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Politics

Hate crime bill widens Islamic divisions in the Maldives

'Irreligious' or not? Debate splits ruling party, fuels instability in South Asia

The Maldives' capital, Male. The archipelago of 400,000 people is being divided by a religious dispute.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Two years after a landslide victory in the general elections, the governing Maldivian Democratic Party has been rattled by sharp divisions within its ranks as lawmakers split into factions in an emerging battle for the soul of Islam in the South Asian archipelago.

In one faction is Hisaan Hussein, a female MDP lawmaker who submitted a bill in May to criminalize a wave of hate speech in the largely moderate Muslim country. In the bill's sights are ultraconservative Islamists who publicly berate their adversaries as la dheenee, which means "irreligious" in the local Dhivehi language, or as kafirs, nonbelievers.

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