21 Nov Indonesian Muslim pageant challenges Western beauty contests

Written by AFP Published in Entertainment Read 5916 times
Finalist of the 2014 World Muslimah Awards Ben Guefrache Fatma (L) of Tunis, Nazreen (C) of India and Elis Sholihah (R) of Indonesia pose for a photograph during a tour at the Borobudur temple, Indonesia's ancient Buddhist temple built between the 8th and 9th century in Magelang, Central Java on November 17, 2014. Indonesia hosted the 4th Muslim Beauty Pageant called World Muslimah Awards. About 25 finalists from around the world compete in the final round of the World Muslimah Awards, exclusively for Muslim women in Yogyakarta on November 13-21. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY Finalist of the 2014 World Muslimah Awards Ben Guefrache Fatma (L) of Tunis, Nazreen (C) of India and Elis Sholihah (R) of Indonesia pose for a photograph during a tour at the Borobudur temple, Indonesia's ancient Buddhist temple built between the 8th and 9th century in Magelang, Central Java on November 17, 2014. Indonesia hosted the 4th Muslim Beauty Pageant called World Muslimah Awards. About 25 finalists from around the world compete in the final round of the World Muslimah Awards, exclusively for Muslim women in Yogyakarta on November 13-21. AFP PHOTO / ADEK BERRY

Prambanan (AFP) - An eclectic mix of women from around the world will compete in the finale of a pageant exclusively for Muslims in Indonesia on November 21, seen as a riposte to Western beauty contests.

The women, who include a doctor and a computer scientist, are set to parade in glittering dresses against the backdrop of world-renowned ancient temples for the contest in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

However the 18 finalists are required to wear the Muslim headscarf and will be judged not only on their appearance, but also on how well they recite verses from the Koran and their views on Islam in the modern world.

"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," said Jameyah Sheriff, one of the organisers.

The World Muslimah Award first drew global attention in 2013 when organisers presented it as a peaceful protest to Miss World, which was taking place around the same time on the resort island of Bali.

In an effort to appease hardliners, Miss World organisers axed the bikini round for the Bali edition, but the event still sparked demonstrations from Islamic radicals who dubbed it a "whore contest".

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.

But not everyone was enjoying the final rounds, with Britain's Torkia saying her initial optimism had turned into disappointment.

"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," she said.

The 2014 pageant has faced challenges, with seven finalists dropping out and others struggling with Indonesia's complex bureaucracy to obtain visas.

Most who pulled out did so because their families did not want them to travel alone, Sheriff said.

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