Bali decides to not cover nude statues for Saudi king's visit

Saudi King Salman, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo wave to the media during their meeting at the presidential ...
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Saudi King Salman, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo wave to the media during their meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor.

Saudi King Salman is visiting Asia, accompanied by a large entourage and plenty of luggage, on a trip designed to shore up his Middle Eastern kingdom's economic and cultural ties with countries in the region.

But the Saudi royal's visit to the Indonesian island of Bali has raised some eyebrows after local authorities decided to not cover up statues of Hindu deities and semi-naked women during the visit.

That decision came just days after the Indonesian government covered nude statues at the presidential palace in Bogor, near the capital, Jakarta. The statues were either surrounded with plant pots or draped in cloth, according to reports.

Saudi King Salman, left, shakes hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the presidential ...
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Saudi King Salman, left, shakes hands with Indonesian President Joko Widodo during their meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia.

A local website, Kumparan, reported that the decision to cover statues at the Bogor palace was made because Salman was the official representative of an Islamic country, though statues also have been covered up for other foreign leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who visited the palace in January.

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But the governor of predominantly Hindu Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, told a local newspaper that the statues on the island "will not be covered" for Salman's visit.

"Bali is famous for being comfortable, safe and tolerant, so we will leave it as is," Pastika was quoted as saying by the Tribun Bali on Friday.

A local government spokesman confirmed the decision in an interview with Agence France-Presse. "We're just going to leave [the statues] as they are. We don't have to cover up anything because it is our culture," Dewa Mahendra said, adding that statues were "cultural creations."

According to Mahendra, Salman's entourage had not asked for any statues to be covered.

Though Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, Hinduism strongly influences the culture of Bali.

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Salman's month-long Asia tour includes not only the first visit to Indonesia by a Saudi leader in almost 50 years, but also stops in Malaysia, Brunei, Japan, China and Maldives. The journey is intended to strengthen ties to the region as Saudi Arabia begins the difficult task of diversifying its oil-driven economy.

 - The Washington Post

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