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.
x
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.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs