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Maldives

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An aerial view of Malé, capital city of the Maldives
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Giorgio Montersino

This desirable tourist destination is anything but a paradise for the islands’ non-Muslim residents. The island nation has become even more religiously intolerant since the first democratically elected president, who was seen as liberal, was forced to resign in February 2012 after Islamists put pressure on the government, which was already one of the most restrictive in the world. No non-Muslim can become a citizen, and although foreigners are free to practise their faith in private, there are no non-Muslim places of worship.

Maldivian Christians, who number less than 0.2% of the population, are forced to practise their faith alone and in great secrecy. They are ostracised, discriminated against and put under constant surveillance. The law even requires that all parents educate their children as Muslims, whether they are Muslim or not. Those who make public calls for religious tolerance are subjected to extrajudicial detention.

It is illegal to spread any other religion than Islam, and preaching anything except the country’s officially-approved version of Islam is punishable by up to five years in jail. No Christian work has ever been permitted, and the government deports foreigners found with Christian symbols. It is also illegal to carry Christian literature; for example Jathish Biswas, a Bangladeshi Christian worker, was arrested and detained for 23 days in September 2012 before being deported for bringing Christian books into the country.

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