Bali won't cover up statues for Saudi king

Bali won't cover up statues for Saudi king
Saudi King Salman, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo wave to the media during their meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 1, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

Indonesia's Hindu resort island of Bali Wednesday defended a decision not to cover up any of its ubiquitous statues of deities and semi-naked women during a visit by the Saudi king.

King Salman and a 1,000-strong entourage are enjoying a week-long holiday in Bali after a state visit to Jakarta, during the first trip by a Saudi monarch to Indonesia in nearly half a century.

When he met President Joko Widodo for talks at a palace in Bogor, near the capital, officials hid some naked statues in the grounds by covering them with cloth and putting plants around them as a sign of respect for the Muslim monarch But officials on Bali - a pocket of Hinduism in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation - said that they would not extend the same courtesy.

Read also: King Salman extends holiday in Bali

The island, which attracts millions of foreign visitors every year to its palm-fringed beaches, is home to many statues of Hindu gods and bare-chested women. In the past, Balinese women often wore only sarongs that did not cover their chests.

Saudi king visits Indonesia bringing along huge entourage, limos, escalators

"We're just going to leave (the statues) as they are, we don't have to cover up anything because it is our culture," Bali local government spokesman Dewa Mahendra told AFP.

He said that they "are cultural creations, they are art".

Local authorities had not received a request from the Saudi king or his party to hide any of statues from view, Mahendra said, adding they were more focused on ensuring the monarch's safety.

Strict interpretations of Islam forbid the creation of images of living beings - such as statues of women - and worship of idols.

Read also: Life's a beach for King Salman in Bali

Life's a beach for King Salman in Bali

The king and his entourage are staying in five luxury hotels for the holiday, which ends on Sunday.

Other places have hidden naked statues for visiting Muslim leaders. Last year a Rome museum covered up classical nude sculptures in temporary wooden cartons during a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Indonesia is one of the highlights on the king's three-week Asian tour. He started the visit in Malaysia and will also visit Japan, China and the Maldives.

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