Yameen Rasheed

The Maldives: Why does this exotic spot produce a disproportionate number of jihadi fighters?

The Maldives: Why does this exotic spot produce a disproportionate number of jihadi fighters?

“Discover the sunny side of Life: Sunny all year long, Waves like nowhere else, Underwater beauty like paradise! Visit Maldives for a perfect holiday.”

Ah, the Maldives -- the ultimate exotic tropical beach vacation, or so the above pitch for tourist dollars promises. Public relations is what it is, but judging by the photos I've seen (I've never visited), the Maldives may live up to all that’s promised.

Unfortunately, the Indian Ocean island nation may now have to add a discreet asterisk to its pitch.

Because once again, there’s trouble in paradise. And once again, the problem is growing Islamic radicalism and the threat of terrorism.

This recent piece from The New York Times lays it out.

MALÉ, Maldives -- This island paradise made news recently for a reason other than its pristine beaches and high-end resorts: the gruesome killing of a liberal blogger, stabbed to death by multiple assailants.
The killing in April of Yameen Rasheed, 29, a strong voice against growing Islamic radicalization, has amplified safety concerns -- particularly for foreign tourists, a highly vulnerable group and one that the islands’ economy depends on. It is no idle threat, in a country that by some accounts supplies the world’s highest per-capita number of foreign fighters to extremist outfits in Syria and Iraq.
Last summer, the government introduced the country’s first state policy on terrorism, calling for increased safety awareness at resorts and security assessments at seaports and in airports. In January, the Republic of Maldives’ Islamic Ministry released policy recommendations that included a provision instructing tourism companies to provide visitors with written rules on how to conduct themselves in a Muslim country
But critics say these initiatives are cosmetic, doing little to standardize safety policies, and have come only after international stakeholders pressured the Maldivian authorities to acknowledge the threat extremism poses to visitors.

I'm guessing relatively few Americans can find the Maldives on a map, and that even fewer have visited. (Most tourists are visitors from China and Europe.)

So why care about the woes of a small nation of less than 400,000 people scattered across some 1,200 atoll islands -- one that may, it seems, as well be a universe away from Main Street, USA?

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