Islam and Democracy in the Maldives  book cover
1st Edition

Islam and Democracy in the Maldives

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after November 30, 2021
ISBN 9781032015538
November 30, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
248 Pages

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Book Description

This book examines Islam’s relationship to democratization in the Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives. It explores how and why an electoral democracy based in constitution that has many liberal features but also Islam-based limitations, especially lack of religious freedom, emerged in the country by 2009. In doing so, the book interrogates a major approach to Muslim politics that assumes reformist interpretations of Islam are a positive, and even a necessary, force for liberalisation and democratization in Muslim majority contexts.

The book shows reformist Islam did play certain positive roles in democratization in the Maldives. However, the book suggests reformist Islam may not be an invariably uncontroversial force in the space of politics. It argues that modern nation building in the Maldives shaped by political actors with reformist Islamic orientations, since around the 1930s, has also completely transformed Islam as a modern institutional and discursive political religion. These transformations of Islam as a modern political religion have existed as path dependent constraints on the depth of democratization, ensuring religion-based limitations and intensifying controversy over religion vis-à-vis the state and individual rights.

An original empirical contribution towards a better understanding of Islam and politics in the Maldives, this book will be of interest to academics and students working on democracy and Islam in particular and in the fields of political science and area studies, especially South Asian politics.

Table of Contents

0 Introduction

1 Interrogating the Reformist Islam Approach

2 The Seeding of Islam as a Modern Institutional Political Religion (1932-1978)

3 Reformist Islam and Modern Nation Building (1932-1978)

4 Islam’s emergence as a modern discursive political religion and institutional consolidation (1978-2003)

5 Reformist Islam, Human Rights, and Democratisation (2003-2009)

6 Explaining Institutionalisation of Islam and Religion-Based Limitations


Appendix 1: Key Constitutions Analysed

Appendix 2: Laws Analysed for Chapter 2

Appendix 3: Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) Newsletters Analysed

Appendix 4: Constituent Assembly Sessions Analysed



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Azim Zahir is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Muslim States and Societies, The University of Western Australia.