Even high-end resort spas did not escape a recent push toward greater Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives. Resorts such as Shangri La, Angsana and many other spas have been closed as a threat to public morality. While this will no doubt curtail some unethical activities in other quarters, many Resort spa therapists and spa managers now find themselves unemployed and without alternative job opportunities unless their respective hotels offer them another job, in another country. This is tragic for more reasons than I can say. It’s a frightening picture of Islamic fundamentalism that still allows for the stoning and amputation of women’s bodies for merely being accused of something like adultery, where the burden of proof is non-existent. Many of the religious, secular and spiritual freedoms spas and spa therapists take for granted as being part and parcel of a holistic worldview do not exist in Islamic countries. Even within Islam, particularly in Turkey, Sufism, which is a branch of mystical Islam, is considered heretical and an example of all that fundamentalists reject. At best it is a conspiracy theory within Turkish culture and the broader Islamic world as a result. While I sincerely applaud any effort aimed at reducing or eliminating sex trafficking or illegitimate business, shutting down Resort Spas was the wrong move in my opinion for many reasons.
Spas, Spa management and Spa therapists need to take note and make themselves aware of religious history, both Western and Eastern in order to avoid cross cultural faux pas and to better understand our own freedoms of and from religion and spirituality in the West. We have the luxury of making a distinction between religion and spirituality and so many in our world do not. This is a blow to the Resorts of the Maldives and I have no idea how they will proceed to attract visitors from around the world from this point on. There will be a loss in tourist dollars and while I recognize this as being part of the growth and development of a third world country, I am so saddened for my professional colleagues who had the misfortune to lose their livelihoods.
Just take a look at some of the beauty that spa tourists will be missing now that the spas of the Maldives are closed while we in the Spa world weep for what was.