By AFP - AL ARABIYA NEWS
Added: Sun, 26 Feb 2012 13:13:55 UTC
Thanks to hauntedchippy for the link.
Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution. (Reuters)
At the Maldives’ National Museum, smashed Buddhist statues are testament to the rise of Islamic extremism and Taliban-style intolerance in a country famous as a laid-back holiday destination.
On Tuesday [7 Feb 2012], as protesters backed by mutinous police toppled president Mohamed Nasheed, a handful of men stormed the Chinese-built museum and destroyed its display of priceless artefacts from the nation’s pre-Islamic era.
“They have effectively erased all evidence of our Buddhist past,” a senior museum official told AFP at the now shuttered building in the capital Male, asking not to be named out of fear for his own safety.
“We lost all our 12th century statues. They were made of coral stone and limestone. They are very brittle and there is no way we can restore them,” he explained.
“I wept when I heard that the entire display had gone. We are good Muslims and we treated these statues only as part of our heritage. It is not against Islam to display these exhibits,” he said.
Five people have since been arrested after they returned the following day to smash the CCTV cameras, he said.
The authorities have banned photography of the damage, conscious that vandalism of this kind which echoes the 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban is damaging for the nation’s image.
The gates of the two-storied grey building, which opened in 2010, are padlocked and an unarmed guard keeps watch.
The Maldives, a collection of more than 1,100 coral-fringed islands surrounded by turquoise seas, is known as a “paradise” holiday destination that draws hundreds of thousands of travellers and honeymooners each year.
Visitors’ contact with the local population is deliberately kept at bay, however, with most foreigners simply transferring from the main international airport directly to their five-star resorts on outlying islands.
Few have any idea they are visiting a country of 330,000 Muslims with no religious freedom, where women can be flogged for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol is illegal for locals.
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