Indonesian Muslim Hard-liners Vow to Stop Miss World

By Agence France-Presse on 4:36 pm June 6, 2013.
Jakarta Globe

Islamic hard-liners vowed Thursday to stop the “immoral” Miss World beauty pageant taking place in Indonesia even after organizers agreed this year’s contestants would not wear bikinis.

The Hizb ut-Tahrir group slammed the show as like “selling women’s bodies” and threatened to hold demonstrations against it, while a group in the province where the final is due to take place also voiced strong opposition.

More than 130 women will compete in the September event, with some rounds on the resort island of Bali and the final in Bogor outside Jakarta. Bogor is in West Java province, parts of which are considered a stronghold for radicals.

Organizers confirmed on Wednesday the contestants would not wear bikinis during the beach fashion section, to be held in Bali, and would instead wear more conservative attire such as traditional sarongs.

However, the concession was not enough for hardline groups in Indonesia, where some 90 percent of the 240 million population are Muslims.

“Supporting this event is the same as supporting the selling of women’s bodies,” said Ismail Yusanto, spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia, who also warned the group may organize protests.

“Women are lowering themselves by allowing themselves to be turned into objects, to be stared at and have their bodies measured.”

Hardline group the Islam Reformist Movement (Garis), which is affiliated with prominent radicals the Islamic Defenders Front, also said the bikini ban was not enough.

“They will still wear outfits that will encourage sex and immoral acts,” said Chep Hernawan, the head of Garis which has its base in West Java province.

The organizers have insisted the decision not to have bikinis was taken when the deal was struck last year to host the show, and not after pressure from radicals.

Vocal protesters have succeeded in getting events cancelled in the past in Indonesia.

Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hard-liners threatened to burn down the venue and criticized her for wearing only “a bra and panties.”

Most Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam.

Rights group the National Commission on Violence Against Women urged people to take a more measured view of Miss World.

People should consider whether “the contest really looks at the women as humans and judges them based on their talents,” said Andi Yentriyani, a commissioner with the group.

British Muslim who entered Miss Universe contest receives death threat

Shanna Bukhari was subjected to a tide of online hate after entering the British heats of the beauty contest. Now she fears her life could be in danger

Mark Townsend

The Observer, Sunday 20 March 2011

When Shanna Bukhari decided she wanted to be the first Muslim to represent Britain in a global beauty pageant, she suspected the road ahead might not be smooth, but nothing could have prepared her for the abuse she received.

"I have felt in fear for my life," said the 24-year-old Miss Universe contestant. The attacks escalated last week when Bukhari received her first death threat.

The censure has come from various quarters, ranging from Muslims who claim that she is denigrating the name of Islam, to white supremacists who say that an Asian cannot represent the UK, and to women who condemn beauty pageants as an affront to feminism.

Bukhari, born in Blackburn, grew up in Lancashire and is no stranger to intolerance. When she was nine, she ended up in hospital after a man screaming racist abuse had thrown a brick at her, causing so much damage to her stomach that she suffered a blood clot and had to undergo surgery.

But even she has been surprised by the furore that her participation in the British heats of Miss Universe has prompted. Rather than confirming her hopes that society had progressed since her childhood, the controversy has made her question the state of multiculturalism in modern Britain. "It has highlighted the divisions that exist, a lack of social integration, a lack of adhesion between white and coloured people, and this needs to be addressed," she said. "I thought my participation might be something that people did not agree with, but I never thought I'd get abused."

The attacks on the Manchester-based English literature graduate began after a local newspaper ran an article 10 days ago revealing her ambition to become the first Muslim to represent Great Britain at the beauty contest. Since then, she has received around 300 messages a day on her Facebook page, a handful of which are abusive. Most of the negative comments have come from a minority of Muslim men. "I get people saying, 'you're not a Muslim' and 'you're using religion to get attention'. I said they were the ones bringing religion into it. I'm not representing Islam; I just want to represent my country, and of that I am very proud. They are trying to control me, using religion as a tool to attack."

