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In Maldives, Puritan Islam gains ground

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It is a strange monument, rather than the solar system that a murderous wave: dedicated to the hundreds of victims of the 2004 tsunami, the site near the pier of Malé is generally deserted and arouses little interest. The disaster, however, has strongly marked the minds, paving the way for religious fundamentalists quick to evoke "a divine punishment". In the Maldives, Buddhists until the XIIe century, then converted to Islam, the authorities reaffirm in all circumstances their status as "100% Muslim country" and religious conservatism is gaining ground. "There is an organized spread of a very radical version of Islam, admits Mohammed Nasheed, the President of Parliament. It's a challenge for us. AT"

In Malé, the mosque of King Salman, under construction with Saudi funds, on July 19th. Arko Datto for "The World"

The ex-dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in power for thirty years (1978-2008), imposed a certain conservatism, while retaining the supporters of a radical Islamism. The arrival of democracy, in 2008, freed the word â € "including that of the religious. Many Maldivians who had studied in Saudi Arabia returned to settle in the archipelago and spread there their rigorist vision of Islam. Malé, which has many mosques, is also preparing to open a new one, built on the seafront in a space that has never been seen before. The huge mosque of King Salman, financed by Riyad for 24 million dollars (21 million euros), will accommodate at least 6,000 faithful.

The hijab for most women

It is not uncommon today to meet Maldivians in niqab (full face masks), even if they remain in the minority. Most women wear a simple hijab, others wander hair in the wind.

It is around the issue of alcohol that is the main tension: strictly forbidden to Maldivians, it flows in the islands-hotels reserved for tourists to © strangers. Near Malé, only the airport hotel, which mainly welcomes aircrew from foreign airlines, is authorized to use it. Under the presidency of Mohammed Nasheed (2008-2012), more flexible legislation had been envisaged, which would have allowed a hotel in the capital to obtain a license in its turn. But, following mass demonstrations organized by the Islamists, the project was abandoned. When Nasheed was overthrown in 2012, the police claimed they had discovered bottles of alcohol in the presidential residence. At the same time, strangers forced the entrance of the National Museum to destroy collections of Buddha statues.