It takes a nation to protect the nation
MALE, Maldives — The broken glass from an attack by vandals on the National Museum here has been swept away, and the remnants of the Buddhist statues they destroyed — nearly 30 of them, some dating to the sixth century — have been locked away. But officials say the loss to this island nation’s archaeological legacy can never be recouped.
In the midst of the political turmoil racking this tiny Indian Ocean nation of 1,200 islands, a half-dozen 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.
The vandalism was reminiscent of the Taliban’s demolition of the great carved Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in early 2001, and it has raised fears here that extremists are gaining ground in the Maldives, a Sunni Muslim country that historians say converted from Buddhism to Islam in the 12th century. The country has incorporated elements of Islamic law into its jurisprudence for years. Idols cannot be brought into the country, for example, and alcohol and pork products are allowed only at resorts that cater to foreigners.
The statues were destroyed on the same day that Mohamed Nasheed, who won the presidency in 2008 in the country’s first democratic election, resigned his office. Mr. Nasheed said he was forced to do so in what amounted to a coup; his opponents say he went voluntarily. For nearly a month leading up to his resignation, Islamic and other opposition political parties staged protests. Some of them criticized Mr. Nasheed for not cracking down on brothels that masquerade as massage parlors and for proposing that hotels be allowed to serve alcohol on islands where Maldivians live; under current law, alcohol can be served only at the airport or on resort islands with no native population.
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.”
There were conflicting reports on Monday about whether suspects had been arrested in the case. Mr. Waheed said five men were caught at the museum, but a spokesman for the police, Ahmed Shiyam, said on Monday that investigators were still collecting evidence and had not made arrests.
Naseema Mohamed, a historian who retired from the museum last year, said the loss was particularly devastating because many of the country’s ancient artifacts, dispersed across the archipelago, had been lost or destroyed over the years by local people and rulers. “There was very little left,” she said.
Mr. Waheed said that typically, two or three artifacts of the country’s Buddhist heritage are discovered a year, generally during construction of homes and other buildings.
Both Ms. Mohamed and Mr. Waheed said that in recent years, some conservative Muslims had suggested removing the statues from the museum, but that there had never been any threats made over the statues. Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, who was minister of Islamic affairs for the Maldives until last week, said that the country’s laws specifically exempt ancient figures from the regulations governing idols. “This is our heritage, and it has to be protected for future generations,” he said.
Officials of Adhaalath, an Islamist political party that took part in protests against the Nasheed administration, condemned the vandalism of the statues. Though the party has criticized what it called Mr. Nasheed’s anti-Islamic policies, it said it had never objected to the presence of the statues in the museum.
“We are very concerned about it,” Mohamed Iaad Hameed, president of the party’s trade and economic development committee, said in an interview on Monday. “And we as a party are fully against extremism.”
Mr. Waheed, the museum director, said scholars and museums in a number of countries had already offered help in restoring the damaged statues.
Trouble in paradise: Maldives and Islamic extremism
MALE — At the Maldives' National Museum, smashed Buddhist statues are testament to the rise of Islamic extremism and Taliban-style intolerance in a country famous as a laid-back holiday destination.
On Tuesday, as protesters backed by mutinous police toppled president Mohamed Nasheed, a handful of men stormed the Chinese-built museum and destroyed its display of priceless artefacts from the nation's pre-Islamic era.
"They have effectively erased all evidence of our Buddhist past," a senior museum official told AFP at the now shuttered building in the capital Male, asking not to be named out of fear for his own safety.
"We lost all our 12th century statues. They were made of coral stone and limestone. They are very brittle and there is no way we can restore them," he explained.
"I wept when I heard that the entire display had gone. We are good Muslims and we treated these statues only as part of our heritage. It is not against Islam to display these exhibits," he said.
Five people have since been arrested after they returned the following day to smash the CCTV cameras, he said.
The authorities have banned photography of the damage, conscious that vandalism of this kind which echoes the 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban is damaging for the nation's image.
The gates of the two-storeyed grey building, which opened in 2010, are padlocked and an unarmed guard keeps watch.
The Maldives, a collection of more than 1,100 coral-fringed islands surrounded by turquoise seas, is known as a "paradise" holiday destination that draws hundreds of thousands of travellers and honeymooners each year.
Visitors' contact with the local population is deliberately kept at bay, however, with most foreigners simply transferring from the main international airport directly to their five-star resorts on outlying islands.
Few have any idea they are visiting a country of 330,000 Muslims with no religious freedom, where women can be flogged for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol is illegal for locals.
Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
The religious origins of the Maldivian people are not clearly established, but it is believed that a Buddhist king converted to Islam in the 12th century.