Bukhari accuses her abusers of having the same sort of mindset as those who support "honour" killings and beat women. Many of the comments are, she says, from individuals who want sharia law instead of a liberal democracy. "We simply live in a multicultural society where there are significant numbers of Muslims. Islam is about peace; abusing me is itself wrong in Islam."

Away from the religious-themed criticism, Bukhari detects a broader anti-female resentment from men who combine sleaze with slurs. "Maybe it's because I'm a woman saying to other women 'stand up for yourself, don't let anyone dictate what you can do or can't'. Some men don't like that," she said.

But not all the abuse is from men: Bukhari has also attracted opprobium from feminists. "I've had a few girls saying 'shame on you' or 'rot in hell'. But I'd like to know what their real issues are, so we could have a constructive debate."

The abuse that truly shocked Bukhari arrived last Tuesday in the form of an online racist rant. Within hours she had shut down her Facebook fan page, but a friend was then sent a number of internet links to images of people murdered for standing up for their principles. "She rang up and said, 'Shanna, you need to be very careful because he's trying to make me aware that things will happen'. Not a direct death threat perhaps, but he was trying to say that something is going to happen to me."

Bukhari takes the threat of physical violence seriously. She makes sure she is never alone, both in her Manchester flat and on the city streets, and has contacted a private security firm for protection when attending charity events to raise money for the Joshua Foundation, a charity for terminally ill children. She fears that Britain's Miss Universe finals in Birmingham in May will also be a target: "It worries me that haters will turn up. I know what they are capable of."

One Facebook message calls her a "dirty Muslim" and asks why she is representing Britain "when you don't even fucking belong here". Bukhari said: "I actually replied to him in a very calm manner because I'm not one to retaliate, my family taught me to rationalise rather than react. Then I thought 'why can't I represent Britain?' I was born here and am proud to be British. My parents are from Pakistan but I am not going to represent Pakistan as this is my country."

Bukhari says the abuse has been disillusioning partly because she enjoyed a liberal upbringing; her parents sent her to a Catholic school in Blackburn where she was the only Muslim but was "completely accepted". It was only when she moved to Manchester in 2001, she said, that she became aware of segregation as an issue. She does not agree with David Cameron's speech last month in which he asserted that state multiculturalism in Britain had failed. She believes that more must be done to break down mistrust.

Bukhari cites the thousands who have offered their backing. Support has come from Spain, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and China. Most women supporters say she represents not just a role model for Muslim women, but all those who refuse to be cowed by bullies.

During last month's semi-final for Britain's Miss Universe candidate Bukhari received the most public votes. Britain has never won the title. It is increasingly possible that its first victor might also be its first Muslim representative.


Beauty contest sets off Muslim debate

Some condemn Miss Canada Pakistan pageant
But not all see it as an affront to Islamic mores

By Prithi Yelaja
The Toronto Star

"Swing your hips. I need lots of oomph, '' commands choreographer Sajeev Sharma.

On cue, eight dark-haired beauties struggle to do their best supermodel imitations on a catwalk at an Etobicoke banquet hall.

``Slow, slow ... remember, you'll be wearing evening gowns,'' Sharma tells the women, one of whom will be crowned Miss Canada Pakistan on Saturday.

The pageant, now in its third year, has been the target of hate mail and bomb threats in the past, when it was held under heavy security in Ottawa, and is once again drawing fire.

The cowboy-boot-wearing Sharma, who flew in from Mumbai to choreograph the event, has worked with Bollywood beauty queens such as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai. He has had a little less than four weeks to transform these Canadian neophytes into glamour queens.

"Most of the girls are feeling very awkward," says Sharma, during a break in rehearsal.

Part of their nervousness may stem from the negative reaction the pageant has drawn from both conservative and moderate Islamic groups in Toronto.

Conservatives say the contest defies Islam's edict requiring public modesty in women, while moderates oppose the pageant on feminist grounds, arguing the contest is a throwback and objectifies women.

