Probe against Miss Malaysia-World finalists for allegedly insulting Islam

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - The Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) has launched an investigation against the four Muslim Miss Malaysia-World finalists as they are deemed to have insulted Islam.

Its director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali said Jawi's enforcement unit would look into the matter following a Malay daily's report that the girls were bent on taking part in the beauty pageant despite an edict by the National Fatwa Council prohibiting it.

"Based on the report, the participants had expressed their disappointment with the fatwa that was gazetted on Feb 8, 1996, under the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) 1993," he said in a statement yesterday.

According to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, the fatwa explicitly states that participating, organising or contributing to any sort of beauty contest is haram (not permissible) and a sin for Muslims.

Jamil Khir maintained that there was nothing strange about the action, adding that "the fatwa is for every Muslim to observe."

The daily reported yesterday that one of the contestants, Sara Amelia Muhammad Bernard, 20, expressed her disappointment, though she was aware that Muslims were not allowed to enter beauty pageants.

"The organisers informed me that we were allowed to join because we would be wearing sportswear instead of swimming attire," she said.

Fellow disqualified contestant Wafa Johanna De Korte, 19, was also disappointed.

"I would be honoured to continue vying for the title if I still have the chance," she was quoted as saying, while adding that she was nonetheless touched that the organisers recognised their potential.

According to Che Mat, Jawi will carry out investigations under Section 7 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997.

"If we find sufficient evidence for further investigation, they will be charged in the Syariah Court," he said.

Those found guilty can be fined up to RM3,000 (S$1,190.52), jailed up to two years, or both.

Pageant organiser Datuk Anna Lim said that although the girls have been disqualified, they are still allowed to attend the event as guests.

"They will not be in the pageant until and unless the Federal Territories mufti allows it."