*updated * 'Spa' ban threatens Maldives' tourism

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed
Closed luxury spas in response to religious protests
By Diane Evans - Travelmole

Exclusive resorts in the Maldives are fighting a ban on their luxury spas and health centres after the government shut them down.

The president of the Indian Ocean archipelago issued the decree on Saturday after Islamic opposition parties argued the spas were a front 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,' President Mohamed Nasheed's office said in a statement.

But head of Maldives Association of Tourism Industry, Sim Ibrahim said the move threatened tourism which was crucial for the national economy.

He hoped the ban would be overturned.

On Monday the tourism industry filed two cases in the local civil courts, asking the judiciary to revoke the ban, claimed MATI lawyer Azima Shukoor.

The Maldives is home to more than 330,000 Sunni Muslims and has come under pressure from a minority of religious fundamentalists who are growing in influence.

Importation of alcohol is already severely prohibited in the Maldives and Islamists are now calling for a complete ban on alcohol and the sale of pork.

* Update *
Maldives government lifts spa ban after just six days

The Maldives government has lifted a nationwide ban on spas and massage parlours, revoking a circular sent by the tourism ministry last week which ordered spas to cease operations. Speaking to reporters this afternoon during a press conference held at Kurumba Maldives resort - the country’s first resort, which began operations in 1972 - the president said the government has requested the Supreme Court to advise whether spas are legal under the Maldives constitution.

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