If you can’t beat them, join them (but covered up): Islam’s answer to Miss World launched

Contest has been greeted with protests despite organisers agreeing to axe the bikini round

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There will be little, if any, flesh on view, and contestants will be required to demonstrate their good morals. Welcome to Miss Muslimah World, a beauty pageant to be staged in Jakarta next week, in defiance of the Miss World competition taking place on Bali.

The mainstream contest has been greeted with protests around Indonesia last week, despite organisers agreeing to axe the bikini round. Rather than the finals being held in the capital on 28 September, as planned, the whole pageant has been confined to Bali.

Now the World Muslimah Foundation, a Muslim women’s group, has announced an “Islamic response” to the Miss World furore: a beauty contest next Wednesday featuring 20 modestly dressed women from Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

The event “for Muslim ladies” will respect religious traditions, and has the blessing of Islamic scholars, according to the Asia News website. Outfits will reflect “the colours of the Muslim world”, and beauty will not be the only criterion, said one of the organisers, Eka Shanty. Rather, contestants will be judged on the three “Ss” – smartness, style and sholehah (good morals).

In Bali, meanwhile, armed police have been guarding the Miss World venue, as well as hotels linked to the competition. Thousands of Islamic hardliners protested in half a dozen cities last week, burning effigies of the pageant’s organisers and dressing up goats in Miss World sashes. Some brandished placards declaring they were “ready to die for the Miss World contest to be scrapped”. Critics say the competition insults Islam and exploits women.

Indonesia’s Muslim population – the world’s largest – is traditionally moderate and tolerant, and the government refused to cancel the contest. But in the wake of the demonstrations, it announced that the finals would be moved out of Jakarta in the interests of public order.