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- The Maldivian government has asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from ISIS
- The rise of the digital age is exposing the Maldivian youth to terrorism and turning them into radicals
- Recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act criminalizes defamation and fines anyone spreading false information
The Maldivian couple was still struggling with the shock of their 22-year-old son being locked up in a Turkish prison after Muslim radicals almost recruited him.
“On July 12, we woke up and found him gone, his passport missing. Two days later, we got news that he was arrested in Turkey while attempting to travel to Syria to join a radical outfit,” the man’s father told a BenarNews reporter who was visiting the couple’s home in a congested by-lane of Male, the capital of the Maldives, late last month.
“As a family, we are shattered,” he said, “but relieved at the same time. At least we won’t have to live with the shame of knowing our son is killing innocent people in the name of Islam.”
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The father, who wished not to be identified, said he was well aware that his son might be looking at a life behind bars if he were sent back to the Maldives. Its government recently announced jail terms of up to 20 years for those attempting to go abroad to fight for Islamic militant groups.
“He will get what he deserves. I only hope he gets a chance to repent,” the man said of his boy, whose identity he also shielded.
His son is one of more than 200 Maldivians who have left the Muslim-majority Indian Ocean archipelago – better known for its pristine beaches and high-end tourist resorts – to fight in the Middle East alongside militant outfits including the Islamic State (IS) and al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, according to the country’s main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Soufan Group, a U.S.-based security and intelligence firm that tracks terrorist threats worldwide.
The number of Maldivians fighting for these radical groups abroad is relatively high given the country’s small population of 345,000, according to a 2013 census.
The Maldives has the world’s second highest per capita of people fighting for IS, behind Tunisia, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), an American think-tank. One out of every 500 Maldivians has joined the Mid-East extremist outfit, according to research by the NBER.
At least 20 Maldivians have died in battle in the Middle East, said the Twitter page of Bilad Al Sham Media group, which appears to be run by Maldivian militants in Syria. BenarNews could not independently verify this figure.
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And even though the government of President Abdulla Yameen puts the figure at no more than 50, there is cause for concern, said a former top police official in Male.
“Even going by the number the government is stating, it is a worrisome trend considering the small population of the Maldives,” he told BenarNews.Opposition exaggerating figure: governmentThe government said the opposition was exaggerating the number to bring disrepute to the Maldives, whose population is largely Sunni Muslim.“No bona fide security analyst has said or confirmed the figure which has been repeated by those with close associations to former President Nasheed; who themselves fail to attribute this number to any credible source, much less ones that can be independently corroborated or verified,” Ibrahim Hussain Shihab, Yameen’s international spokesman, told BenarNews.He was referring to Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s democratically elected leader. Until Nasheed was elected in 2008, the Maldives had endured decades of autocratic rule. But he resigned in February 2012, saying a coup had forced him out. Nasheed now lives in exile in Britain, where he has received refugee status.Shihab, however, added that the present government was taking the threat posed by terrorism seriously, but he declined to say how many Maldivian youths had been stopped from leaving the country to join extremist outfits in the Middle East, or if the country had a de-radicalization strategy in place.In February, President Yameen established the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) specifically to investigate cases of radicalization in the Maldives. In June, the president followed that up by submitting a policy paper on “Terrorism and Violent Extremism” to parliament for added recommendations with the aim of strengthening national security and contributing to the global fight against terror, Shihab said.Government in denial
But security analysts described NCTC as a sham.
“It [the NCTC] is a façade to pacify critics,” Azra Naseem, a Maldivian counter-terrorism expert at Ireland’s Dublin City University, told BenarNews. “It is based in the Maldives National Defense Force – making counter-terrorism a military issue rather than a policing issue. And as far as the public has been allowed to know, there are only two members of staff on it.”
She said the government’s main policy was one of “denial and obfuscation,” making it almost impossible for researchers and journalists to get accurate figures because the “government is working actively to cover things up.”
“The government is afraid that if it becomes known that an increasing number of Maldivians are leaving to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters, it would harm the country’s exclusive tourism industry. Rich Western Europeans, toward whom most of the Maldives’ tourism industry is geared, would not want to book expensive holidays in a country known for production of jihad,” Naseem said.
