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Thursday, 5 January 2012
Playing Politics with Aromatherapy - Big Mistake?
Maldives spas face closure following government ban
Spas across the Maldives are facing closure following pressure from religious groups who said they led to prostitution and alcoholism among locals.
The country's president Mohamed Nasheed issued a statement on Saturday that said: "The government has decided to close massage parlours and spas in the Maldives, following an opposition-led religious protest last week calling for their closure."
The region's spa resorts are one of its leading sources of tourism, netting the nation an estimated $1.5bn a year, some 30% of its GDP.
The president said the closures came as a result of pressure from opposition parties who found massage, as well as sale of pork and alcohol in the mainly Muslim nation, to be offensive.
However, opposition party the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) said the government was using the protests to punish resort owners, many of whom are PPM members.
A spokesman for PPM told Reuters: "We wanted the liquor and massage clinics banned in inhabited islands to prevent prostitution and spread of drugs and alcohol to locals. Nasheed is misusing the demands to take revenge by imposing the ban on resorts owned by the opposition members."
Some of the biggest names in spa are set to be affected by the ban if it is enforced this year. Luxury resort group One & Only operates one of its biggest spas, One & Only Reethi Rah, in the Maldives and The Six Senses group runs Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili there. Last year, the Per Aquum group, which runs the famous Huvafen Fushi underwater spa resort (pictured) there, opened a second Maldivian resort called Niyama.
This raises the question of whether there is a regulatory structure in place and working in the Maldives and whether the Spas are employing qualified and ethical practitioners of massage. If the spas management are encouraging alcoholism and prostitution then they should of course be replaced and their licences revoked until they can demonstrate a fit and proper environment. There are plenty of ethical and competant practitioners for them to employ and so demonstrate compliance. Muslims in my experience know how to have a good time with aromatherapy better than anyone. The Prophet described the delights to the senses the aromas bring. So it is possible to have a good time without offending religious groups.
But those who have faith and work righteousness, they are companions of the Garden: Therein shall they abide (For ever).
(Surah Al-Baqara, 82)
Christians too see heaven in terms of an aromatic garden. Bede describes visions of heaven in these terms.