MATATO complains tourism not included in Islamic Ministry’s blessings during Friday prayer

The Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) has written to the Islamic Ministry expressing concern that tourism was not among those industry sectors blessed during Friday prayers.

MATATO President Mohamed Khaleel confirmed to Minivan News that a letter had been sent to the Islamic Ministry yesterday (May 29) expressing concern that the country’s farming and fishing industries continued to be blessed following Friday prayers, while tourism sector had not received the same courtesy.

Under the country’s laws, traditional holiday staples such as the sale and consumption of alcohol and pork products, and women publicly sunbathing in bikinis, are outlawed outside designated ‘uninhabited’ islands set aside exclusively for resort development.

A letter sent by MATATO to the Islamic Ministry stated that the biggest gift from God to the Maldives over the past 40 years was the establishment of tourist resorts on uninhabited islands in the Maldives, according to local media.

The letter also argued that profits from the travel industry over the 40 years had been used to build harbours, roads and mosques across the country.

Considering the financial impact of tourism to the country’s revenue, MATATO President Khaleel said a letter had been sent to the Islamic Ministry asking for tourism to be included along with other industries worthy of being blessed in the Friday prayer.

“We are expecting a response [to the letter] by Sunday (June 2) or Monday (June 3) next week. We are expecting positive feedback from the ministry, not for ourselves, but for the sake of the country,” he said.

Given the substantial contribution of tourism to the country’s GDP – thought to indirectly reach over 70 percent – Khaleel questioned the financial impact to the country should the industry cease to exist.

Khaleel added that the government had earned large amounts of additional income from import taxes on goods and services brought into the country to cater for holidaymakers.

Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Shaheem Ali Saeed and Minister of State for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Didi were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.