By Dunya Maumoon
Earlier this month, after the first terror attack at Brussels airport the Ambassador to the EU from the Maldives, the country for which I serve as Foreign Minister, told his staff to stay at home. Fortunately for our citizens this meant none travelled to Malbeek metro station next to the Embassy, the location of the second attack.
While we are relieved that our citizens are safe, our hearts and sympathy goes out to all in Brussels who lost their lives or were injured in these acts of cowardice.
In the coming weeks, without doubt, we will see additional security measures introduced in Brussels and in other European capitals. But it will also see individuals wishing to make political mileage for their own ends to make the claim that it is the policies of mainstream politicians that foster homegrown terrorists. Such people – often themselves extreme in their views – will blame diversity, multiculturalism, support for refugees and government policies in general as the fuel for those who wish us all harm.
Such talk is as unjustified as it is untrue. In 2016, in addition to western attacks in Brussels, Paris and California, acts of terrorism have been committed in Lahore, Istanbul, Moscow and Ankara. Atrocities have also taken place across the Muslim world, as well as countries with large Muslims populations such as Nigeria and Ivory Coast. It is clear jihadists are seeking to murder anyone who does not support their extremist and twisted beliefs – regardless of their victim’s religion, the political system or the country in which they live.
That is why the government in which I serve believes that in the coming weeks and months countries across the world that have been attacked, in partnership with those countries who have not– such as the Maldives — must work together more closely than ever before in intelligence sharing and security cooperation. It is also why we must, collectively, push back and refute the claims of those who for their own political ends seek falsely to tag mainstream governments’ policies as benefiting terrorists.
We are experiencing similar attempts by some individuals to make political capital in the Maldives. Those who know better — including Mohamed Nasheed who was once a President of our country – have accused the government of policies that have fostered terrorists and, in turn, endangering tourists who visit our islands.
This is a baseless attempt to deter foreign visitors in order to destabilize the country financially and boost his attempts to return to office. This message has been delivered in TV studios and newspapers across the world, and listened to. We saw those same falsehoods repeated by Sudha Ramachandran in an article in this newspaper. Yet these claims are in spite of all the facts: the Maldives has suffered no attacks, and government policies, such as a full co-education system and the highest participation of women in business and public life in South Asia, were activity pursued to ensure we have a moderate, open society.
It is as unacceptable for us to be accused of such untruths as it for western governments to be told it is policies of multiculturalism, diversity and compassion for refugees that are to blame for the attacks they have suffered.
To defeat terrorism, mainstream political leaders the world over must ensure those who seek gain from such spurious accusations are not given the credence they seek when the message they deliver is so inaccurate.
Instead, we must continue and accelerate the implementation of moderate policies that integrate boys and girls, those of all faiths and none, and deliver diversity and equal opportunities for women.
My Government recently entered into a security arrangement with our nearest neighbor, India – herself a victim of several terrorist attacks in recent years. It was an agreement recently criticized by an Asia Times contributor who argued India should not get “entangled” in anti-terror operations with the Maldives. This is an argument proved completely illogical by the horrors of Brussels, as well as discarding the close and historic ties our two nations have in maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean. International cooperation, intelligence and knowledge sharing is absolutely vital to counter terror operations. Even with our limited national resources, we will seek to engage and partner with all countries and intergovernmental groups that face such threats. That includes our traditional partners in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, to the people of Belgium, France and the European Union, and those beyond including America and the Russian Federation.
Real progress in tackling international terrorism relies on unity and partnership in intelligence and security. We must continue to work together to find a common ground for a truly transnational solution to international terror. As the dust settles in Brussels, let us not use this tragedy to turn on each other, or play the blame game. Otherwise we simply do the terrorists’ job for them.
Dunya Maumoon is the Foreign Minister of the Maldives