Connect with us

Business & Tourism

Maldives resort ordered to remove ‘idols’

The president’s office cited “significant public sentiment against the installation of underwater sculptures.”



The Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi has been ordered to remove sculptures from a newly built underwater art gallery in the resort’s lagoon.

“Upon receiving information that idols have been put up at Shaviyani Sirru Fenfushi, the president’s office has instructed the ministry of tourism to complete their removal by the end of tomorrow,” reads a statement issued Friday evening in the local Dhivehi language.

The ministry is working with the resort management to remove the statutes, it added.

In an English statement, the president’s office cited “significant public sentiment against the installation of underwater sculptures” at the high-end resort.

The nearly 30 sculptures were made by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor for the semi-submerged Coralarium art gallery, the first of its kind in the world.

The resort was planning to offer guided tours with resident marine biologists.

“The idea of this project is about combining art with conservation. So it’s building an art exhibit that will also turn and be changed by nature into this artificial reef,” Taylor explained in a short film.

The sculptures were based on casts of real people, about half of whom were from the Maldives.

Their forced removal comes after the government faced criticism from religious scholars and opposition politicians who deem human-form sculptures anti-Islamic.

Following the announcement, MP Ahmed Nihan, the ruling party’s parliamentary group leader, thanked President Abdulla Yameen “as a Muslim Maldivian citizen”, a sentiment echoed by Sheikh Ali Zahir bin Saeed, dean of the faculty of law and Islamic studies at the Maldives National University.

The Salaf sheikh previously warned that Maldivians should be wary of “the shirk of worshipping idols.”

Dr Mohamed Iyaz, a prominent religious scholar from the opposition Adhaalath Party, called for action against those responsible for the “atrocity” in lieu of playing out a “drama” ahead of September’s presidential election.

Their concern drew ridicule from many social media users who questioned whether mannequins could also be considered idols of worship.

During the 2011 SAARC summit in Addu City, monuments gifted by other South Asian countries were vandalised and eventually taken down after they were branded “idolatrous”.

More recently, the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa resort removed sphinx statues lined up along its arrival pier after complaints to the police.

The Dhivehi language lacks words for statutes, dolls or monuments and such objects are generally referred to as Budhu (idols), the worship of which is a sin in Islam.

Photo from Jason deCaires Taylor