(RNS) Indonesian Muslim clerics are asking the government to cancel this month’s Miss World pageant because Islam prohibits women from publicly “exposing their bodies in a contest.”

The Miss World Competition

The Miss World Competition photo courtesy Miss World

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The influential Indonesian Ulema Council held a top-level meeting in August to study the issue and decided the contest should not be held, even though pageant organizers agreed to allow contestants to wear wraparound sarongs instead of bikinis, said council Chairman Amidan Shaberah.

“Our position is clear, we reject Indonesia being the host of Miss World … because exposing their bodies in a contest is against Islamic teachings,” Shaberah said on August 26, according to The Associated Press.

The council is the country’s highest Islamic authority and includes major, politically active, Muslim and Islamist religious organizations with millions of followers.

A senior council official told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the concession on bikinis was not enough, and that the sarongs still expose too many body parts.

The council described its decision as a recommendation to the government, and not an official demand or fatwa.

The council’s decisions are not legally binding but do influence many people in Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Previously, the council tried to ban cigarette smoking and yoga, but met a mixed response among Indonesia’s 240 million population, more than 80 percent of whom are Muslim.

Miss World has already started its month-long September show, which includes events on Indonesia’s only Hindu-majority island, Bali, and a final round on Sept. 28 near Jakarta, the country’s capital on the island of Java.

Earlier in August, Indonesia’s much-feared, hardline Islamic Defenders Front vowed to stop the contest no matter where it is staged. “The Miss World pageant is only an excuse to exhibit women’s body parts,” front leader, Riziek Shihab, said according to the Associated Press.

“We are obliged to disband it if the government allows it to be held in any region of Indonesia.”

Previously, the front has also thrown rocks at Western embassies during rallies, and fought with rival religious organizations in an effort to force Indonesia’s moderate Muslim society to adopt Shariah law.

Last year, Lady Gaga cancelled her sold-out show after she was denounced as a “devil worshipper” by the front.

Miss World may face less opposition in Bali, because the island’s population is mostly Hindu and welcomes foreign tourists and other international influences.



  1. Laurence Charles Ringo

    It pains me to say this,but if I were to advise the Indonesian government,I would urge them to give heed to the ominous warnings of these so-called”hardliners”. There is no doubt that they have shown themselves all too willing to engage in violence and even murder to achieve their aims,and the safety and wellbeing of these young women must be given the utmost consideration. The sad part about this situation is that these would be deprived of displaying their pride in their many accomplishments because of the misogynistic cowardice of a few weak-willed men!! Shameful,and it says a lot about Islam’s inability to convey any genuine spiritual power to its adherents. I’m constantly amazed at this religion’s unwillingness or inability to deal equitably with its female followers. What exactly ISd the problem Islam has with women and girls??

    • Please do not say such things about a religion you do not know much about. I myself, as a female Muslim, approve of the choice they made. In Islam we believe that we should cover ourselves for modesty, as well as so women do not display their beauty to men other than their husbands. Just so you know, men also are applied to the rules of modesty, even if it is not as harsh. Islam does not have a problem with women and girls.

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