Miss France pageant a Maldivian tolerance test for tourism, says MATI chief

While perhaps cliché to suggest that visually-immaculate beauty pageant participants can help change the world, Secretary General of the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) ‘Sim’ Mohamed Ibrahim believes hosting the Miss France 2011 competition is at the very least a positive development for travel in the country.

Speaking to Minivan News, Sim said that beyond providing a touch of glamour to the Maldives, hosting such a high-profile international event highlights the wider aim of expanding the country’s appeal to guests of varying religions, politics and attractiveness.

Part of this year’s Miss France event, thought to be one of the European nation’s biggest annual televised spectacles, will be held at the Coco Palm Bodu Hithi resort in the North Malé Atoll before moving on to Caen, Normandy for a crowning ceremony to be held on December 4.

Having originally started back in the 1920s, this year’s contest sees 33 participants from across France staying at the resort between November 11 to 18 to partake in a number of photogenic activities such as water sports, Maldivian cooking, exploring local natural curiosities and even filming a music video.

Although the concept of women parading around in haute couture and swim wear is seemingly at odds with the more conservative day-to-day values expected of women living in the Maldives, concerns over cultural sensitivity appear to be missing the point for the industry. Sim says he hopes Miss France 2011 will be the the first of many events that will reshape perceptions of tourism in the Maldives by encouraging greater acceptance of the industry among local people.

Sim claimed that amidst concerns over growing religious fanaticism in the maldives, displaying greater tolerance towards a large number of events and guests welcomed to the country was vital to the overall survival of the country’s lucrative holiday business.

Unless a sufficient replacement source of income can be located, Sim said, the country is likely to continue looking to similar high profile events to boost its image as a secluded desert island escape for global travellers.

“It [Miss France] has found its way to the Maldives, there are likely to be many more [high profile] events to come,” he said.

Although still a moderate Islamic nation, beyond the potential credence of hosting a bevy of French beauties at one of the country’s resorts, Sim suggests that trying overcome the intolerance creeping into some sections of Maldivian society remains a key aim for both the travel industry and government.

Having been a Muslim nation for hundreds of years, fears of growing extremism in the Maldives are, according to Sim, a more recent development for a nation that has generally tried to peacefully coexist with neighbours and foreigners.

Whether to the benefit or detriment of the Maldives, Sim says that the Miss France event also highlights the need to diversify the country’s appeal beyond hotel stays to meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions – collectively termed ‘MICE’.

As a striking counterpoint to the country’s hosting of Miss France 2011, the Maldives garnered a different sort of global attention earlier this year after holding peace talks between members of Afghanistan’s parliament and various other political and armed groups linked to the nation’s ongoing insurgency.

President’s Office Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, confirmed back in May that that all in involved the peace talks had valid passports and visas. The talks, which did not directly involve the Maldivian government, were reported to have taken place at the country’s Paradise Island Resort.


14 thoughts on “Miss France pageant a Maldivian tolerance test for tourism, says MATI chief”

  1. But it does nothing to counter conservative psychos like that in the Islamic ministry which is destroying our nation.

    That a pageant can be called a test of our tolerance should tell people how bad the situation in the country is. Why should there be any question of our tolerance? Why? Well it's because conservatives rule this nation. Gone is the days of moderation and sane rational thought.

  2. although still a moderate islamic nation? you must be kidding me.
    you know its funny that govt talks abt extremism in the country, because govt is the one who is organising and funding through our noses to these extremist propaganda

  3. @hawa
    i think u are the extremists..
    because you cant stop talking about islam in any comment you make!! you cant even sit in the toilet seat because of this ,,,
    i mean if the articles about food youll try to bring someting out of it about islam,,
    islam is really a miracle,the most talked about thing always..you should try it i guess,u never know if u never try..
    watch out revival is on the way!!!!...
    and "moderate" cannot be be added infront of "islam" , that is the changed religion by the satan worshippers of america and england!!
    islam is "islam" itself .. u are with whom you want to be like..

  4. lol, aren't people being extremest in trying to be moderate? They are trying so hard to be moderate it borders on a sickness with these muslim wanna be's. Ask yourself if your're a muslim and whether you fulfill your minimum obligatory acts, or whether you spend all day long drinking and enjoying TV series D:

    Its a shame people can just come out to rant on extremism but can't see their own selves as extremist in becoming head over heels for the worldly powers mind games O_O

  5. We seem to have a very short memonry.

    Miss Universe swimwear contest was held in Maldives 2000. So what is Miss France swimwear contest?

    It is true we a sliding on a slippery slope to the day when all women will peer through black gauze, girls will not attend schools from the time of 'buruga ceremony', the senior wife will find three progressively younger wives for her husband as she ages, and our laws will bar seats for the wine drinking pork eating infidels on aircraft bound to this country.

