News / Asia

    Muslim Women Compete in Miss Muslima Beauty Pageant

    Nigerian Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola is crowned by her predecessor World Muslimah 2012 Nina Septiani of Indonesia (R) after being named World Muslimah 2013 during the third Annual Award of World Muslimah in Jakarta, Sept. 18, 2013.
    Nigerian Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola is crowned by her predecessor World Muslimah 2012 Nina Septiani of Indonesia (R) after being named World Muslimah 2013 during the third Annual Award of World Muslimah in Jakarta, Sept. 18, 2013.
    Kate Lamb
    In Indonesia, organizers of the “Miss World” beauty pageant have bowed to pressure from Islamic hardliners and moved the event to the Hindu-majority island Bali. But in the country’s capital, Muslim women from across the globe took to the catwalk to compete in a Miss World of their own.

    At Miss Muslimah 2013, glamorous, floor-length hijabs - not bikinis - are the official attire on the catwalk.

    The pageant is touted as ‘Islam’s answer to Miss World’ and included contestants from as far as Iran and Nigeria.

    Eka Shanti, a former Indonesian TV anchor founded the event after losing her job because she refused to take off her headscarf on air.

    Shanti said the Jakarta event was held in deliberate defiance of the controversial Miss World contest in Bali.  Muslimah, she argued, promotes an alternative, more modest, idea of beauty.

    Miss Mulismah contestants are required to wear hijab in their daily lives. They were judged on how well they recited Koranic verses and on their views on Islam and the modern world.

    Andreas Harsono from the Indonesian branch of Human Rights Watch said both Miss World and Miss Mulismah are essentially beauty contests and so are not that different from each other.

    “They [Miss World and Muslimah] are talking about the beauties of women, albeit this one is branded with Islam wearing the hijab ectera, it is ok," said Harsono. "Meanwhile if the same argument is being used against them, exposing sexuality, of course this Islamic contest can also be branded as un-Islamic. It is a total discrimination against anything that is branded against Islam.”

    Harsono added that keeping up Islamic appearances is also on the rise, with more than 100 local bylaws requiring women to wear hijab.

    Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and many there practice a moderate form of Islam. 

    But fringe groups of Islamic hardliners have been up in arms over plans to hold the Miss World final near Jakarta.

    Describing the contest as "pornographic," protesters threatened to hijack the event and even burnt effigies of the organizers.

    Miss World pageant contestants leave Bali International Convention Center after a rehearsal in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 16, 2013.Miss World pageant contestants leave Bali International Convention Center after a rehearsal in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 16, 2013.
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    Miss World pageant contestants leave Bali International Convention Center after a rehearsal in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 16, 2013.
    Miss World pageant contestants leave Bali International Convention Center after a rehearsal in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sept. 16, 2013.
    Miss World organizers had already promised to exclude their bikini contest and use sarongs instead, but hardliners were not appeased.

    The government finally buckled, instructing Miss World to move its final to the mostly Hindu island Bali, where the event first opened on September 8.

    British, U.S., and Australian embassies have since issued warning that extremists may still attack the event.

    Harsono said the decision shows the government has failed to take a stand against religious extremists.

    “It shows that Muslim hardliners have a lot of influence over the government to move this Miss World competition... It shows they are effective just by protesting with 1,000-2,000 people, they can move this event to Bali.  And even in Bali they want to stop the event,” said Harsono.

    This is the first year Muslimah has accepted international contestants and is the third time it has been held since 2011.

    Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a 21-year-old Nigerian woman took home the grand prize, which included some $2,000 in prize money and a trip to Mecca and India.

    In India, Ajibola will help raise money to educate the children of sex workers.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Keen from: Philippines
    October 12, 2013 4:04 AM

    We belong to a democratic world, so this entitles us to have our own ideology and opinion...Personally, I think wearing bikini is not as provocative as it seems...It depends on how women carry themselves while wearing it and how men perceive them...For our ultra-conservative Muslim brothers in Indonesia, who have a very strong and clear criteria on morality, thinks differently from the rest of the world; which they are entitled to...I think to achieve a common ground, organizers of such beauty pageant should consider the location of the contest next time...

    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 19, 2013 3:03 PM
    Beautiful women wearing masks, how do the judges determine what they want? Are they judging by the make up of their attire, the color of their clothes, or a sack-race type of who gets there first?
    In Response

    by: Tim from: Australia
    October 06, 2013 5:31 PM
    They are based on intellect and knowledge, rather than beauty - which doesn't last forever in this life, unlike the Miss world/universe competitors, who hardly know a thing about how to use the brain they were given...
    So don't be so shallow my brother in humanity, May God guide you.
    Peace.

    by: transparent thinker from: Mumbai
    September 19, 2013 12:10 PM
    Why is the pageant body sending her to India? I can understand Mecca but India is not a Islamic country. She should visit countries like Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. I am sure she would see the beauty of Islam in these countries
    In Response

    by: Jim from: Fox River Grove, Illinois
    September 20, 2013 2:13 PM
    Oh please, transparent thinker. These ladies do not have to go to India, they so chose. Let them see some of our great planet earth. India is dynamic and beautiful. To even suggest they should go to the war zones listed by you is beyond me. They would probably be more welcome in North Korea. Let's, please, let them enjoy their few days of appreciation. Thoughts, Jim

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