Authorities in the Maldive Islands have shut down hundreds of spas in luxury resorts after complaints from opposition parties and Islamic groups that they were being used for prostitution.
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, said a statement from president Mohammed Nasheed's office.
Although a republic, the Maldives is dominated by Sunni Islam – the practice of any other faith is prohibited. Protesters in fact complained that “un-Islamic” activities were taking place in the spas in question.
An Islamic party has been agitating against spas hoping to embarrass the government, a senior government official told the Agence France Presse.
Protesters reportedly also want the country to cease the sale of alcohol and ban direct air flights to Israel.
Now there are concerns the closures (if they are permanent) will hurt tourism to the islands.
Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean hundreds of miles south of Sri Lanka, is renowned for its natural beauty and has long attracted well-heeled tourists around the world.
Indeed, tourism accounts for about 30 percent of the nation’s economy, according to the US State Department. Media reports indicate the islands received 850,000 tourists last year (more than double the nation’s resident population).
The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry has called for the spas to be re-opened.
President Nasheed has been asking for the Maldives to form a “tolerant” form of Islamic, amidst concerns that hard-line Islamists are seeking to greater influence in policymaking.