We need Britain's help to save us from the extremists, ousted Maldives leader says

Mohamed Nasheed comes to London to appeal for assistance from William Hague

One of the most popular long-haul destinations for British tourists has become dominated by Islamic extremists and is vulnerable to al-Qa'ida attacks, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has been warned.

Earlier this week, the American flag was burnt in public during anti-US protests in Malé, the capital of the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago known for its atolls and honeymoon hotels.

Responding to the growing power of conservative Islamic clerics on the islands, the government recently banned singing in public, spas and mixed-sex dancing.

Now the Maldives' first democratically elected president, who was overthrown in a coup in February, has warned Mr Hague that the situation is increasingly unstable. Mohamed Nasheed called for Western help to foster liberal democratic institutions to combat the rise of fundamentalism and push for fresh elections.

In an interview after meeting Mr Hague in London, Mr Nasheed told The Independent he was concerned that the progress made in the country after 30 years of dictatorship was rapidly unravelling.

"We are trying to explain to the British Government what is going on," he said. "They have banned dancing. They have banned singing. They have banned spas. They have been raiding whole lots of spas. Yesterday, for the first time they burned down the American flag and no one in government has condemned that. The new president is relying on the radical Islamists [for political support]."

The Maldives, with a population of about 400,000, became a precursor to the Arab Spring in 2008 when, after 30 years of dictatorship, Mr Nasheed became its first democratically elected president. But the new regime quickly foundered in the face of an economic slump and an increasingly influential hardline Islamist faction in the government.

In February, Mr Nasheed was overthrown by his vice-president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan. "We got elected and no one looked after us. No one in the West was worried about us," he said. "They thought that the game was over as soon as [the former president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom] was gone. But there is such a great need to build political parties, to support an independent judiciary, to install more liberal ideas. We need to come up with a narrative other than the radical Islamic narrative because that the only one there is at the moment.

"Unless we are able to understand the mistakes that have been made in the Maldives, we are bound to see the same thing happening elsewhere in Arab Spring countries".

Mr Nasheed said Maldivian citizens had already been found to be involved in al-Qa'ida attacks in Pakistan and India, and he had had regular meetings with Western intelligence agencies when he was in power.

But he said he feared that anti-Western feeling had dramatically increased recently within the country – fuelled by political instability – with the potential for attacks. "I don't know why they haven't blown up anything in the Maldives," he said. "Right now [maybe] they are thinking that strategically it isn't good for them to do anything in the Maldives. Maybe they are using our national accounts. Maybe they are using our banks. Maybe it is a good place for recruitment.

Since the coup, he said, "a lot of radical religious functions have shown a fair amount of disturbing pictures of how things could go".

Mr Nasheed said he had asked Mr Hague to back calls to establish a Commonwealth oversight of the Maldives – to show that the international community was aware of what was going on.

"We want to be on someone's agenda until the elections are through. That's what we're trying to do now. I have known William Hague for some time. I know they have difficulties as a government. They have to take on board everything and give proper consideration to the regional sensibilities of British intervention in the Maldives.

"But we feel now that they have an avenue to help the Maldives through the Commonwealth. What we are asking for is not the sun, the moon and the stars. What we are asking for is very natural and it can be done."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine