Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb has told local media that performers are being invited to the Maldives in order to promote tourism, and that they have nothing to do with religion.
“While the entire world has started to see Malé City as a lair that harbours members of the Islamic State or extremist militants, foreign artists performing here will show the world what the situation here is truly like,” he was quoted as telling Haveeru.
“Maldives does not belong to the Islamic State,” he continued.
Adeeb’s comments follow continued criticism of music concerts held in the Maldives’ capital, with US R&B singer Akon set to perform in the national stadium on Thursday (January 8).
A scheduled performance from Jamaican dancehall singer Sean Paul, as part of the ‘Tourism Arrival Countdown Show’, was cancelled following an online death threat. Indian artists Salim and Sulaiman Merchant stepped in at the last moment to headline the New Year’s Eve show.
After a statement from the Adhaalath Party yesterday expressed concern that such concerts are defying Islamic teachings, the party’s only MP Anara Naeem today tweeted that the government should rethink its policy.
“The current government should deeply consider stepping out of the musical universe,” wrote the Makunudhoo constituency MP.
Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed today refused to comment on the upcoming appearance of Akon, though his ministry previously expressed concern at the singers’ planned appearance in Malé in 2010,which was eventually cancelled due to technical and security concerns.
Following the online threat against Sean Paul – dismissed as a hoax by the government – religious groups spoke out against the holding of such concerts, while Shaheem himself called them “unacceptable”.
The President’s Office moved quickly to assure the safety of the Maldives for visitors, despite signs in 2014 that the capital has become less safe for locals.
President Abdulla Yameen warned of adverse impacts on tourism from threats against tourists and urged Maldivians to leave aside political differences to assure a safe and secure environment for investors and tourists alike.
Adeeb – who has today been appointed acting defence minister – told Haveeru that the concerts were intended to promote the Maldives as a brand. Last week’s show concluded with the announcement that the country had received 1.45 million tourists in 2014.
He explained that the government had not paid any money for the artists to appear, as well as suggesting that the Maldives should focus on national happiness instead of just economic development.
“Where else are such famous artists seen performing for free? We should not just focus on GDP but on ‘growth development happiness’ as well,” Adeeb told Haveeru.
The concept of gross national happiness has been made famous by Bhutan, which is the only country to use the measure as its official yardstick for development. The UN also began compiling a World Happiness Index in 2012 though the Maldives has yet to take part in the survey.
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