Thereafter, the country practised a mostly liberal form of the religion, but more fundamentalist interpretations have spread with the arrival of money and ultra-conservative Salafist preachers from the Middle East.
In 2007, following a bombing that wounded a dozen foreign tourists, the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom banned head-to-toe coverings for women as a sign of his intent to battle conservative Islamic thinking.
At the museum, another official said that fundamentalists had threatened to attack the museum on previous occasions unless it withdrew the Buddhist display.
The country's ultra-conservative Islamic group, the Adhaalath Party, condemned the attack, but said they remained opposed to Nasheed's decision to accept three monuments from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"Our constitution does not allow idols and that is why we objected to the monuments," General Secretary Mohamed Muizzu said, referring to the gifts to mark a South Asian summit held in November in the Maldives.
The monuments, which included one of pillar featuring Buddhist motifs, and which had been on display in the southernmost island of Addu, have all since been vandalised.
The Adhaalath party supports new president Mohamed Waheed, who Nasheed accuses of taking part in a coup, and is due to join the new government.
Waheed called the museum attack "totally unacceptable" and denied there was religious violence in his country.
Former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem disagreed.
He said extremists were thriving in the Maldives and that they were partly responsible for the toppling of Nasheed and the installation of Waheed. "What we had was a military coup backed by religious extremists," he said.
"There is a strong influence of Islamic fundamentalists in the country and they will get stronger," Naseem told AFP. "These groups are funded from abroad. "This threat is not only to us, but the rest of the world as well."
The moderate Nasheed, who was educated in Sri Lanka and Britain, was consistently accused of being under the control of Jews and Christians by religious opposition parties now linked to the government
There were also demonstrations over proposals from the transport ministry to allow direct flights from Israel.
"We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic words and the other commentary recently," US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Robert Blake said during a visit to Male on Saturday.
"Under President Nasheed, the Maldives tried to improve relations with Israel and showed what a progressive country they were and we really commend them for that."
Goddess Nidhi-lakshmi as represented on a 9th century coral block
There are five faces on the three sides of the stele, and a very worn face on the top.
The stele is a vighnantaka dvarapala representation, designed to protect sacred ground (or the mandala) from evil.
'The adverse powers (Skt. vighna) that may destroy the sanctity of any consecrated place are assumed to be demonic and malevolent. The vighna, viganiin modern Divehi, means 'obstacle', anything that obstructs the path to enlightenment.
'The nature of vighna is evil; their Lord is Yama, the God of Death. As in Indian Buddhist mythology, one of the aspects of Yama is the personification of evil in man and of his inevitable death. The vighna is assumed to be an amorphous and turbulent mass and, despite their importance, in Buddhist iconography they are never represented with as much precision as the vighnantaka. The latter are the awesome guardians of the gates (akin to the dvarapala) which are expected to put an end to the vighna with their terrifying appearance. The vighnantaka are a common feature in Buddhist sculpture and these fearsome looking images are a frequent feature by the gates of Buddhist holy sites
Inscriptions in old Maldivian Eveyla Akuru script at the four corners of the largest head, which dominates the most finished side of the stele The inscriptions on either side of the head
below the ears have been identified as Vajrayana mantras
Carved from coral stone, the stele was found in the early 1960s during roadworks at Aifaanu Magu in Henveiru ward, Male'. Human bones were found around the stele and an adolescent female skull had been placed on top.
Regarding human sacrifices in early Maldives, Romero-Frias writes:
'Blood sacrifices, and even human sacrifices, were indeed a feature of Dravidian Devi worship. In South India even to this day, bloody ceremonies including animal sacrifices and nightly processions with lights are still part of the worship of goddess Mari.
'It is very likely that Buddhism, upon its arrival in Maldives, sought to stop human sacrificial offerings offered to the ancestral Goddess, so common throughout Dravidian village India. The readiness to offer these sacrifices can be traced to the extreme fear Maldivians had of epidemics and diseases in general.
Chief of the Five Thieves - Buddha head, Toddoo island, Maldives
The discovery and destruction of the big statue of Thoddu in 1959 - Statue smashed a second time at Mulee-aage
by Adam Haleem
Haveeru, 30 May 2009
Found carefully buried on Thoddu in 1959, this statue had been preserved underground for nearly 800 years. To hide it after Buddhist Maldives was declared an Islamic kingdom by royal decree in 1153, islanders removed the statue from a higher position and placed it upright on the floor of the temple where sand had been spread. It was then surrounded by hewn stone slabs and more sand and rocks. A protective slab was placed over the statue and additional rocks and sand were added to the pile until the temple had become a mound. The heap was then covered in soil.
They began digging and when they found a statue and everyone began to shout and yell at the statue. 'Chief of the Five Thieves [from the tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves], you are the motherless one!', one of them bellowed as he pointed a finger at the carving. 'The thief was hiding!' yelled another man even more loudly.
