The concern now, however, in the era of Islamic State and home-grown extremists, is that those old “rules” may no longer apply - especially in the wake of the murderous attack on Western tourists in Tunisia.There is the chilling prospects that Maldivian extremists - either veterans of Syria or inspired by their compatriots there - could board a speedboat and stage a bloody “soft target” assault on one of the unguarded luxury resorts that line beaches throughout the archipelago.“It’s quite probable that in per capita terms, the Maldives has more jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq than any other country outside the region,” said a Western security analyst.Helped by a sophisticated financial and support network, radicalised young Muslims pass incoming tourists as they fly out to transit points such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo.From there, they travel on to Turkey and then slip across border into Syria to join terror factions such as the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s local affiliate, and the Islamic State grouping.There has been a surge in departures in recent months, often husbands and wives with their children.
Its international image had already taken a blow in recent years due to prolonged political unrest, culminating in the jailing this year of Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically-elected president.
That widely-condemned conviction brought Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer and wife of the actor George, to the islands in recent days in her role as international counsel for the former leader, a British-educated civil liberties and environmental champion.
Mr Nasheed was overthrown in a bloodless de facto during protests organised by supporters of the former dictator and religious groups under the banner of “Defend Islam” as hardline clerics accused him of trying to pollute the country with decadent liberal values.
In Male, where more than 100,000 people are packed into an island of just one-square mile, a ban on alcohol is strictly enforced, while in recent years most women have started wearing headscarves and even full black robes and many men have grown out their beards.
The nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands, cascading south across the equator, is economically-dependant on upmarket tourism.