A few have spoken out in support of the pageant, saying it is just a fun cultural event that offers an opportunity to dispel the negative stereotypes faced by Pakistani Canadian women.

When Sonia Ahmed, the pageant's Karachi-born co-ordinator, recently appeared on a local Pakistani radio show, she was bombarded by angry callers.

"They basically told me: `You're doing something dirty. Don't do this ... or else.' They have a misconception about the show that it's about showing off flesh. It's not. It's 50 per cent beauty, 50 per cent brains," she says, pointing out that Saturday's contest doesn't include a swimsuit competition.

"We're not saying we don't want women in hijab or we don't respect the religion, but this is the 21st century,'' says Ahmed, 26, who is studying for an accounting designation. ``Women have the freedom to do what they want."

The pageant "softens the image of Pakistani women," adds last year's winner, Batool Cheema, 21, a part-time ticket agent and student who aspires to work in Canada's foreign service.

"The moment people hear you're Pakistani, they don't want to hear any more. They've got their minds made up. But we're not terrorists, we don't want to bomb people. We're beauty queens," says Cheema, with her blonde-streaked hair and perfectly manicured nails.

While the notion of the beauty contest has become increasingly passé in most Western cultures, Pakistani Canadian women are just beginning to compete, says Ahmed.

Beauty pageants are banned in Pakistan. In 2002, a government minister tried to bar a contestant from wearing the Miss Pakistan sash at the Miss International contest, sparking a diplomatic row. The Press Trust of India quoted Tariq Janjua as saying that 21-year-old expatriate Neelan Noorani's appearance at the pageant in Tokyo was "shameful" and "disgraceful."

Of the 40 women who applied to be in this year's contest, Ahmed picked 13 to compete, some from as far away as Montreal and Halifax.

The upper age limit is 29, though most are teenagers, still in high school. Almost all are Canadian-born and say they entered because it was a chance to connect with their Pakistani heritage. Some defied fathers or uncles to do so.

"I have my values and morals and I'm not compromising them by taking part in this," says 16-year-old Alysha Jamal, her eyes heavy with kohl and rimmed with pink shadow. She wants to become an occupational therapist.

Some hope the contest will lead to bigger things. "My dream is to go to Bollywood," says Shazia Hudda, 16. "People are entitled to their opinions, but they shouldn't push it on everybody."

As the contestants sashay on stage, their mothers watch from a table laden with samosas, potato cutlets, coffee and Timbits. They dismiss opposition to the pageant as narrow-minded.

"This is Canada, not Pakistan,'' says Hudda's mother Shabira, of Pickering. "That's why we came here, so our kids could have these opportunities.''

"It's not like they're taking their clothes off," adds Bibi Mahmood, of Hamilton.

But Haroon Salamat, head of the TARIC Islamic Centre of Toronto, argues such contests have no place in Islam. "Any exhibition of women's beauty is not permissible," says Salamat.

"External beauty is not something to celebrate on stage. It's for your spouse." And as for the contestants, "if they are Muslims, they would know what the rules of Islam are and they should refrain from taking part," he adds.

Ahmed says calls to cancel the pageant are "intimidation tactics'' and won't deter her from going ahead. In Ottawa, where the event was staged for the past two years, police and security guards were stationed around a one-block perimeter of the venue.

The wife of Pakistan's High Commissioner to Canada, who was slated to be a judge in 2003, pulled out, as did several contestants, because of the protests.

Women can participate in such events only in the company of other women, so having men in the audience is a problem, says Katherine Bullock, spokesperson for the Islamic Society of North America. "Men are not supposed to look at women in a desiring way and anything that creates an environment where that would be happening is wrong," says Bullock, who was raised Anglican but converted to Islam and wears a hijab.

The pageant contradicts Islam's code of morality, says Husain Patel, imam at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.

"Women are degraded by being paraded in front of hundreds of men who are at liberty to cast their lustful gazes. I would urge my sisters to find better ways to compete against each other."

