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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Maldives militant move condemned
Maldives President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
President Gayoom is accused of over-reacting
A Maldives opposition group has strongly condemned moves announced earlier this week by the president to curb Islamic militancy in the country.

A spokesman for the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) said the move was would "exacerbate extremism".

They argue that innocent people are being affected by the crackdown.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that measures to combat Islamic extremism were necessary to protect the country's lucrative tourism industry.

Special permission

Last month the country was hit by a bomb attack in a park near the main mosque in the capital, Male.

Two Britons, two Japanese and eight Chinese tourists were hurt by the bomb - reported to have been homemade.

Map of Maldives

In an order made on Tuesday, President Gayoom said extremist elements should not be allowed to operate in the country, and that foreign clerics would not be able to enter the country without special permission.

In a wide ranging decree, the president ordered:

  • A new dress code which outlaws women from being covered from head-to-toe
  • Moderate Islamic views to be promoted in schools and colleges
  • Action against anyone suspected of being a religious extremist
  • Research into why some Muslims have become more radical
  • A new law that bans words or actions likely to encourage extremism

Ahmad Moosa, a spokesman for the MDP in London, accused the president of "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

In an interview with the BBC, he said that the president himself must bear some responsibility for the rise of militant Islam in the islands.

Police and militants in a stand-off in the island of Himandhoo
Fifty suspected militants were arrested last month

"As early as 1980 he was inviting radicals from abroad to visit our country in addition to setting up Islamic schools. He has only himself to blame."

Correspondents say that September's bombing has unsettled the Maldives, a nation of over 1,000 islands scattered across some 850k (550 miles) off the southern coast of India.

Officials say that President Gayoom is eager to stem militant violence, which many fear could detract from the country's position as a top destination for tourists.

Police arrested nearly 50 people last week on a remote island in connection with the Male blast.

Those detained were all Maldivians belonging to an Islamic militant group, according to a government spokesman.

Ten arrested over Maldives blast
01 Oct 07 |  South Asia
Country profile: The Maldives
21 Aug 07 |  Country profiles

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