Maldivian VP to UN: Arab Spring is proof that Islam and human rights can coexist


The political transitions in various Arab countries this year demonstrate that Islam is compatible with human rights and democracy, the vice-president of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed, recently told the United Nations.

“The democratic uprisings across the Middle East prove that Muslims yearn for democratic rights just as much as non-Muslims,” he said.

Dr. Waheed also said that the Maldives, a Muslim country that went through its own democratic transition in 2008, putting an end to “a 30-year authoritarian regime,” would organize an international conference next year on progressive Islamic jurisprudence and human rights to support the movement.

“We must counter the false perception that people must make the choice between devotion to Islam on the one hand, and the full enjoyment of human rights on the other. We strongly believe in the compatibility of Islam and human rights and seek to do our part to promote understanding and tolerance.

“With this conference, we hope to renew the concepts of peace and tolerance, co-existence and inter-faith harmony that exist in Islam,” he added.

In his address to last month’s UN General Assembly, Dr. Waheed also spoke about the urgency of climate change reform in the UN, echoing previous statements from other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), urging countries to act immediately so they can respond swiftly and adequately to natural disasters.

“The Maldives believes that three issues should form some of the key pillars to be discussed and acted upon in Rio [de Janeiro] next year,” he said, referring to the sustainable development conference to be held in the Brazilian city in June 2012.

“These issues are firstly, reform of UN support for the sustainable development of SIDS; a political declaration and strategy to give impetus to the roll-out and mobilization of renewable energy and green technologies; and finally, improvements in the integration of sustainable development principles into international and domestic policy at both strategic and project levels,” he said.

He also called for a shift in seeing climate change as an environmental issue to a security one, as well as an economic opportunity.

“We do not view cutting carbon emissions as a burden but rather as an opportunity – an opportunity, not just to protect the climate, but also to create new jobs and grow our economies.”