'Name mentioned on report to discredit organization' - Jamiyyath Salaf

Religious organization Jamiyyath Salaf has stated the Presidential Commision Investigating Enforced Murders and Disappearances mentioned the name of the organization in their report on the murder of former MP and religious scholar, Dr. Afrasheem Ali, in a bid to tarnish the good name of the organization.

The organization said while the report itself confirms there is no link between the organization and the murder of Dr. Afrasheem, mentioning their name on the report was an irresponsible and deplorable act by the commission.

While the report invesigated Dr. Afrasheem's murder from different angles, some being political motivation and religious discord, the report confirms that Jammiyyathul Salaf is not linked to any political parties or extremist organizations.

Salaf said there was no meaning to tying Afrasheem's murder to professional disagreements and debate between religious scholars on certain religious ideologies and views held by the deceased scholar while ignoring and undermining the continuous harrasment and threats to his life that were posed by political figures and parliament members.

Salaf said although the report said Dr. Afrasheem was attacked by members of Salaf when Dr. Afrasheem left Ibrahim Mosque after leading Friday prayers on a particular day, and alleged that Sheikh Mohamed Latheef, who was questioned by the commission, was a senior scholar of the organization, and that Salaf had issued a statement following a talk on keeping beards given by the scholar at Iskandhar Koshi in 2012, the information are false.

The statement further condemned the commission for mentioning false information on the organization without verifying its authenticity and without speaking to any member of the organization. The organization accused the commission of inciting hatred against the organization, their ideologies and activities on the instructions of an enemy of the organization. They further questioned the integrity and the sincerity of the presidential commission.

Salaf said the extremist religious organizations as per the presidential commission do not operate under the advice of religious scholars of Maldives, and that such organizations regard the scholars of Maldives as apostates. This is clear to Intelligence, Police Service, National Counter Terrorism Center and the Islamic Ministry, said the statement.

"Although the report does not state Salaf is linked to the murder of Dr. Afrasheem Ali, we believe mentioning the organizations's name in a report on taking a life made sacred by god, and publicizing it was motivated by the age old hatred harbored towards our organization by some political figures. Mentioning the organization's name and that of some scholars associated with the organization in such a subtle, deceiving manner is a pre-planned move intended to discredit the organization and its scholars and to obstruct the religious services being provided by the organization as some see the organization as a threat against spreading anti Islamic ideologies and operating secular, anti-religious organizations in Maldives", read the statement.

Salaf further said the organization's events and activities, and sermons given by their scholars are carried out publicly and is usually recorded by local TV channels and radio stations, and other means. All such recordings will clearly show that the organization has never encouraged extremism, they said.

"Therefore, we urge you to not stand in the way of citizens, scholars and civil organizations who work to raise awareness on religion, and protecting the Islamic environment of Maldives from secular ideologies", it further said.

The statement was issued by Jamiyyath Salaf while parliament committee on National Security Services (241 committee) Wednesday held a closed door meeting to discuss taking action against the organization. The organization is being investigated on allegations of supporting and encouraging terrorism in Maldives.

Before beginning Wednesday's Parliament Sitting, Speaker Mohamed Nasheed stated that he had received information that the sub committee formed by the 241 committee had decided that Jamiyyath Salaf is a religious group that encourages and supports terrorism, and that the committee is preparing to take action against the organization.

Nasheed's revelation warning action against Jamiyyath Salaf prompted several opposition members to express their concern on the matter. While Nasheed said the organization was first registered during his time as the President of Maldives, he believes the organization would go underground if their activities are stopped now.

"What I believe is that if Jamiyathul Salaf was not registered then, then they would have carried out their work 'underground'. Even if we stop their work now, they will go underground," said Nasheed.

It has now come to light that the information provided by Nasheed regarding the organization's registration was false. A member of the organization posted the organization's registration certificate on social media platform Twitter, which shows the organization was registered on March 12, 2006. Nasheed was elected president in November 2008.

Presidential Commission Investigating Murders and Enforced Disappearances's report on MP and religious scholar Dr. Afrasheem's murder revealed that that an extremist religious organization was behind the murder of former MP. After the report was publicized, Nasheed had warned that Maldives will be 'ruined' if the activities of radical organizations are not put to an immediate stop, and stressed that action should be taken on the findings of the commission's report at the earliest.