AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Sunday 15 September 2013
Last update 2 October 2013 12:38 pm
JAKARTA: The Miss World beauty contest, which has attracted fierce opposition by 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 modernized 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 Muslims demanding the show be scrapped.
The 20 Muslimah World finalists were chosen from more than 500, who took part in online rounds, reciting Qur’anic verses and telling stories of how they came to wear the headscarf, a requirement for the pageant.
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 beautiful.
But Shanti said she did not support hard-liners’ 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.
After repeated protests, government officials announced last week that the Miss World final would be moved from the outskirts of the capital Jakarta to the resort island of Bali, where the contest began last week with no opposition from the Hindu majority there.
The organizers, however, were not party to the decision and have said it would be “impossible” to make the last-minute change.