The political turmoil in Male, the capital of the Maldives, continues to escalate as Islamic extremists have enforced their "Taliban-style intolerance" not only on the streets of the city but also towards the various ancient 12th century Buddhist artifacts housed in the Maldives National Museum.
A senior museum representative stated that the history of the Maldives' Buddhist past has effectively been "erased," as the delicate coral and limestone objects have zero chance of being restored due to their brittle and age. Five men have since been arrested for this.
An interesting fact here: the Maldives National Museum was built and financed by the Chinese government and presented to the Maldives on July 10, 2010. Considering that this Indian Ocean paradise is now a premium destination choice for many newly-wealthy Chinese travelers -- and conveniently located just south of India, China's regional geopolitical sparring partner -- we can probably expect to see much more Chinese influence in Maldivian society in the the next decade.
Off the beaten path: A small hospital we visited on a residential island in the Maldives, 2007.
Most travelers to the Maldives won't see much more than the usual perfect clear turquoise waters and sugary white sands of their island resort. Vacation plans rarely include a visit to see typical everyday life on a residential island (though we were lucky to get a glimpse of this on our first visit several years ago), which is vastly different from the polished experiences offered by their tourism industry.
The Maldives is clearly in a challenging phase of its current political and social existence. The recent coup of President Nasheed, the society's religious "soul searching" (to put it nicely), its frontline position in the battle of climate change, and its internationally-powerful tourism industry is a perfect storm of dynamic factors that will define the country's bumpy road ahead.
I just hope that its pre-Islamic past is not further deleted from history's documentation by modern day "radicals." So tragic.