Ahmed Naseem, The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem, spoke to postgraduate students at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo on Tuesday, 17 January. The topic of his lecture was “2012 – A Defining Year for Islamic Democracy”.
The lecture took place within the framework of the UNU Ambassador Lecture series, which is managed by the UNU Rector’s Office Junior Fellows.
Focusing on the wave of revolutions in 2011, Minister Naseem called the “Islamic Awakening” the most important moment in political history “since the fall of the Berlin Wall”. While lauding the achievements of the people of North Africa and the Middle East, he cautioned against complacency in existing democracies.
Using Maldives’ recent history to illustrate his point, the Minister remarked on the striking similarities between the end of former President Gayoom’s rule and the developments of the Arab Spring. Where the differences were largest, he reminded students, was with the mechanism of transition. Although the new government in Maldives came to power thanks to political reform and elections, he warned that this did not mean the country had become a democracy overnight.
Throughout his lecture Minster Naseem stressed the fragile nature of newly established democracies, and the weight of obligation they entail. Describing his country as “in a process of democratic transition”, he emphasized that, for Maldives, a liberal democracy was still “a work in progress”.
Minister Naseem also addressed the “challenge of reconciling Islam and human rights”, stating in the clearest possible terms that he believed no inherent conflict existed. Instead, he warned against the dangers of those using extremist interpretations of Islam to achieve political ends.
Finally, stressing the need for “committed and balanced international engagement in order to help new democracies confront these and other challenges”, he opened the floor to the students for a spirited question and answer session.