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News Article

Bikini ban threatens Malaysian tourist industry

The tourist industry in Malaysia has begun to suffer after one state banned holidaymakers from wearing bikinis and segregates men from women at swimming pools and in hotels.

The tourist industry in Malaysia has begun to suffer after one state banned holidaymakers from wearing bikinis and segregates men from women at swimming pools and in hotels.

The Terengganu state government has introduced many restrictions since becoming under the control of the fundamentalist Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party in 1999. Laws have included separate check-out queues for men and women in supermarkets and various attempts at restricting alcohol and mixing of sexes. However, the legislation is largely ignored, so officials have now decided to turn their attention to tourists.

Malaysia’s tourism minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir says that he is disappointed over the decision by the Islamic state government. He revealed many European tourists had cancelled trips to Malaysia because of the judgement. He told the New Straits Times, "Yesterday, I received a fax from a Malaysian tourism officer overseas who said many tour agents have been asking if it was appropriate to send tourists to Malaysia because of this."

The federal government allegedly sees the fundamentalists as a threat to Malaysian stability. In a recent interview, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said introducing Islamic law in a country with a 35 per cent non-Muslim minority would cause "a lot of upheaval." Earlier in the year the government urged Malaysians to show tourists friendliness and provide them with good service, even if they are not involved in the tourism industry. Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said such hospitality from everyone was important to attract more tourists to the country.

"If Malaysians are friendly and have good manners, the tourists will return. We do not lose anything by being good to tourists," he said.

Enforcement of the law will be difficult. Malcolm Botha, a South African who runs a water sports business said to the Associated Press, "What are they going to do? Send in the bikini police?"

Terengganu last year received 1.4 million tourists out of 12.8 million visitors nationwide, and tourism earned Malaysia US$8 billion. The tourist industry fears a bikini ban would drive away visitors and cost jobs. The state’s tourism minister, Wan Hassan Mohamad Ramli believes that foreigners should respect Islam, and segregated pools would make resorts more appealing to Muslims.

Meanwhile, the Western World has a sunbathing trauma of its own, reports BBC Online. The US magazine Penthouse has settled a legal action after printing photographs of a naked woman it mistakenly identified as the Russian tennis player, Anna Kournikova. The magazine intends to pay undisclosed damages to former model Judith Soltesz-Benetton, the actual person photographed sunbathing in Miami seven years ago.

However, Penthouse is still facing legal action brought by Anna Kournikova. Some analysts have suggested the suite could bankrupt the financially-troubled magazine.


New Straits Times

Associated Press

Article details

  • Date
  • 21 May 2002
  • Subject(s)
  • Tourism