Monday, November 19, 2007

Social dislocation feeds Maldives Islamism

by Praveen Swami from The Hindu

According to a 2006 United Nations Children’s Education Fund report, NGOs have estimated that there are some 8,000 drug users in the islands of Maldives, with atotal population is just some 300,000. Islamist groups have been quick to cash in on the discontent, offering the rigours of religious practice as a cure for the strains of cultural and economic change. “Many parents,” says Male journalist Ahmed Nazim Sattar, “are delighted that their wards turn to religious groups, since it keeps them away from drugs and gangs. Very few understand where this journey might take their children.” Bookstores selling the Islamist vision to new recruits have proliferated. Perhaps more important than ideology, Islamist groups are able to provide new recruits tangible material inducements. Traditional elites on the island Male — in the main merchants and traders — have proved energetic sponsors of Islamist networks, hoping to regain the political influence they have lost to the new rich. Young Islamists are offered jobs, loans to start up businesses, and access to commercial networks that stretch into India and Pakistan.

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