Sunday, September 13, 2015

In Tourist Idyll of Maldives, Radical Islam Lures Some towards Very Different Paradise

Mohamed Nasheed, former President of the Maldives
THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: This island chain in the Indian Ocean has, per capita, supplied more jihadists to Iraq and Syria than any country outside the Middle East

For the million tourists who fly in each year to the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives, the holiday “paradise” of idyllic white sand beaches quickly embraces them.

Speedboats or seaplanes ferry them to luxury resorts on otherwise uninhabited coral atolls, by-passing the rest of the country where local people live in an increasingly conservative Islamic society.

In this tourist-free Maldives, amid the narrow teeming streets of the capital Male and on islands dotted with fishing villages, the siren call of radical Islamist clerics is luring some locals towards a very different paradise.

More than 200 island jihadists are now believed to fighting in Iraq and Syria, and at least seven have died for the cause, their “martyrdoms” hailed on social media aimed specifically at Maldivians.

For a nation that only has a population of about 350,000, the numbers are strikingly high.They also reflect a reality at jarring odds with the country's picture postcard reputation as a honeymoon and holiday idyll.

“It’s quite probable that in per capita terms, the Maldives has more jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq than any other country outside the region,” said a Western security analyst. » | Philip Sherwell, Male, the Maldives | Sunday, September 13, 2015