The Maldives parliament on Monday approved an amendment to the Religious Unity Act giving the authority of appointing members to the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs solely to the president.
The amendment was presented to the parliament by member of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and Maafannu South MP Abdulla Rifau. It was passed with a majority of 43 votes from 66 members present in the parliament sitting. While 23 lawmakers had voted against the bill, three members remained neutral.
The amendment awards the authority of appointing members of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs solely to the president in order to protect religious unity and enhance council operations.
The council of five members is currently framed to feature one member recommended by the Minister of Islamic Affairs, a member recommended by the Chief Justice, a member recommended by the academic staff of the Islamic University with the parliament’s approval, and two members appointed directly by the president.
With the new amendment to the Religious Unity Act, the council will now be represented by a member recommended by the Minister of Islamic Affairs, one elected by the president from the academic staff of Islamic University, and three members directly representing the president.
MP Rifau had sought to annul the member elected on recommendation of the Chief Justice, and the “parliament’s approval” for the member elected from Islamic University’s academic staff.
While the president is mandated to establish a council for Islamic Affairs which would be run under the Islamic ministry as a separate state institution, President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has yet to establish the council.
Responsibilities of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs is include providing sermons to the public and government entities on topics that create difference in opinions, and researching new areas of Islamic law to provide religious counselling.