    A few years later there will be no aircraft bound to our holy country and everyone will be in an Islamic bliss!

  6. Islam doesn't make you extreme, and the fact is this is not the first time such kind of events are held in Maldives, People think that something happened in that wedding,means everything is going to happen like that???...the truth is Maldivian people are nice to their guests, they do welcome more than any other country does... because we are muslims they are blaming us... such kind of abuses are happening in this world everyday.

  7. warned on Sun, 14th Nov 2010 9:34 PM:
    Don't blame Hawwa and Earthling for their attitude that you have criticised. When it suits you, I am sure, live every other Muslims you will insist that Islam is a "way of life" that pervades every aspect of living, the inanimate, the physical and the metaphysical. Think about it! Doesn't Islam guides you in the way you eat, drink, dress, sleep, wake up, step into the toilet, the direction you face when you squat there and how you clean afterwards? By your own yardstick ask yourself whether it is Hawwa and Earthling who are the extremists or if it is you and Islam. The answer should be patently obvious.

  8. You know, I think we should stop this heretic nonsense that is tourism. We should stop the so called 'western' airlines landing at our airports and ban all imported items lest they be dates or oil from the Middle East or narcotics from Afghanistan.

    Its about time that this nation dress accordingly, stop promoting human right, stop educating our youth, forget about the nation's economy and build a cave in that huge mould in Hulhumale'. I'm sure our beloved nation would be the envy of the world.

  9. Extremism has nothing to do with the great values of Islam. These Sheiks from no where has spoilt our religion, our life and our values. They link religion to whatever that benefits them and vice versa.

    I wish we could live as Allah has clearly revealed to us; i.e;

    "Lakum deenukum waliya deen"
    "To you be your religion, and to me my religion".

    Why cant these Sheiks understand that we need to learn an co-exist with each other to prosper.... just utter madness..

  10. @Wine & Pork Lover
    thanks buddy, iv thought about it , the more i think about it the more perfect it seems..and the more extreme and stupid you become ...
    actually you are the ppl who cannot tolerate that ayah!i dont agree at all with ur meaning to that ayah , but you are the ppl who cant tolerate for ppl bein in the right religion of allah, all the proof is there for who believes in Qur'an and sunah ... you never touch a book and you run after what your nafs wants ,, you are slave to yourself!! , not god....so stop opposing and start researching the pure quran ..

  11. Maldivians are tolerant and peace loving people. I dont know the aim of articles of similar nature occuring in this website and inclusion of quotes by people who are not in touch with the reality.
    We have been hosting guests from every corner of the globe since 1972. We are still the same lot and we will be welcoming guests to our tiny nation for many many years to come.
    Barbaric and disgusting actions by a few should not be an excuse to generalise, brand and portray us as having perception about tourism.
    It would have helped us, whether which research/survey you have done to understand the perception of the Maldives and how these perception has changed.
    We have visitors dressed in attire they see fit to achieve the objectives of holidaying in this country every day.
    So the 33 contestants are the same as like any other guests we have in this country. I dont know how someone could jump to conclusion that the visit of these 33 contenstants have changed our perception about the tourism industry. They are only 33 among thousands spending holidays in the Maldives.
    The tourist enclaves are built for our guests to holiday and enjoy our nation and what they wear, eat or drink is not a concern to us.
    Our perception has not changed a bit because of this event. Our perception about our guests are positive and we warmly welcome them and we will remain so.
    The negative perception about the industry is created by the poverty stricken status of our nation, and the fact that only a few elites keep controlling the wealth and are continue to do so.
    The few elite's reluctance to accept the Employment Act, Labour law, to join ILO and to recognise the rights of the employees are the factors that fire up the negative attitude towards tourism industry.
    So my advice is to stop ranting about extremism thinking that you could distort the facts.
    Please recognise the socio-economic issues and give the deserving dividends to the locals. We want to have proper meals, dreass up our kids as we believe is appropriate.
    We are not worried about who is wearing what in the tourist enclaves.
    Let me tell you, the biggest threat to the tourism industry is the unfairness and the discriminatory practices in the resort labour market.
    We, Maldivians are proud to host Miss World, Miss France and those visiting us.
    Host communities will always welcome tourists when they see they get the fair share of the benefits generated by the tourism industry. The few in the industry is creating antagonism toward the sector simply by thei stubborness,greed,unfair and unjust practices to those locals who sacrifice their lives to make the few rich. LOcals leave their loved ones; fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters and friends behind in their residential islands to make you lot rich. But only a few resort owners and operators recognise this and the majority of them fails to recognise the sacrifices of the locals and renumerate appropriately.
    So please address these issues rather than twisting the facts.


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