The Maldives is threatened by jihadism and covid-19

Mar 19, 2020

THE ARRIVAL of covid-19 in the Maldives was hardly surprising, since 1.5m tourists from all around the world visit the Indian-Ocean archipelago every year. By March 18th 13 foreigners had been declared infected, although there have not yet been any confirmed cases among locals.

But a no less dangerous contagion—Muslim extremism—is also afflicting the islands. On February 4th three foreigners were stabbed in a suburb of Malé, the capital. (They survived.) Muslim militants claimed responsibility. It was the first incident of religious violence against foreigners since 2007, when jihadists set off a bomb in a park in Malé, injuring 12 tourists. Days after the stabbing, footage of a belligerent British visitor being manhandled by the police for dressing too scantily went viral, neatly illustrating the devoutly Muslim country’s awkward reliance on bikini-clad sun-worshippers for its prosperity.

For the past dozen years, the islanders have been buffeted between authoritarian rulers peddling piety and more tolerant, democratic leaders. In 2008, after 30 years in charge, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a conservative, was defeated in the islands’ first truly free election and replaced by Mohamed Nasheed, a secular modernist. Four years later Mr Nasheed was ousted in a coup. Mr Gayoom’s half-brother, Abdullah Yameen subsequently took...

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