I've been reading up on the persecution of Christians and other non-Muslims in the Maldives in light of the fact that the SNP is giving Scottish taxpayers' money to it.
Open Doors, a charity that campaigns for persecuted Christians worldwide, ranks the Maldives 6th in its list of countries where the persecution of Christians is worst!
All citizens must be Muslims in this archipelago. Legislation forbids the practice of any religion except Islam; churches are forbidden; and the import of Christian literature is prohibited. New regulations governing religious practice were unveiled by the government in 2010, and stricter policies were also imposed on tourists after some were caught bringing in Bibles. The few indigenous believers are isolated from one other and are monitored both by the authorities and the locals.
In 2010 a teacher from India was forced to flee the Maldives after angry parents tried to attack her. They accused her of attempting to spread Christianity because she had drawn a cross on the blackboard to teach the children the directions of the compass!
The Maldives, which is at the forefront of a campaign to get the international community to act on a looming global warming crisis, has a more immediate problem on hand. A rising tide of religious extremism is driving this tropical paradise of a low-lying string of islands down the road to a new conservatism.
What is more, the spread of militant Islam in the country and the appeal of a radical strain of Islam are drawing Maldivian youth into global jihadi groups.
"Hundreds of Maldivians" have been recruited by the Taliban and are fighting in Pakistan, Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed told the CNN-IBN news channel during his recent visit to India.
A puritanical version of Islam has taken root. Signs of conservatism are more evident on the streets of the capital, Male, today than they were even a few years ago. The number of burqa-clad women has been increasing steadily as has that of bearded men.
Forum 18 reports that even migrant workers are denied religious freedom:
Just as Maldivian citizens do not have the right to religious freedom – Sunni Islam in the state-approved form is the only permitted faith – migrant workers too are denied this right. The Maldives prevents the import of non-Muslim books and other religious items, for example by searching foreigners' luggage for "un-Islamic" materials. Migrant workers are banned from practising non-Muslim faiths even privately, while the lack of privacy in which many live makes it almost impossible to worship "unnoticed by locals", as one migrant worker put it to Forum 18 News Service. Some 80,000 migrant workers – mostly Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus from South Asia – make up about a quarter of the country's population, but are mostly in low-status jobs and find it difficult to challenge human rights violations. The government has not acted on United Nations recommendations to grant migrant workers religious freedom.