On June 21, a radical Islamist mob stormed the Maldives' national stadium to intimidate and attack the people participating in the "Yoga Day" event organized jointly by the Indian High Commission and the Maldivian government. The police arrested six people for perpetrating the violence.
Dramatic visuals from Maldives as group of extremists disrupt Yoga Day celebrations organised in capital Male pic.twitter.com/es9q3y5g2o
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) June 21, 2022
Islamic protesters invaded Galolhu National Stadium in Male, Maldives. More than 150 people, including diplomats and government officials from India and UK, participated in the event celebrating the International Day of Yoga. The mob chased and attacked the participants and vandalized the state's property.
A group of roughly 50 men, led by Sheikh Adam Nishan and Sheikh Fazloon Mohamed, two well-known Islamic scholars of the country, stormed the event waving Islamist flags and banners and running through the field shouting "Allahu Akbar."
A few hours before the event, the two Islamic activists had called a "peaceful" protest in front of the stadium on social media against the "Hindu" activity of Yoga. However, after some provocative speeches, the mob broke through the police barricades, entered the stadium, and began pushing and hitting the peaceful yoga practitioners.
Maldivian police, initially overwhelmed by the riot, were forced to use tear gas and pepper spray to subdue the group who disrupted the event. The police said in a statement that the "Perpetrators had sought to incite fear by forcefully entering, destroying property and attempting to assault participants of the event,"
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih tweeted about the incident, announcing the start of a thorough investigation and promised that it would be "treated as a matter of serious concern and those responsible will be swiftly brought before the law."
An investigation has been launched by @PoliceMv into the incident that happened this morning at Galolhu stadium.
This is being treated as a matter of serious concern and those responsible will be swiftly brought before the law.
— Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (@ibusolih) June 21, 2022
India and the Maldives are neighbors who share a maritime border and have friendly relations in terms of economic and military cooperation. However, Former President Abdulla Yameen, the leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives, is currently waging a campaign called "India Out," favoring the Islamic groups of the country to regain power in the elections next year. The campaign has targeted many Indian diplomats on allegations that India is trying to establish its military presence in the Maldives.
The Maldivian police conducting the investigation suspect Yameen as the true culprit. The authorities stated, "As of now, the evidence indicates that the demonstrators were using items taken from the office of the Progressive Party of the Maldives."
The International Day of Yoga, proposed by India with the support of 175 nations, is an annual event adopted by the United Nations in 2014 to raise awareness worldwide about the many benefits of practicing Yoga.
From a foreigner's perspective, the Maldives is a famous tourist destination known for its luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches. However, the political and religious environment in the country is in great turmoil. The Muslim nation of Maldives suffers from a serious problem of radicalism and jihadism, with violent extremist ideologies being pervasive. The preaching or practice of other religions is strictly prohibited. Having a secular view can get you in deep trouble.
Earlier in the month, an atheist activist faced imprisonment on charges of "blasphemy" against Islam. Previously, he was in custody for more than six months without trial and was subjected to humiliation and torture.