JAKARTA – Women donning modest dresses and Islamic veils will compete on Friday, November 21, in an international beauty pageant for Muslim women, challenging western perceptions about beauty contests.
“We want to see that they understand everything about the Islamic way of life — from what they eat, what they wear, how they live their lives,” Jameyah Sheriff, one of the organizers, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Contesting in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, women are set to parade in glittering dresses against the backdrop of world-renowned ancient temples.
The 18 finalists, who include a doctor and a computer scientist, will be donning Islamic headscarf, or hijab.
They will be judged not only on their appearance, but also on how well they recite verses from the Qur’an and their views on Islam in the modern world.
The World Muslimah Award first drew global attention in 2013 when organizers presented it as a peaceful protest to Miss World, which was taking place around the same time on the resort island of Bali.
On the other hand, British-run Miss World has faced frequent accusations that it is degrading to women.
British contestant Dina Torkia said she hoped this year’s World Muslimah Award would not only provide a contrast to Western beauty pageants, but would also dispel prejudices against Islam.
“I think the most important thing is to show that we are really normal girls, we are not married to terrorists. This scarf on my head isn’t scary,” she told AFP.
Organizers hope to present positive role models for Muslim women around the world.
The contestants, who are aged between 18 and 27, include a computer scientist from Tunisia and a newly qualified doctor from Bangladesh.
“I came into this competition hoping that I would leave with my faith increased, but so far it’s been a lot about promotion and media and looking nice,” Britain’s Torkia said.
Friday’s finale concluded a lengthy process, which included an online audition followed by two weeks of events in Indonesia.
During the days of the tournament, contestants have visited orphanages and nursing homes along with visiting old Buddhist temples.
Hosting the event at a Hindu site was a conscious decision to show that Muslims are accepting of other religions, organizers said.
The contest is not the first in Indonesia.
Last year, more than 500 pious contestants participated in the in the online pick up, where they were answers questions about their relationship with Islam, and when first began donning the Hijab.
In 2011, a beauty pageant for hijab-clad Muslim women who can recite the holy Qur’an in Arabic and participate in the welfare of their society was held in West Jakarta to choose Muslims’ ‘Miss Universe’.