The following post was written in January last year. Since then Mohamed Nasheed the first democratically elected president has been replaced, fundamental forces have continued to rise in influence despite claims otherwise and the culture of floggings continues unabated.
A 15 year old girl who was raped for years by her step-father, and then subsequently murdered her resulting child is the latest injustice. She has been sentenced to be flogged for sex outside of marriage actually her crime is being raped has justifiably received worldwide condemnation. Including from many moderate Muslim groups.
A petition with nearly 2 million names has been signed and there are many calling for a boycott of Maldivian tourism. There are reports that a number of bookings have already been cancelled.
The original post generated a heated discussion, with a number of commentors from the Maldives denying any such situation existed in the Maldives. Refuting the allegations of floggings as misinformed media propaganda. Current events suggest otherwise, this is my first call to arms on this sight, people please sign this petition, help stop this reprehensible and senseless flogging and let’s continue to fight against injustice everywhere!
The story that the Maldives government has bowed to Islamic extremism and ordered the closure of spa resorts has been in the news for several days now.
It appears that the majority of large resort hotels have ignored the ban. It has been heavily criticised by the tourism chiefs who claimed it is a violation of lease agreements and not helpful to the needs of tourism at all.
There was the threat of legal action with at least two court actions being reported as filed. The latest news is that the government appears to have done a U-turn and rescinded the ban.
The original reason for the closure of spas was in response to protests demanding an end to “anti-Islamic activities.” As well as the closure of spas and massage parlours as promoters of prostitution, the banning of the sale of alcohol, destruction of monuments described as ‘false idols’ and the proposal to allow direct flights from Israel were all subjects of the protest.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of nearly 2,000 islands is dependent on tourism and many of its 330,000 Muslims work within the industry.
Attracting many high-end tourists, its luxury hotels, crystal clear waters and pristine beaches are a magnet to those seeking a paradise. Any threat to this industry seems counterproductive. Whilst a substantial number of visitors come for the outstanding diving it is the luxury end of the market that is the real money earner here.
The protests were backed by several of the large hotel chain operators in the islands, many of which back the opposition party. They claim the ban is revenge against them for this, and possibly to pressure them into a more liberal stance.
President Mohamed Nasheed recently urged the country to resist extremism and retain more tolerant Islamic beliefs for its own good. He may have been playing a particularly shrewd game here appearing to bow to pressure from extremists whilst issuing a ban which was not in their own interests.
Some of the tourism chiefs have spoken out since explaining they only required certain massage parlours closed to prevent the spread of prostitution, or perhaps more accurately to remove any independent competitors?
It is already forbidden to bring alcohol into the country, but there are further worries that the call on a ban on the selling of alcohol will mean tourists will be unable to purchase in the hotels. This would surely prove detrimental to travel to the islands.
“Islamic fundamentalism is increasing within the Maldives”
A spokesman for the tourism industry claimed that travellers are respected and welcome, however it was only last year a hotel employee conducting a wedding ceremony for a Swiss couple described them as “infidel swine.” This is an isolated case but undoubtedly Islamic fundamentalism is increasing within the Maldives, which may involve an increase in such views and will cause concern for some visitors.
It is easy to view extremists as the ‘spoilsports’ of the World, only wishing to ruin the enjoyment of others. This is far too simplistic, however the great pity with extremism of any kind is that it is not tolerant of the beliefs and values of others. Followers rarely listen to the views of others however well reasoned, they seek to enforce their own beliefs, or worse still destroy alternatives.
The Maldivian extremism issue is likely to run for some time yet, and it is likely that other travel destinations will have similar problems with the intolerant within their society. It is only possible to observe and hope that a sensible compromise is reached and ‘paradises’ or countries of great cultural interest do not become ‘no go zones,’ if only for their own sakes.