Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid (File photo)
NEW DELHI: The stand taken by the Maldives at a virtual meeting of OIC envoys of OIC to the UN, where the neighbouring country scuttled a move apparently at Pakistan‘s behest to target India, is a principled one, said Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid.
“It’s a principled stand and we will continue to maintain it,” Shahid told ToI Sunday. He was elaborating on Maldives’ position on attempts by some OIC countries to reprimand India over issues like alleged vilification of Muslims, CAA and Delhi riots.
In the meeting of OIC envoys to the UN, Maldives didn’t just cite a technicality which went in India’s favour. Its statement was perhaps the most forthright defence of India by any country in the face of flak drawn in recent times by the Narendra Modi government internationally for alleged Islamophobia.
As reported by ToI on May 23, the Maldivian ambassador Thilmeeza Hussain had told OIC envoys that “isolated statements by motivated people and disinformation campaigns” on social media should not be construed as representative of the feelings of 1.3 billion people.
Pakistan media had later reported that the Maldives and UAE had blocked a move by Pakistan to form a working group of envoys to deal with Islamophobia. UAE apparently said the envoys didn’t have such a mandate. Pakistan Foreign Office denied these reports saying a large number of OIC envoys at the UN shared its concerns on Islamophobia. It was silent though on the statement by the Maldives.
As evident from Shahid’s remarks to ToI, Maldives has stood its ground that targeting a specific country for Islamophobia will be like “side-stepping” the real issue.
Shahid also underscored Maldives’ position otherwise that the world had indeed seen an alarming rise in the “culture of hatred, prejudice and racism”.
He recalled Hussain’s remarks in the virtual meeting that violence had been exploited as a tool to promote political and other ideologies and that the Maldives stood firmly against such actions anywhere in the world, including Islamophobia, xenophobia or any form of violence to promote political or any other agenda.
The support from an Islamic neighbour, strategically located in the Indian Ocean, is important for India as it seeks to ride out criticism not just from OIC over the “growing tide of Islamophobia” but also organisations like US Commission on International Religious Freedom which have targeted India for violating religious freedom.
The 57-member OIC, which calls itself the collective voice of the Muslim world, has been extremely critical of India on issues related to J&K and what it has called a vicious campaign to malign Muslims for the spread of Covid-19 in the country.
Hussain had said though in her statement that that “singling out India, the largest democracy in the world and a multicultural society home to over 200 million Muslims, for Islamophobia would be factually incorrect”.