Others don't object on religious grounds, but they say a beauty pageant is a huge step backward and shows the Pakistani community as being out of touch with modern times.

"I consider myself a Muslim feminist and this bothers me," says Tarek Fatah, host of Muslim Chronicle , a weekly television show. "It trivializes women and objectifies them in a sexual context. As the father of daughters, I'm offended and disappointed."

At the same time Western society is moving away from such contests, Pakistani Canadians are holding one, so "in terms of social development, it's a regression," says Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. As a professor at the University of Waterloo, Elmasry lobbied to get rid of the Miss K-W Oktoberfest pageant a few years ago, for the same reasons.

The executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women calls the pageant a "sad commentary" on Pakistani Canadians. "They pretend it's to do with intelligence and poetry reading and so on ... but come on,'' says Alia Hogben. "It's a bit silly.''

But supporters say the pageant is a chance to showcase the talent in the local Pakistani community. "The girl who gets crowned will be an ambassador for the Pakistani community. It boosts self-confidence and opens doors for networking," says Qamar Sadiq, president of the Multicultural Society of Pakistani Canadians, who plans to attend the event.

"It's important that our youth, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, should blend into the mainstream, while still keeping their values, of course."

The pageant sends out a positive message, says Aftab Rizvi, a columnist in Akhbare , a Pakistani newspaper. "It helps to portray a moderate image of Pakistan. When you come to Canada, you can't practise 100 per cent of what you were doing back home. If people are opposed, they don't have to attend. Live and let live."

Back at rehearsal, contestants have their minds on other vital matters.

"No chewing gum,'' Ahmed tells them. ``That's the number one thing. Your mouths will be empty when you come on stage."

Despite the controversy, $75 tickets to the show are selling fast.

Winning the crown was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, gushes Cheema.

"It really spiced up my life,'' she says. "I felt like a queen for a year."


Miss Indonesia and her "swimsuit problem"


By Tessa Unsworth

BANGKOK Reuters - Artika Sari Devi, Indonesia's first Miss Universe hopeful in nine years, is a bit frustrated at all the fuss over her "swimsuit problem".

The 25-year-old petite law graduate would prefer to talk about children's rights or education issues. But she faced a barrage of questions on Friday about what she will wear for the swimsuit contest next week.

For the record, it's a one-piece.

"There is the controversy in Jakarta about what the Koran says and the newspapers are always discussing this and the swimsuit problem," Artika, dressed modestly in a white jacket, t-shirt and jeans, told Reuters Television.

"I respect the point of view but let's see if the swimsuit is a big problem. It's only a small part of the competition," she said during a pageant media event in the Thai capital.

Back home, conservative Islamic leaders in the world's most populous Muslim nation have expressed outrage over Indonesia's first participant in a Miss Universe pageant since former dictator Suharto imposed a ban in the 1990s on taking part in international beauty pageants.

The influential and largely conservative Indonesian Ulemas Council MUI said it may come up with a fatwa, or instruction, prohibiting Indonesian Muslim women from competing in the pageant in future.

"It's pornography, and for that it's haram," said Ma'aruf Amin, chief of the MUI's Fatwa Commission, using an Arabic word that means outlawed by Islam.

"This kind of pageant violates religious values, especially Islam, and Indonesia is known as a religious society, so one should not go into any activities that are not in line with religious values."

"We will talk about this, and the possibility is in that direction," he said of the chances for a fatwa, which holds moral weight in Indonesia but has no standing in law.

Despite the outrage, photos of Artika frolicking in her one-piece swimsuit in Thailand were splashed across the front pages of many major Indonesian newspapers on Friday.

Most of the other 80 Miss Universe contestants are likely to wear more revealing bikinis when they take the stage for the swimsuit parade next week.

"All the contestants have the choice. It's nothing new, it's always been a option," said pageant president Paula Shugart.

She said Artika's participation in the contest was her own personal choice and Shugart praised her for it.