“If the tourism industry is damaged, the miniscule percentage of rich Maldivians who control it would suffer and many of them bankroll the Maldives government. So the current regime downplays the number of Maldivian jihadists, pretends it is a problem that does not exist, and labels anyone who speaks about it a traitor,” she added.Taboo topic
On the streets of Male, an island of close to 6 square km (2.3 square miles) that is crammed with 130,000 residents, no one wants to speak of the growing threat of radicalization, not openly at least.Naseem, one of the few Maldivians who agreed to comment on the subject on the record, explained why.“I would not be surprised if the new Anti-Defamation Act is brought to bear on those who speak of this problem,” she said, referring to the recently passed Anti-Defamation and Freedom of Expression Act. It criminalizes defamation and includes provisions to impose fines of up to U.S. $130,000 on anyone caught spreading false information.
“This government really wants to depict the problem of radicalization as a fictitious one concocted by the opposition to harm the country and by ‘jealous’ Western countries who do not want the Maldives to prosper because it is a Muslim country,” she said.
‘We are very vulnerable’
Yet on Thursday, the Maldivian government for the first time publicly conceded its vulnerability to radicalization as it asked India for help in sharing intelligence in light of an increasing threat from IS and reports of radicalization among youths.
The chief of the NCTC will be visiting New Delhi on Aug. 29 to discuss specific requirements to tackle the terror threat, Maldivian Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim told the Press Trust of India.
“Because of our small size, we are very vulnerable and we have sought India’s help in strengthening our mechanisms to tackle threats of terrorism,” Asim said.
The request came barely two months after India’s Intelligence Bureau sent a classified report to agencies indicating that the growing IS influence in the Maldives could prove to be a threat to the Indian sub-continent, whose southwestern coast lies about 320 km (200 miles) away.
The IS has been “successfully using the internet and social media in influencing youths in the island nation and is determined to expand its network further,” the report said, while putting the figure of the outfit’s sympathizers in the Maldives at about 500.
New threat from online recruitment
Acknowledging that the number of potential terror recruits in the Maldives was well beyond the figure the government had been stating, the former senior police official from Male said the problem of radicalization in the archipelago was an old one.
“Radicalization of Maldivian youth came to the fore back in 2004, when several Muslim groups came to the Maldives in the garb of helping people affected by the tsunami and began preaching radical Islam,” the former cop said on condition of anonymity.
“And now, with almost every one of the near 350,000 Maldivians connected to the internet, radicalization of our youth is easier than ever,” he said.
Counter-terrorism expert Naseem agreed.
“There are several websites dedicated to publishing jihadi literature. A lot of books published by leaders of IS and al-Nusra are translated into Dhivehi and made available to Maldivians to download and study.
“Despite the government’s claim that they are clamping down on this, this material is very easily accessible,” she said. (BenarNews)
The nursery rhyme Goosey Goosey Gander is filled with multiple meanings. It is another one of those rhymes believed to have emerged from the time of great persecution in England during the Reformation. It also holds a contemporary, colloquial meaning.
The original verse goes something like this:
Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stair (allnurseryrhymes.com)
There are other versions that deal with more specific ideas from which separate meanings have been interpreted.
Catholic priests being killed for continuing to keep the faith Image source: wikimedia commons
The primary interpretation is believed to be regarding the Catholic priests getting persecuted by King Henry VIII and his Protestant successors. Catholicism in England was frowned upon when King Henry established the Church of England. Anyone practicing Catholicism was put to death for treason. Many of the courtiers were hanged on this charge, and are noted in history as being martyrs for their faith.
Those who managed to practice their religion without being discovered did so in what was called a 'priest hole'. These were small rooms in the walls of a house that was covered by tapestry or a bookshelf. The required prayer instruments would be placed here, and the person would retire to this chamber at night, or at a time when they were not required elsewhere. The goose that wanders her mistress's house in the nursery rhyme discovers such a person, presumably a priest, and exposes him, or 'throws him down the stair'.
An alternative meaning to this rhyme originates from the lower class of England's population, a colloquial term used widely among the non-rich. The word 'goose' was used commonly to address a prostitute, and here, could possibly refer to a woman who has acquired an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). "Whither shall I wander?/ Upstairs and downstairs/ And in my lady's chamber," could be a reference to the spread of an infection that a man acquires from such a woman, which causes him to be ostracised from his community. It was quite common in England for an upper-classman to bed a lower-class woman in the society of those days.
It is rather interesting that such a practice would turn into folklore, and in turn, become a rhyme sung by little children all over the world. It has certain amusing images no doubt, but not without raising questions. England of the times of Reformation was certainly a dark place, with a terribly dark heritage.
