politician Benito Mussolini who used fear tactics, bribing and a series of misinformation campaigns to win the 1924 Italian General Elections which led to a 21 year oppressive regime under the infamous fascist Benito Mussolini.

The future and us

Globally,  fascism, ultra nationalism and racism has been on the rise with hate crime and persecution of minorities being reported even in the west. Incumbent U.S President Trump has also been described as a  fascist with his targeted verbal  persecution of minorities to unify his followers while citing immigration as the greatest threat to national security.

However, if we are to lay back and spectate as our predecessors did, we’d be enabling the same oppression from fascist governments. Fascism must not make a comeback, let it be a reminder of our mistakes. Democracy must prevail as American philosopher John Dewey once said “Democracy means the belief that humanistic culture should prevail.”.

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Leaked documents show India refused to withdraw military personnel and helicopters from the Maldives even after their Visa’s expired.

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Allegations that Indian influence in the Maldives has been one of the most debated topics in the Maldives. Accusation that India has influenced the last Presidential Election and the current administration is a common topic for political debates. However, a series of documents has been leaked by a local news showing communication between the Maldives Foreign Ministry and the Indian High Commission during the previous administration. The documents show the Government of Maldives requesting the Indian High Commission to withdraw their Helicopter stationed in the Maldives. The documents cement the allegations by the public that India has been increasingly overstepping on the sovereignty of the Maldives.

Below is a timeline of the events, first published in Dhivehi language on “Dhiyares News”.

In a letter dated 22nd April 2018, the Government of Maldives informed the Indian High commission on its decision to return the Helicopter being operated from Addu city by the end of June 2018.  While the letter maintain diplomatic composure, based on the events that took place, it is evident that there was tension between the two parties.

A second letter was sent on 06th May 2018. In the second letter, the Government of Maldives informed the Indian High Commission that the agreement for the helicopter operated out of Laamu atoll had expired on 01st may 2018, and requested its withdrawal by the end of June 2018.

And on 10th June, an additional letter was sent to Indian High Commission. This letter acted as a reminder on the order to withdraw the Indian helicopters and their military personnel by the end of June 2018. It also requested the Indian High Commission to provide a schedule of withdrawal.

The Indian high Commission in Maldives replied with their own letter on 25th June 2018. In their letter, the Indian high Commission stated that Indian government would require “more time” to examine the order to withdraw by the Government of Maldives.

It also noted that the Visa for the Indian military personnel in the Maldives would expire on 30th June 2018, and requested their renewal.

The Government of Maldives replied to this with a  letter dated 27th June 2018, reiterating on the order to withdrawal and to provide a schedule of withdrawal.

Sovereignty at stake?

Based on what happened next, it is clear that the Indian High Commission did not withdraw their helicopters nor their military personnel. It is now a verified fact that the Indian military personnel illegally stationed themselves, against the wishes of then government without even a legal visa. However, with the change of administration, their visa’s and the helicopter agreements were promptly renewed.

The current administration and its President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih which has been marked by its close ties to India, acting as its “yes-man” since his election.

It is clear that India does not seem to view the Maldives as a sovereign nation, and is willing to go against the laws and constitutions of the Maldives and international conventions, to impose their people and influence in the Maldives.

This leak comes following weeks of online protest by locals against the growing Indian influence in the Maldives. Many have accused India of meddling with domestic elections and other issues, to increase their influence in the Maldives.  India’s seemingly unilateral decision to establish a consulate in the southernmost city of Addu has further fueled the allegations. The Hanimaadhoo, military planes, radar systems, helicopters, Police academy and military base near the capital has only exacerbated the situation.

This begs us the question, is our independence and sovereignty at stake?. Does the Maldives need to appeal to the International community that India just won’t remove their military personnel from the Maldives? Are we becoming the next Sikkim ?

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Opinion

“We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day” Silent struggles during COVID-19 in Maldives.

Mariyam Mohamed

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The pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives especially our livelihoods and emotional wellbeing. While the situation in some countries is getting worse, others are slowly recovering from the impacts of Covid-19. The recent surge in cases in South Asia has also swept across the Maldives creating numerous social and economic issues.

Most Maldivians, depend on monthly wages to support their daily needs and expenses. During this pandemic, many have lost their jobs, and some are struggling to manage their expenses due to wage cuts. Some work in more than two jobs to make ends meet.

The capital Male’ is most populous city in Maldives with more than 38% of the population living in the capital making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.

People migrate from rural areas to the capital city for better education, jobs, and healthcare system. A significant percentage of people living in Male’ have shared accommodations with extended families and friends due to the sky high rents in the capital. Some families share a single room with their children which is not an ideal living condition especially during a pandemic.

We took an interview from an individual to get an insight of daily her struggles throughout this pandemic. To protect the person’s identity her name will not be disclosed in this article.

Are you working?

I work freelance now mostly tuitions. I quit my job to be the full time caretaker of my son with autism. And to cater for his needs. I work during his school time.

Do you get any assistance from anyone?

