21 Jun

An event celebrating the International Yoga Day that was being held in a football stadium in Maldives capital turned violent and chaotic after a charged Islamist mob entered the stadium and attacked the participants, which also included many Indians, on Tuesday.

Following the attack, the Maldives police used tear gas to bring the situation under control.

Later, in a tweet, President of Republic of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said, “An investigation has been launched by @PoliceMv into the incident that happened this morning at Galolhu stadium.” 

“This is being treated as a matter of serious concern and those responsible will be swiftly brought before the law,” he said.

The yoga day event was held at the Galolhu stadium in Male, the capital of Maldives, and was organised by Indian mission in Maldives in partnership with Maldives Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment and the United Nations mission in Maldives.

Videos from the stadium showed the angry Islamist mob suddenly barging into the premises and attacking the participants, which included many Indians, who were performing yoga. People who were performing yoga could be seen attempting to flee the location following the Islamist mob attack. Several members of the Islamist mob were holding white flags with Islamic Shahadah on them. A version of this flag is also used by the Taliban in Afghanistan. No serious injuries were reported in the incident. Later, the event was resumed and successfully completed.

Maldives ruling political party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned the mob attack in a statement.

Some members of the Islamist mob could be seen holding placards with anti-yoga slogans written on them. The members and supporters of the mob claimed that the practice of yoga is against Islamic teachings.

A Maldivian source told Midstone Centre that Maldivian Islamist organisation Salaf, which has been accused of encouraging terrorism in the past, as well as Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) were behind the Islamist mob attack. PPM is an Opposition party and unlike what its name suggests, it is actually an Islamist political party led by former President Abdulla Yameen.

Some photos shared with Midstone Centre by the Maldivian source show earlier preparations for the Islamist anti-yoga rally. The Maldivian source told Midstone Centre that the photos are from the headquarters of PPM.

While talking to Midstone Centre, the Maldivian source further said:

Today, Group of Extremists chanting Allah Akbar has barged into the National Stadium in Maldives where International Yoga Celebration event was held by Ministry of Youth of Maldives and Indian Cultural Center in Maldives. While Minister of Youth Ahmed Mahloof and Indian High Commissioner to Maldives were present when these Extremist mob barged in and attacked the peaceful Yoga practitioners and also the equipment. Lack of security was evident even though the event was being warned by opposition President Yameen camp and the extreme elements where the venue had to be changed. Suddenly Yoga has become a anti religious symbol and it’s being attacked by extreme mob, with Religious party Adhaalath in charge of Home Ministry and Islamic Ministry has not been able to stop extremist ideology in Maldives but rather they have been appeasing it. These are dangerous signs where Maldives is going towards extremism and these protestors being able to barge in is a dangerous sign for what lies in future. President Yameen and PPM India Out group provided sound equipment and ISIS branded flags from the party office today morning to the extremists and the pictures are leaked in social media and it’s on official news.

‘India Out’ is a campaign that is in part led by members of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and as part of this campaign, several anti-India protests took place recently. The ‘India Out’ campaign was justified by claiming that Indian military officers are stationed in Maldives in violation of the its sovereignty. However, Maldives government has always denied the presence of Indian military on its soil.

The Maldives government took a critical view of the ‘India Out’ campaign and imposed a ban on it, calling it a threat to Maldives’ national security.

Following the mob attack, Indians living in the island nation requested the government to guarantee their security.

While some Islamists claim that yoga is an un-Islamic practice, there’s no credible Islamic decree on the practice of yoga.

It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia, which is considered the cradle of Islam, has embraced yoga and even recently started introducing yoga in schools as a sport.

Every year since 2015 the International Yoga Day has been celebrated across the world on June 21.


The Hindustan Times reported that at least six people have been held by Maldives police in connection with the Islamist mob attack targeting the India-backed yoga event in the capital.

In a statement, the Maldives Third-Way Democrats (MTD) condemned the Islamist mob attack on the India-backed yoga event and directly named former President Yameen and PPM for masterminding the attack.

UPDATE (June 23rd):

Maldives police made more arrests in connection with the Islamist mob attack against an India-backed yoga event. These new arrests include former MP Mohamed Ismail and Sheikh Fazloon.


Faran Jeffery

Faran Jeffery is Director General Operations and Head Consultant at Midstone Centre for International Affairs. He is also the Deputy Director of UK-based counter-extremism think tank ITCT. His specialization is in counter-terrorism, national security and foreign policy issues. He can be found on Twitter (@natsecjeff)