Several days later, they found a rectangular sandstone slab. When they lifted the slab, underneath was a large statue.
'With the coins was a piece of hip bone [in 'History of Maldives in a New Light', the term 'hip bone' is not used, instead the object is described as 'an ingredient for herbal medicine'] . The silver coins had some sort of engraving and people said they were coins of Alexander the Great,' said Hakeem. 'While people were absorbed in looking at these things, Mudhin Ibrahim came running up and claimed that it was a place that he had discovered and the gold belonged to him. Mudhin was jumping up and down for a miniscule piece of gold.
We must ask ourselves what the objectives of Islam are.
One objective is to eradicate all education, knowledge and non Islamic culture. To return to an ignorant primitive herding and agricultural system.
There will be no automobiles or industry because there will be no-one educated to a level where they are capable of maintaining and developing industrial technology. They only need our weapons technology in order to intimidate and subdue us and they study democracy in order to utilise its weaknesses. Most Muslims are poor ignorant uneducated peasants who given a democratic choice choose Islam and Islam has no use for democracy other than as a means to mislead true democracies and to achieve enough power to abolish democracy.
There will be no art other than calligraphic depictions of Muslim holy texts.
All science, medicine and general knowledge will disappear. As the only proper study for a Muslim is the holy texts given by Allah through the mouth of one man Mohammed. So all truth and knowledge can only have one source Mohammed, who is always right because the almighty Allah is infallible. To doubt this is to ask to have your head lopped off. So not many challenges to the word of Allah eventually.
This is the main objective of Islam to destroy everything not described in the holy books. Everything non-Islamic.
We shall all prey five times a day and blissfully submit to the Will of Allah. Everyone will be happy under the umbrella of the love of the Muslim brotherhood and the peace of Islam. Women joyfully accept their purpose to feed the appetites of men.
It's like some insane Hippy nightmare- choose peace and love or die.
Yo Philip you paint a grim picture, but I don't see it that way, muslims will still want their cars and mobile phones etc, and they know there will be enough kaffir to serve them, a perfect example of this is Malaysia
I don't think that Philip paints an unrealistic picture.
Last year the British Museum had a politically-correct exhibition about Afghanistan as the cross-roads of civilisation.
They had almost nothing to display.
And they barely even mentioned that it was because of islam. Those things on display were from museums and collections around the world, stuff that the Taliban and/or the peasantry did not get to destroy, some of it whisked out of museums there 30 years ago.
And get this. The plan was to return what was left of these bygone civilisations of Afghanistan to the Afghan government! If that plan is followed through, you can bet that within 20 years there will be nothing left of those things.
Muslim societies will hold onto the technology of other civilisations, but they will not add to it. And they will destroy those things that are representations of that which is not islam. And eventually the technology will wear out. And without valuable natural resources (like oil), they will be unable to keep up technologically, and will return to piracy and slavery. Most of Malaysia's exports depend on natural resources and manufacturing. In 30 years time a sharia-compliant Malaysia, with the continued brain-drain of Chinese and Indian professionals, and the exhaustion of non-renewable natural resources, will result in the country going backward. No doubt they will go to war with Singapore or Thailand, when they see their relative wealth falling.
Islam is like a black hole.
Yes but in the end everyone will be Muslim and totally ignorant.
I think it will be a mixture in space, and go in waves in time.
So, some countries like Malaysia or Saudi Arabia will have their captive or imported Dhimmi populations to do the complex and innovative work for them, and other countries like Afghanistan, Sudan and Guinea Bissau will keep be more chaotic and openly discriminatory, so that the non-Muslims in the end try get out, and they have a gradual depletion of the non-Muslim citizens.
But even within that model, Islam will go in its usual waves of slackening and hardening (or "spiritual renewal"), in which the barely tolerated kuffar get wiped from their positions of power and ethnically cleansed. A perfect example of this is that "beacon of Islamic tolerance and good governance", Andalusia.
As any Muslim will proudly tell to you, Andalusia even had a Jewish vizier, and a resident population of Jews in one area. But in 1066 the pendulum swung back, the vizier was killed along with 5000 of the Jews.
Or the Muslim will boast of Maimonides, the greatest medieval Jewish thinker, Talmudist and codifier, working happily in Andalusia. Except that as soon as Maimonides was safely out of Dar al Islam, he said
”never did a nation molest,degrade,debase &hate us as much as they”
I think this is an important point, because the most dangerous aspect of Islam is its variability and unpredictability (I'm talking about it as a social and political force not as a theological doctrine). If it wasn't so variable by place and by time, people wouldn't get so easily confused, misled and deceived by it.