Thursday, 15 July 2010

The consequences of apostasy

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News reaches us of a disturbing story from the Maldives, which serves as a reminder of the freedom of belief enjoyed by those of all religions and none here in Europe. Ismail Mohamed Didi, a 25-year-old air traffic controller who worked at the airport in the Maldives capital, Malé, was found hanged from the airport's control tower this week, having apparently committed suicide.

As this report from a Maldives news site shows, it appears Didi's suicide was prompted by ostracisation he received after admitting to his atheism, in confidence, to some colleagues. This news spread, prompting a hostile reaction from his fellow workers, and even resulted in Didi being investigated by his employers. As an email sent by Didi to a humanitarian orgainisation at the end of June shows, the situation seems to have become so bad that he was seeking asylum in the UK:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: ismail mohamed
Date: 25 June 2010 09:30
Subject: a plea for help

Dear sir,

I’m a 25 year-old Maldivian living in Male’. I have been working as an Air Traffic Controller at Male’ International Airport for almost 7 years now.

I started becoming disenchanted with Islam around 5 years ago and am now an atheist. During my transformation, and even now, I am quite the idealist, and when i was confronted about two years back by a couple of my colleagues about my aversion from the daily practices of Islam, i somewhat foolishly admitted my stance on religion.

I had asked them to keep it a secret from the rest of our workforce at ATC, although i now realize i should have known better. It did not take long for everybody at work to find out and since then, i have faced constant harassment in my work environment.

An atheist is not a common feature at all among Maldivians and the word has spread like wildfire since then. It has now come to the point where everyone I know, including my family, have become aware of my lack of belief.

In a society that has always been proud of their religious homogeneity, you can imagine what i am being put through. I have been subjected to numerous consultations with religious scholars and even my closest friends are not allowed to see me.

My company has already begun investigating a complaint regarding me, collecting testimony from fellow workers about my apostasy.

Just 3 days ago, i received two anonymous phone calls threatening violence if i do not start openly practicing Islam.I am at my wit’s end now. I have been trying for sometime to secure employment abroad, but have not yet succeeded.

The only other alternative i can think of is to flee the country to seek asylum elsewhere. I have already written an e-mail to your organization, and am anxiously waiting for a reply. I found your e-mail address on facebook. I am in dire need of assistance and know of no one inside the country who can guide me.

I would have already left the country if i was sure i could meet the required burden of proof in an asylum claim. I would like to know if you would be able to help me in anyway should i travel to the U.K to seek asylum and what my chances are of making a successful claim.

Thank you for your consideration

Ismail Mohamed Didi
It's an upsetting story, and serves as a reminder of what so-called "apostates" are up against in certain countries, particularly those were Islam is the state religion, as it is in the Maldives, where the constitution states that "a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives".


temporal said...

This broke my heart. Are you sure it was suicide though?

Eiskrystal said...


Bill White said...

Seems a bit suspicious. The language used in this letter is way too "American" in context and grammar. It seems highly unlikely to have been written by a Malian.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am not from an english speaking country, and my english is most certainly better then the average citizen of USA. Also consider that he was working as a flight controller.

Anonymous said...

Its not a 'consequence of apostasy' as such. He was just a disturbed kid fighting his identity crisis. I am also from Maldives and I know his background. As for being a flight controller... you can be anything in Maldives quite easily. Maldives is a very small resource-less country where anything we have to do with what we have.

Anonymous said...

Bill come on, suspecting because language and grammar "too american" is like using a fucking magnifying glass under the elephant in the room to figure out where all the elephant shit coming from.

I don't know how is my context and grammar but I'm from Turkey and I learned english from computer games and never had any other english education.