INDONESIA - As the Miss World 2013 hopefuls relaxed in Nusa Dua, the news filtered through that the final, scheduled to be held in Sentul, West Java, later this month, had been cancelled by the government, seemingly bowing to hard-line demands.
The news, announced on the eve of the opening ceremony, was made by Coordinating People's Welfare Minister Agung Laksono, who said that all of the pageant events would now be held in Bali.
Originally only the first two weeks would have been on the island, before moving en masse to Jakarta for a further fortnight, climaxing with the final on Sept. 28. The government seems not care about the logistics or the financial impact, and has shown no concern about the thousands of tourists who will suffer severe disruptions as a consequence, or the hotels in Jakarta losing business.
The event has seen protests from some Muslim groups and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) weighed in with what some suggest is misplaced support for the radicals' position. The televised protests have appeared small suggesting little support, hence the organizers' shock. Perhaps the protestors were confident that at the final hour the government would again buckle?
The National Police chief, Gen. Timur Pradopo, and Tourism and Creative Economy Deputy Minister Sapta Nirwandar have stressed repeatedly this was not another capitulation to the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). Sapta, in an animated interview, said that, "There is no way that the government is afraid of any hard-liners." It is however quite difficult to see it any other way.
The basic premise for cancellation seems to be that it is against Indonesian norms, being immoral and not in line with Islamic teachings. I cannot comment on Islamic teachings but I can comment on norms and morality.
Travel through Indonesia and see a huge variance of social and cultural attributes; the diversity is unrivalled. There are places like Banda Aceh with an Arabic flavor, while in contrast many cosmopolitan areas seem almost Western. In places such as Kalimantan, Bali or Madura, the diversity takes yet another turn; so whose norm are we referring to?
Possibly the most contradictory aspect is in relation to Indonesian traditional female dress. The Javanese kebaya, as an example, tends to be figure hugging and often worn with scraped hair and heavy make-up; it is a picture of sensuality.