Maldives president orders resort spas to reopen

AP News
Posted: Jan 04, 2012 9:01 AM
Maldives president orders resort spas to reopen

The president of the Maldives ordered the country's upscale resorts to reopen their spas on Wednesday pending a Supreme Court decision on whether they violate Islam, just days after they were shut under pressure from protesters led by an opposition party.

The court decision could be critical to the tourism-dependent island nation's economic future.

"The government has decided we will open all spas and give all the services to tourists which we have been giving before," President Mohammed Nasheed told The Associated Press by telephone.

"The tour operators were very worried" about the closure, he said.

Last week, authorities ordered all spas to close following a protest in the capital on Dec. 23 in which thousands of people called for a halt to "anti-Islamic" activities including spas.

The protesters also demanded that authorities halt the sale of alcohol on islands inhabited by local people, stop plans to allow direct flights from Israel, and demolish statues given by other countries to commemorate a South Asian summit in November which they saw as idols.

"To be racist in any way is detrimental to the tourism industry," Nasheed said of the call to halt Israeli flights. "This is not the way to go forward."

Debates on religious issues have intensified since a group vandalized a statue given by Pakistan bearing the image of Buddha. In November a protest followed a call by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, for the Maldives to end the flogging of women found to have had sex outside marriage.

Nasheed has said he stands for a brand of moderate Islam traditionally practiced in the country and that it is vital to preserve tourism.