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Cablegate: Irf Report: Draft 2003 Maldives Submission

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 001303

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR SA, SA/INS, DRL/IRF(BARNES)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF MV LTTE
SUBJECT: IRF report: Draft 2003 Maldives submission

Refs: (A) State 194330
- (B) Colombo-IRF 05/23/03 class email

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified --
Please handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) Per the request in Ref A, Mission submits the
draft 2003 International Religious Freedom report for
the Maldives. As also requested in Ref A, a Word
document with tracked changes based on the 2002 report
has already been forwarded to the Department (see
Ref B).

3. (SBU) The draft 2003 Maldivian IRF report follows:

Begin text:

MALDIVES

The 1997 constitution designates Islam as the official
state religion and the practice of other religions is
prohibited by law. Foreigners are allowed to practice
their religion only if they do so in private and do not
encourage Maldivian citizens to participate.

There was no change in the status of respect for
religious freedom during the period covered by this
report, and freedom of religion remains severely
restricted. The president is the ``supreme authority to
propagate the tenets of Islam.'' The government
observes Shari'a (Islamic law), and severely restricts
the practice of other faiths.

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Citizens regard Islam as one of their society's most
distinctive characteristics and believe that it promotes
harmony and national identity.

The U.S. Government does not maintain a resident Embassy
in the Maldives; the U.S. Ambassador in Colombo, Sri
Lanka, is also accredited to the government in Male.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues
with the government in the context of its overall dialog
and policy of promoting human rights.

SECTION I. RELIGIOUS DEMOGRAPHY

The Maldives is an archipelago consisting of
approximately 1,200 coral atolls and islands scattered
over 500 miles in the Indian Ocean southeast from India,
and its population is approximately 280,000.

It is believed that the entire indigenous population is
Muslim, the majority of which adhere to the Sunni branch
of Islam. Foreigners in the Maldives -- more than
300,000 tourists annually (predominantly Europeans and
Japanese) and about 20,000 foreign workers
(predominantly Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Indian, and
Bangladeshi) -- are allowed to practice their religion
privately only.

SECTION II. STATUS OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Freedom of religion is restricted significantly. The
1997 constitution designates Islam as the official state
religion, and the government interprets this provision
to impose a requirement that citizens be Muslims.

Foreign residents are allowed to practice their
religion, if they do so privately, and can not encourage
Maldivian citizens to participate.

- Restrictions on Religious Freedom

In July 2000, the president stated that no other
religion will be allowed in the country, and the Home
Affairs Ministry announced special programs to safeguard
and strengthen religious unity. The government has
established a Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs to
provide guidance on religious matters. The government
also has set standards for individuals who conduct
Friday services at mosques to ensure adequate
theological qualifications.

The president must be a Sunni Muslim and under the
constitution is the ``supreme authority to propagate the
tenets of Islam.'' Cabinet ministers also are required
to be Sunni Muslims. Members of the People's Majlis
(Parliament) must be Muslim. The government observes
Shari'a (Islamic law).

There are no places of worship for adherents of other
religions. The government prohibits the importation of
icons and religious statues but generally permits the
importation of religious tracts, such as Bibles, for
personal use.

The government prohibits non-Muslim clergy and
missionaries from proselytizing and conducting public
worship services. Conversion of a Muslim to another
faith is a violation of Shari'a and may result in a loss
of the convert's citizenship.

Islamic instruction is a mandatory part of the school
curriculum, and the government funds the salaries of
instructors of Islam.

- Abuses of Religious Freedom

The law severely restricts a citizen's right to freedom
of expression in order to protect ``the basic tenets of
Islam.''

There were no reports of religious detainees or
prisoners during the period covered by this report.

- Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion,
including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted
or illegally removed from the United States, or of the
government's refusal to allow such citizens to be
returned to the United States.

SECTION III. SOCIETAL ATTITUDES

Most citizens regard Islam as one of their society's
most distinctive characteristics and believe that it
promotes harmony and national identity.

SECTION IV. U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICY

The U.S. Government does not maintain a resident embassy
in the Maldives; the U.S. Ambassador in Colombo, Sri
Lanka also is accredited to the government in Male. The
U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with
the government in the context of its overall dialog and
policy of promoting human rights.

End text.

4. (SBU) Mission confirms the statement in Section II
of the above draft that there are no reports of
religious prisoners or detainees.

ENTWISTLE

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