Keywords: Heritage, Rhymes, Folklore, England, Reformation
Many individuals struggle with psychological distress at home because most of us spend the whole day doing nothing. Being trapped inside our homes may seem inconvenient, but if you have the time and patience, the time spent indoors offers the ideal chance to learn new abilities. Whether you want to transform your body by following a daily routine with the help of millions of tutorials available across platforms, or you want to learn coding, cooking, a new language, here are some skills you can learn from the comfort of your home.
- A new language: Learning a new language online from the comfort of one's own home is simple and relatively inexpensive, thanks to apps such as Duolingo and Busuu. Gaining knowledge of a new language improves your communication skills. It allows you to communicate with a more significant number of individuals and open new doors, and expand your perspectives. Although most of us cannot travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, do not allow that to stop you from upskilling yourself.
Gaining knowledge of a new language improves your communication skills. | Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
- Writing: When it comes to skills, writing is one of the essential ones you may possess. It is the primary mode of communication for most people, particularly in this day and age with the internet, texting, and social media. Writing also has the added benefit of improving your public speaking abilities. Books, online courses, videos, and, of course, actual writing practice are all excellent resources for learning how to enhance your writing skills.
When it comes to skills, writing is one of the essential ones you may possess. | Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
- Programming: Programming is one of the highest-paying professions available that does not require the completion of a Bachelor's degree. So even if you didn't pursue a degree in computer science in college, you may still benefit from this skill. Understanding the fundamentals of programming allows you to assist in the launch of an application, the optimization of a website for search engines, and the creation or editing of content. Many online platforms are available to assist you in learning to code. Recently, I also enrolled for C/C++ programming on Internshala.
Programming is one of the highest-paying professions available that does not require the completion of a Bachelor's degree. | Photo by Danial Igdery on Unsplash
ALSO READ: Which Is More Important- Degree or Skill?
- Typing Skill: Learning to type quickly and correctly will benefit you in a variety of ways throughout your life, and it should be regarded as a fundamental skill for anybody who intends to work with computers in the future. There are many websites that provide classes to help you learn the fundamentals, and then, after you have mastered the fundamentals, more advanced courses to help you improve your abilities further.
Learning to type quickly and correctly will benefit you in a variety of ways throughout your life. | Photo by Burst on Unsplash
- Video Editing: Video is unquestionably the most powerful marketing and promotional medium available for music, goods, services, news, and educational purposes. There is a strong possibility that video editing may become the next big thing. At the moment, video production does not need large financial investments; just having access to a computer is all that is required if you possess the right video editing skills. Besides YouTube, which has a large number of detailed videos on video editing, you may discover courses on Udemy and Lynda that can assist you in learning the necessary skills
There is a strong possibility that video editing may become the next big thing. | Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash
Another thing you may do when you're stuck at home is work on your personal development. We should all strive to improve ourselves as individuals. Here are some ways through which can understand the Significance Of Self-Love And How To Nurture It.
Keywords: Skills, home, COVID, pandemic, coding, language, typing, self-love, writing
Heinz has just rolled out a new product that the condiment company says is the "biggest innovation in sauce since the packet itself." Earlier this month, the world's largest producer of ketchup announced the Packet Roller, a ketchup bottle-shaped gadget that allows users to squeeze the most out of a condiment packet, CNN reported.
"Do not click 'purchase' unless you are prepared to change everything about the way you sauce," the Heinz Packet Roller website says. The roller goes for $5.70. The roller is pocket-sized, can be added to a keychain, and features a packet corner cutter.
Heinz has just rolled out a new product that the condiment company says is the "biggest innovation in sauce since the packet itself | Flickr
This announcement could be part of the fast-tracked, "future-focused culinary and packaging innovations" that Steve Cornell, president of Kraft Heinz's US grocery business unit, hinted at earlier this year amid a shortage of ketchup. A surge in takeout and delivery food orders during the pandemic led to a scarcity of ketchup packets, the report said.
In April, Heinz pledged to increase production of ketchup by 25 per cent to 12 billion packets annually. "Gone are the days of fumbling with ketchup packets, pants ruined by mustard disasters, and minutes taken off your life trying to get to the bottom of that mayo packet. With the patent-pending Heinz Packet Roller, what was once taxing becomes simple -- just snip and roll to squeeze out every drop of your sauce of choice," the website says
Keywords: Heinz, Packet roller, sauce, company, ketchup