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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 16:25 GMT
Maldives anger over topless party
Sir Philip Green
Sir Philip's party cost millions of dollars, reports say
A leading opposition group in the Maldives has strongly criticised a lavish party held there last week by one of Britain's top businessmen.

The party was attended by a host of celebrities, including the singers George Michael and Jennifer Lopez.

It allegedly featured topless dancers, a giant Buddha statue and copious amounts of champagne.

Critics say that such an event was incompatible with the conservative Muslim culture of the islands.

Lobster thermidor

The party was hosted at an exclusive resort by the British tycoon Sir Philip Green - one of Britain's wealthiest businessmen - to celebrate his 55th birthday. It is estimated to have cost in the region of $10m (5m).

Guests were reportedly treated to the finest vintage Pol Roger champagne and a cabaret performance by George Michael.

George Michael
George Michael was reportedly paid in excess of $500,000 to perform

At one end of one of the dance floors a solid granite statue of the Buddha, 11m-tall, had been erected as around 100 guests ate lobster thermidor.

The party was held on three stages and also featured pagodas and two smaller Buddhas.

More than 500 people were hired to deal with the construction of the party venue, with hundreds more working on catering, flower arrangements and security.

The festivities were reported to include a topless dance routine and a brilliant firework display.

'Over the top'

Critics in the Maldives say that such merry-making is out of place in a conservative Muslim country.

"This party was completely over the top," said Maldivian Democratic Party spokesman Ahmed Moosa.

"Maldives people are easily shocked and strong in their Muslim faith," he said.

Buddha at Sir Philip's party
Critics argue that the Buddha was incongruous in a Muslim country

"Scantily clad women and excessive drinking are not culturally acceptable."

Mr Moosa stressed that he was not making a political point in his criticisms.

"I think my views on this issue represent a wide cross-section of views across the country regardless of party affiliation," he said.

Mr Moosa said that he found it "objectionable" that many of the celebrities and wealthy guests who attended the ceremony arrived in the Maldives by private jets.

"With so much emphasis on reducing greenhouse emissions around the world, their mode of travel - like their partying - smacks of decadence," he said.


The Maldivian Democratic Party has also complained that the Buddha statue brought into the country for the party was in contravention of the law, which prohibits the promotion of any faith apart from Islam.

Jennifer Lopez arrives in the Maldives
Many stars arrived by private jet (Picture by Dhivehi Observer)

They say that thousands of migrant Sri Lankan workers are forbidden from carrying a personal Buddha in their pockets in recognition of this rule.

The Maldives government was unavailable to comment on criticisms surrounding the party, but last week President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was reported to have extended birthday greetings in a telephone call to Sir Philip.

The president was quoted by local newspapers as saying that Sir Philip's visit to the Maldives would help bolster the country's tourism industry.

He expressed his "happiness" that Sir Philip had chosen the Maldives for his birthday celebrations.

The businessman is reported to have thanked the president for his telephone call, and said that the Maldives was the most beautiful place he had ever visited.

A spokeswoman in Sir Philip's private office said that he was unaware of any regulations concerning the importation of Buddhas to the Maldives, and that the party was held at a private location.

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Country profile: The Maldives
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