The final round of a beauty pageant exclusively for Muslim women will take place in Indonesia’s capital on Wednesday, reported Agence-France-Presse on Wednesday.
The Muslimah Miss World pageant will see 20 contestants showing off the latest Islamic fashion trends, they will also show their talents in other activities such as reciting the Quran.
“We’re just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful,” said Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a 21-year-old contestant from Nigeria, one of six countries represented at the pageant, reported AFP.
“We are free and the hijab (Muslim headscarf) is our pride.”
The contestants can only enter the competition if they wear a headscarf in the pageant which is a riposte to the British-run Miss World competition, currently being held in Indonesia.
The participants have undergone three days of “spiritual training” in the run-up to the final in Jakarta, perfecting their Quranic recitation skills and waking before dawn to pray together.
Organizers say they want to put forward an alternative idea of beauty in opposition to the Miss World competition which has garnered intense opposition in Indonesia with some Islamists calling the event “pornographic.”
Organizer Eka Shanti, who founded the pageant three years ago after losing her job as TV news anchor for refusing to remove her headscarf, bills the contest as “Islam’s answer to Miss World,” reported AFP.
“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.
Despite participant’s piety being a major factor in the competition, Muslimah World contestants also have their height and weight shown on the pageant's website.
More than 500 contestants competed in online rounds to get to the final in Indonesia, one of which involved the contenders comparing stories of how they came to wear the headscarf, reported AFP.
On Wednesday night, contestants will retell these stories and answer questions from judges at the final in a Jakarta shopping mall, and the 20 finalists will be whittled down to four before a winner is crowned.
“What I will be looking for is strength of personality - someone with a vision for the future, who gives back to their community and shows that beauty is not just about bodies,” said Jameyah Sheriff, an education expert from Malaysia who is on the judging panel.
Shanti said the contest was first held in 2011 and was then only open to Indonesians but it proved so popular that it was opened up to international entrants.