Maldives luxury resorts face ban on spas after Muslim protest

January 2, 2012

(A restaurant at an island resort at Har Alif Atoll in the Maldives, December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)

Luxury spas in the Maldives archipelago along with massage parlours in places like the capital Male must close, the government ordered on Saturday, bowing to pressure from opposition parties bidding to “defend Islam” in a move that may imperil the mainstay tourism sector.

Pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters attract honeymooners and celebrities from around the world to the Indian Ocean nation, pumping in $1.5 billion to the economy, or 30 percent of GDP, annually by travellers willing to spend as much as $1,000 a night at hideaway resorts.

The country’s president issued the decree, saying the idea came from opposition parties who claimed widespread sales of pork and alcohol in the mainly Sunni Muslim nation of more than 1,200 atolls housing a population of 400,000 were offensive.

“The government has decided to close massage parlors and spas in the Maldives, following an opposition-led religious protest last week calling for their closure,” President Mohamed Nasheed’s office said in a statement.

Read the full story by Ranga Sirilal here.

For more background, see the following reports from the Maldives website Haveeru Online:

No more actions to take over demands: Zuhair Jan 02, 2012

Maldives ‘considering’ ban of alcohol, porkDec 28, 2011

‘People want traditional form of Islam’Dec 24, 2011

LIVE: People gather for ‘religious’ protests Dec 23, 2011

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One comment

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This is an act of a dictatorial government. Locals called for bringing a stop to the brothels which are run in locally inhabited islands under the name of “spas” and “traditional medicine”. As the political rally calling for this was participated by all opposition parties including a resort owner, the government took the following actions:
1. closed the airline operation of the resort owner
2. closed the spas of five resorts owned and operated by the above mentioned resort owner
and when the resort operation appealed successfully against the government injustice and when the judiciary stated that the government cannot punish an individual operation without any basis, the government went on to issue a statement calling all resorts to close their spas and health clubs. No action to date has been taken to close the locally operated “spas” in inhabited islands. Now the tourism minister says that IF the locals accept Israeli airline to land in the country then she will consider allowing spa operations. This is plain blackmail from an authoritarian government. Before coming into power, the same people who are now ruling the country called for boycotting Maldivian tourism. This people are ruthless and will do anything to win their political stance and will kill tourism industry even if they have to, as long as they make a political statement.

Posted by A_Maldivian | Report as abusive