Muslimah World competition challenges Miss World

Muslimah World competition challenges Miss World
Updated 19 September 2013

Muslimah World competition challenges Miss World

Muslimah World competition challenges Miss World

JAKARTA: Muslim women in head scarf and elaborately embroidered dresses took to the stage Wednesday for the finale of a beauty pageant in Indonesia, a riposte to the Miss World contest that has sparked anger.
The 20 contestants began the Muslimah World show by elegantly descending a flight of stairs into public view — all covered head to toe wearing shimmering and sparkling materials.
While the women, from six countries, will be assessed on their appearance the judges are also looking at piety and Islamic knowledge and skills, such as recitation of the Qur’an.
All contestants must wear head scarves in their daily lives.
“We’re just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful,” Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a 21-year-old contestant from Nigeria, told AFP backstage in the capital, Jakarta, before the final got under way.
“We are free and the hijab is our pride,” she said, adding that the pageant was “nothing like Miss World, where women expose their bodies.”
Organizers say they want to show Muslim women there is an alternative to the idea of beauty put forward by the British-run Miss World pageant, and also want to show that opposition to the event can be expressed non-violently.
Eka Shanti, who founded the pageant three years ago after losing her job as a TV news anchor for refusing to remove her head scarf, bills the contest as “an answer to Miss World.”
“This year we deliberately held our event just before the Miss World final to show that there are alternative role models for Muslim women,” she told AFP.
“But it’s about more than Miss World. Muslim women are increasingly working in the entertainment industry in a sexually explicit way, and they become role models, which is a concern.”
Hosted by Dewi Sandra, an Indonesian actress and pop star who recently hung up her racy dresses for a head scarf, the pageant began with a choral performance of a song about modesty, one the traits judges will be looking for in the winner.
While the contestants looked glamorous, the venue, the exhibition hall of a shopping mall, was a far cry from the likely lavish setting of the Miss World final on Bali.
And the pageant, which features Indonesian Islamic designer wear and popular bands, is a starkly different way of protesting Miss World than the approach taken other elements. Thousands have taken to the streets in Indonesia in recent weeks to protest Miss World, denouncing the contest and burning effigies of the organizers.
Despite a pledge by organizers to drop the famous swimsuit round, anger was not appeased and the protest movement snowballed.
The government eventually bowed to pressure and ordered the whole three-week pageant be moved to the Hindu-majority island of Bali, where it opened on Sept. 8.
Later rounds and the Sept. 28 final were to be held in and around Jakarta.
More than 500 contestants competed in online rounds to get to the Muslimah World final in Indonesia, one of which involved the contenders comparing stories of how they came to wear the head scarf.
Contestants will retell these stories and answer questions from judges at the final, with the 20 women whittled down before a winner is crowned and awarded 25 million rupiah ($2,179) and trips to Makkah.