"She is a lovely young woman and very proud of her country and very proud to have the opportunity to be able to talk about her country," she said


Miss England, a Muslim, defies bigots
Laura Peek
12/6/2005 - AGENCIES

Teenage beauty Hammasa Kohistani is used to being under fire. During a traumatic childhood in Afghanistan she dodged bullets and sheltered from bombs.

But despite taking refuge in UK and fulfilling a seemingly impossible dream, the flak is still flying.

When she steps up to the Miss World microphone on Saturday as the first Muslim Miss England, she will be doing so in the face of fierce resistance from within her own religion.

Hammasa, 18, was completely unprepared for the weight of criticism. Her mother Layla, 41, has received extremist hate mail including a religious curse known as an 'evil eye'.

More moderate Muslim leaders voiced objections as it is against the Quran to show naked flesh


Militant group targets Miss Indonesia

Jul 25, 2006

A militant Islamic group has filed a police report against Indonesia's Miss Universe candidate accusing her of indecency, a lawyer for the organisation said on Tuesday.

Nadine Chandrawinata's participation in the contest and display of her body in a swimsuit there "is actually insulting for Indonesian dignity and women", Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attorney Sugito told Reuters.

Chandrawinata did not make it to the finals of the Sunday competition in Los Angeles, which was won by Miss Puerto Rico, but she had drawn heavy media coverage in Indonesia, partly because of her mixed Indonesian-German parentage and Eurasian looks.

Sugito said FPI had also filed complaints against four people involved in sponsoring and organising Chandrawinata's participation.

"I am worried that Nadine is only victim of their ambition," he said.

Under Indonesian law, police would have to investigate whether there was sufficient evidence for a case under the complaint, and if so, turn their findings over to prosecutors for a decision on whether it merited going to court.

The offences involved carry potential sentences ranging from two to six years in jail, Sugito said, adding that the posing requirements of the competition offended the standards not just of Islam but other religions.

A government decree against participation in beauty contests issued when strongman Suharto was president  is still technically in effect in Indonesia, although in practice it has been disregarded since he lost power in 1998.

Some 85% of Indonesia's 220 million people follow Islam, making it the world's most populous Muslim country.

Although most Indonesian Muslims are considered relatively moderate and the government is officially secular, hard-line groups are becoming increasingly vocal and visible.

The result has been a tug-of-war in Indonesian politics over how much religious values should be reflected in law.

FPI has filed complaints with the police on other issues previously, while critics say it encourages such vigilante tactics as attacking bars selling alcohol during the Muslim fasting period.

An April protest organised by FPI against the Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine was marked by rock throwing and vandalism.     


Miss Indonesia Could Face Jail for her Bikini

As if it wasn't bad enough that she wasn't crowned Miss Universe, now a radical Muslim group is trying to send Miss Indonesia to the pokey for showing off what Allah gave her.

Nadine Chandrawinata might have looked like just another dazzling beauty to you on Sunday's pageant held at the Shrine, but some saw red when they tuned in and saw their Muslim sister in a bikini. Bikinis are taboo in Indonesian culture.

The Islamic Defenders Front filed a police report against Chandrawinata because of her clothing that is "actually insulting for Indonesian dignity and women," the organization's lawyer, Sugito, said today to Reuters.

On Friday a different lawyer for the group, Adnan Assegaf, proclaimed that they had ratted the young woman out to the cops. "We have reported Nadine Chandrawinata as she has harassed Indonesian women by appearing in vulgar poses at the Miss Universe 2006 contest on behalf of Indonesia," Assegaf said.

She also may have infringed on Indonesian Culture and Education Ministr`s Decree No.02/U/1984 which forbids the holding of beauty contests as they contradict religious and social values. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world.

The offences involved carry potential sentences ranging from two to six years in jail, Sugito said, adding that the posing requirements of the competition offended the standards not just of Islam but other religions.

A government decree against participation in beauty contests issued when strongman Suharto was president is still technically in effect in Indonesia, although in practice it has been disregarded since he lost power in 1998.