World Muslimah pageant mesmerises Jakartans

The World Muslimah pageant is not your usual beauty contest.

For a start, the three Bs of Miss World - brains, beauty and behavior - have been replaced by the three Ss: sholehah (piousness), smart and stylish.

The grand final of the third World Muslimah peagant at Balai Sarbini in South Jakarta on Wednesday also began uniquely - with the women reciting verses from the Koran before strutting down the stage, wearing loosely fitting outfits and veils instead of revealing gowns.

While some of the women paraded with a model's confidence, others were more awkward as they tottered by in glittering high heels and long gowns.

Thankfully, however, the contestants managed to complete the fashion segment without any tumbles - although some of the women wound up missing their marks.

At the end of the evening, 21-year-old Obabiyi Aisha Ajibola from Nigeria was named Miss World Muslimah 2013, taking over the "Crown of Modesty" from last year's winner, Nina Septiani of Indonesia.

Ajibola could not hide her excitement, kneeling and bowing her head to touch the ground, when presenters Dewi Sandra and Arie Untung said that she won.

Ajibola edged out Noor Aspasia from Indonesia as determined by the children of 100 orphanages who were the honorary judges of the contest.

"First of all, I want to read Al-Fatihah," Ajibola said after receiving the crown. "I'm hoping I can inspire other women in my country, or maybe in Africa, about the use of hijab, because they don't know how to wear the hijab well," Ajibola told reporters after the show.

The student from Lagos University, who is also a motivational speaker for teenagers and a fashion designer, defeated 19 other finalists. She will receive an all-expenses-paid opportunity to complete the umroh, or minor haj pilgrimage, as her prize.

One of four formal jury members, presenter and lecturer Sandrina Malakiano, said that the judge thought that Ajibola deserved to win because she met the criteria of the three Ss.

"The result is interesting and proves that this event is bigger than we thought - showing that not only those from Indonesia who can win the contest. We must be fair," Sandrina said.

Sandrina said that she hoped that Ajibola could continue the struggle of every Muslim woman and could enrich herself with Islamic values and spread them to Muslim women around the world.

Other members of the jury comprised actress Inneke Koesherawati, Puan Jameeya from Malaysia and Farhana Ahmed.

Of the 20 semi-finalists, 14 were from Indonesia, while the others came from Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria, Iran and Bangladesh.

Only 10 continued to the next round, facing questions from the panel of judges revolving around the role of a Muslim women, their stances on working and stay-at-home mothers, their contributions to the society and their efforts to protect their future children from the negative aspects of technology.

"The Koran has everything," said Mousameh Ebrahimi of Iran. "If I stick to it, there is nothing to worry about the threats of technology. I want them to also be skillful and knowledgeable, too."

The judges then decided upon five finalists to continue to the final round: Ajibola, Noor from West Java, Evawani Efliza from Aceh, Futri Virginia from Jakarta and Mousameh.

Before announcing the winner, the hosts asked them to choose one questions about fashion, fundamental education, Islamic finance, food or Islamic tourism prepared by the committee.

The contest also had several special awards, such as the Most Inspiring Video, Most Talented and, of course, Best Koranic Presentation.

Eka Shanti, the founder of World Muslimah, said that hundreds of Muslim women between 18 and 27 from Indonesia, Australian, Egypt, Nigeria and Timor Leste have participated in the contest since 2011.

All candidates were fluent in reading the Koran, had academic, sports and cultural achievements and wore a hijab in their daily lives.

After they were chosen, contestants went through a series of tests that included Koran recitation, vocational courses in IT and learning the art of wearing make-up during the quarantine process.

"The event is to give a chance for Muslim women to express their potential within and to inspire other young women," Eka said.

The World Muslimah contest was organized a riposte to the Miss World pageant, which invited protests by some groups of conservative Muslims that demanded its cancellation on the grounds of its alleged "un-Islamic" nature.

The 63rd edition of the Miss World pageant opened on Sept. 8. The contest's winner will be named on Sept. 28 in the Hindu-dominated province of Bali. Government plans to hold the grand final in Sentul International Convention Center, West Java, were scrapped after protests from the groups.