JAKARTA - The Miss World beauty contest, which has attracted fierce opposition by hardline Islamic groups in host country Indonesia, is now facing another challenge - a rival pageant exclusively for Muslims.
The Muslimah World contest to be held on Wednesday in Jakarta is "Islam's answer to Miss World", the pageant's founder Eka Shanti said Saturday.
"Muslimah World is a beauty pageant, but the requirements are very different from Miss World - you have to be pious, be a positive role model and show how you balance a life of spirituality in today's modernised world," Eka said.
The pageant is the latest backlash against Miss World, which has already dropped the bikini from its beach fashion round and has attracted more than a month of protests by Muslim hardliners demanding the show be scrapped.
The 20 Muslimah World finalists were chosen from more than 500, who took part in online rounds, reciting Quranic verses and telling stories of how they came to wear the Islamic headscarf, a requirement for the pageant.
The finalists, from Iran, Malaysia, Brunei, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Indonesia, will parade Islamic fashions in what Eka said is an opportunity to show young Muslim women they do not need to show their "immodest" parts - including their hair and bare shoulders - to be beautiful.
But Eka said she did not support hardliners' calls to cancel the Miss World contest, acknowledging that Indonesia was a diverse country with many faiths.
"We don't just want to shout 'no' to Miss World. We'd rather show our children they have choices. Do you want to be like the women in Miss World? Or like those in Muslimah World?" Eka said.