Any help I get is paid for by me. With pandemic all incomes stopped. So I was fully relying on the government financial assistance. That’s the single parent allowance and special needs child allowance summing to MRF 3000/- (three thousand). We even rationed food and at some point I ate only two times a day. Since my son has sensory issues he cannot eat many varieties food. So I did my best with bread and cheese. And fruit based juices of a particular kind. His therapy stopped and that has led to regressions in some areas. But he also has improved in some areas as well since I am with him constantly and i got to work one on one with him. Alhamdulillah.

What difficulties do you face?

With routine being broken, it gets tough for him to adjust. Sleep patterns and some food stuff he has been taking also has stopped.

What would you request from authorities to improve?

I believe there is little any one can do in this situation. But some form of consideration for these children may be good. In terms of permission on movement and health care. And also some better way for parents like us to work and have a respectable life is essential. We are skill and knowledge rotting away at home because no one can accommodate for our situation. It took a pandemic for organizations to realize physical presence is not required for efficient work to be done. I pray they use this information and experience to help people like us make a living in a manageable way for us.

The situation may reflect that of many who are suffering in silent during this pandemic. The question is what authorities will do to help such individuals. The government support given to these individuals is clearly not acceptable considering the living standard in the capital.

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Opinion

Assisting Poor & Needy in the Midst of the Pandemic using Modes of Islamic Social Finance.

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Islamic finance has become popular today in the Maldives. The population had become well acquainted with modes of Islamic commercial finance as those modes have been institutionalized in the formal finance sector. However, like in other parts of the world, the pandemic has made us realized in the Maldives that it is not sufficient only to have the modes of Islamic commercial finance institutionalized; but there is need to activate and institutionalize Islamic social finance modes as well. In the midst of the pandemic, due to the containment measures taken by the governments to protect human race from becoming extinct, it has been reported that the world poverty clock has turned back. What has been witnessed in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic is that overnight people have become poor. This domino effect caused by the pandemic in a nutshell is shown in the figure below. As such, the poor and needy segment of the population needs financial assistance that is not compatible to be provided using the modes of Islamic commercial finance. Social finance is an approach to managing investments that generate financial returns while including measurable positive social and environmental impact.

What is Islamic Social Finance?

Islamic social finance is a branch of Islamic finance that offers product and services not for profit. The objectives of Islamic social finance are to achieve social justice via redistribution of wealth. The list of Islamic social finance institutions and tools are not exhaustive as it is an area which is still developing. Islamic social finance is also known as Islamic social safety nets or charitable sector of the economy.  It is imperative to note that Islamic social finance is different from Islamic commercial finance of which the objective is different even though some of the instrument/contract used could be same.

Modes of Islamic Social Finance

The modes of Islamic social finance include: zakat; sadaqat or infaq; waqf; takaful; and microfinance.

  • Zakat: A compulsory payment paid every year by those who are eligible for the benefit of those who are stated in Quran, 9:60.
  • Sadaqat or Infaq: A non-compulsory payment given to assist poor and needy to seek pleasure of Allah (SW).
  • Waqf: A non-compulsory irrevocable which means a permanent contribution of one’s wealth whether cash or in kind to seek pleasure of Allah (SW) for social purpose.
  • Takaful: A concept based on mutual assistance or Ta’aawun and donation or Tabarru where joint guarantee to one another is by provided by a group of people who agree to participate with each other who is known as contributors by contributing an amount of money as donation to help each other from damages caused due to happening of future unfortunate events to any participant of the group by helping them using the donation made by the participants of the group.
  • Microfinance: It is providing finance to those who are poor financing via non-profitable means such as interest free loan (qard hasan) or via profitable means such as mudharabah or musharakah to assist them.

 

Ways in which Islamic Social Finance can be utilized to help the needy and Poor

In the midst of the pandemic it has been realized that in different countries in the world, modes of Islamic finance have been activated to assist poor and needy via shared responsibility. Below listed are some ways in which in the Maldives, modes of Islamic social finance could be activated to assist poor and needy.

  • Revise the criteria of poor and needy to provide opportunity to receive zakat assistance to those whose income has been affected adversely due to the pandemic.
  • Even after giving of the debt moratorium to those who have taken financing facilities from financial institutions, but due to loss of income who are unable to pay their debts ought to be assisted by zakat or sadaqat or infaq.
  • A special waqf fund to assist the poor and needy in the society need to be created and this needs to be initiated by the private sector.
  • Islamic microfinance schemes need to be introduced to assist poor and needy to provide them with opportunities to venture into business with interest-free loans and other shariah compatible modes of financing.

 

Conclusion

The pandemic has provided with the opportunity to re-strategize our economic and financial activities. Therefore, it is imperative to innovate ways to utilize Islamic social finance tools and institutions to help those who are poor and needy. As such, the required legal, regulatory, governance and technology infrastructure need to be developed. Definitely through implementation of Islamic social finance tools and institutions, the socio-economic justice will be achieved. From Maqasid al Shariah (objectives of Islamic law) perspective, it is mandatory for one to help each other in protecting one another from hardship as one can achieve success in this world and hereafter.

 

Dr. Aishath Muneeza is an Associate Professor at the International Center for Education in Islamic Finance. 

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