Muslim beauty pageant offers alternative to Miss World
Iran, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei and Nigeria are represented in the third annual World Muslimah contest for the first time
Six countries participate in the Muslim beauty pageant and stand up against Western beauty standards by emphasising spirituality and inner beauty. On Wednesday, 18 September Obabiyah Aisha Aijbola tearfully prayed and recited verses from the Quran as she was crowned winner of the Muslimah World Pageant. The contest was first held in 2011 under a different name and was only open to Indonesians. It gained recognition once the media started comparing it to Miss World and was rebranded as a Muslim alternative to the world-famous pageant. In addition to Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Nigeria were also represented in the third annual World Muslimah contest for the first time. The event was hosted by Dewi Sandra, an Indonesian actress and pop star who recently opted for a headscarf in favour of her lavish and racy dresses. 500 contestants competed online to reach the finale held in a mall in Jakarta, Indonesia. Participants could enter the competition only if they wore a headscarf and were covered from head to toe. In preparation for the final round, contestants had to undergo three days of training, which included waking up before dawn to pray together and participating in Quran tajweed skills. They shared their stories on how they come to wear the Hijab online and later on answered questions from the judges about their experiences and modern views on Islam. The 20 finalists then put on a glittering and elaborate fashion show as they walked up and down the runway showing off the latest trends in Islamic fashion. The pageant featured dancing dervishes, pop music performances and Muslim recitations including one about modesty, a trait the judges sought in the winner. Organisers of the event said they wanted to show Muslim women there is an alternative to the idea of beauty put forward by the British-run Miss World pageant. Organiser 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." After a show in front of an audience of mainly religious scholars and devout Muslims, a panel of judges named Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola from Nigeria as the winner. "We're just trying to show the world that Islam is beautiful," said the 21-year-old. Upon hearing her name, Ajibola knelt down and prayed as she wept tears of happiness. She received 25 million rupiah ($2,200) and trips to Makkah and India as prizes. The pageant, which was held just 10 days before the Miss World competition, is a way of protesting Miss World and the ideals that it stands for. Thousands have taken to the streets in Indonesia in recent weeks to protest the Miss World competition. Despite a pledge by Miss World organisers to drop the famous bikini round, radical anger was not appeased and the protest movement snowballed. The whole pageant was moved to the Hindu-majority island of Bali, where it opened on September 8. The organisers of the Muslimah World Pageant wanted to emphasise that opposition to the pageant can be expressed non-violently.