Great News! Campaigner for Religious Tolerance Released in Maldives

A Maldivian activist who was attacked and detained on 10 December 2011 for organizing a peaceful protest calling for religious tolerance was released on 6 January. His attackers remain at large. Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed was assaulted by about 10 men opposing a peaceful demonstration he had organized in the capital, Malé, on 10 December. He sustained a skull fracture after being hit with stones, but was then arrested by police a few days later.

Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed, a Muslim who practices Sufi beliefs, was released on 6 January after an investigation into his involvement in the protest concluded with no charges against him.

Maldives police say Ismail "Khilath" Rasheed was detained because his call for religious tolerance is “unconstitutional”. The arrest came after the opposition Adhaalath Party, which advocates implementation of a strict interpretation of religious law, wrote to the police urging them to take action against him for organizing the protest.

Under the 2008 Maldives constitution, Islam is the only religion that Maldivian nationals can practice.

Conservative religious groups say only a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam is allowed under the constitution. In a political campaign against the President, opposition politicians have sided with these groups.