Colombo: The Maldives has ordered hundreds
of luxury hotels to close their spas after protests by an
Islamist party which claimed they were a front for
prostitution, an official said on Friday.
The tourism ministry instructed all resort hotels across
the nation`s 1,192 tiny coral islands to shut their spas and
health centres with immediate effect.
The opposition Adhaalath party, a socially conservative
movement whose website features an article criticising
"lustful music," staged protests in the capital Male last week
accusing spas of being used as brothels.
"An Islamic party has been agitating against spas hoping
to embarrass the government," an official told AFP by
telephone, confirming Thursday`s ministry order but asking not
to be named.
Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner in the Maldives,
a popular high-end destination for well-heeled honeymooners
where luxury rooms can cost up to $12,000 a day.
The Indian Ocean country this year received more than
850,000 tourists, drawn to its secluded islands known for
turquoise blue lagoons, flourishing corals and reefs filled
with multi-coloured fish.
But the government bowed to the pressure less than a week
after President Mohamed Nasheed called for a "tolerant" form
of Islam in his nation of 330,000 people, who by law are all
He urged Maldivians to reject religious extremism and
support the more liberal "traditional form" of Islam that has
been practised in the Maldives for centuries.
"I asked you to come here in support of the middle,
tolerant path," Nasheed, who came to power in the country`s
first democratic elections in 2008, told ruling party
supporters last week.
The government move to shut spas will directly affect an
opposition leader, Gasim Ibrahim, head of the Jumhoory Party,
who owns five, the independent Minivan news website reported.
It said they were asked to shut down this week before the
government`s blanket ban on Thursday, and the companies had
sought court intervention to remain in business. Thursday`s
order applied to all spas in the country.