September 14, 2013
World beauty contest, which has attracted fierce opposition by hardline
Islamic groups in host country Indonesia, is now facing another
challenge -- a rival pageant exclusively for Muslims.
The Muslimah World contest to be held on Wednesday in the Indonesian capital,
Jakarta, is "Islam's answer to Miss World", the pageant's founder Eka Shanti said Saturday.
"Muslimah World is a beauty pageant, but the requirements are very
different from Miss World -- you have to be pious, be a positive role
model and show how you balance a life of spirituality in today's
modernised world," Shanti told AFP.
The pageant is the latest backlash against Miss World, which has
already dropped the bikini from its beach fashion round and has
attracted more than a month of protests by Muslim hardliners demanding
the show be scrapped.
Radicals have set effigies of the organisers alight and deemed the contest "smut" and "pornographic".
The 20 Muslimah World finalists were chosen from more than 500, who
took part in online rounds, reciting Koranic verses and telling stories
of how they came to wear the Islamic headscarf, a requirement for the
The finalists, from Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nigeria and
Indonesia, will parade Islamic fashions in what Shanti says is an
opportunity to show young Muslim women they do not need to show their
"immodest" parts -- including their hair and bare shoulders -- to be
But Shanti said she did not support hardliners' calls to cancel the
Miss World contest, acknowledging that Indonesia was a diverse country
with many faiths.
"We don't just want to shout 'no' to Miss World. We'd rather show our
children they have choices. Do you want to be like the women in Miss
World? Or like those in Muslimah World?" Shanti said.
The Muslimah World finalists will be welcomed with open arms, with
hundreds of women wearing headscarves planning to take part in what they
call an "elegance rally" Sunday to greet the contestants and offer a
moderate voice to the debate, Shanti said.
In contrast, Miss World contestants were again ridiculed Saturday,
with around 300 members of the radical Islamic Defenders Front gathering
in the capital, holding signs that read "Miss World is a whore
Government officials gave in to hardliners last week and announced
the Miss World final would be moved from the outskirts of Jakarta to the
resort island of Bali, where the contest began last week with no
opposition from the Hindu majority there.
Despite the decision to keep all Miss World activities off the
Muslim-majority island of Java, protestors from the Islamic group Hizbut
Tahrir Indonesia also demonstrated Saturday in the central Java city of
Yogyakarta, where contestants had planned to visit but were forced to
cancel their trip.
"Miss World is not welcome in Indonesia at all," a spokeswoman for the organisation in Yogyakarta said.
MNC Group, the organisers and broadcaster of Miss World, said this
week that they were not party to the government's decision and have said
it would be "impossible" to make the last-minute move.
The decision to confine Miss World activities to Bali was the latest
victory for Islamic fringe groups, who are wielding increasing power and
have succeeded in getting several events they deem un-Islamic changed
or cancelled in recent years.
Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hardliners
threatened to burn down the venue and criticised her for wearing only "a
bra and panties".