Miss World competition sucessfully driven out of Jakarta

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Indonesian Islamists denounce Miss World

Organisers say the show will go on despite Indonesian Islamic groups protests against the Miss World 2013 beauty pageant in Bali.

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Sometimes a “controversy” comes along that seems so fated to have been a complete circus from the word go that you wonder why anybody involved is surprised at what has unfolded.

This week’s (year’s?) winners of the What Did You Expect? trophy has to be the organisers of the Miss World pageant, who seemed flummoxed by the fact that their attempt to hold the parade of babes in Jakarta was met with outrage and protests from many hard-line Muslims.

Hundreds of protesters, a large number of them women, set upon the headquarters of the local organisers, MNC, waving banners that read “Reject Miss World” and “Go To Hell Miss World”, and burning effigies of the contest’s organisers. News that the “beachwear” segment would feature traditional sarongs instead of bikinis did not soothe the growing protests.

Miss World contestants from left to right: Miss Indonesia, Miss Cameroon, Miss Australia, Miss Jamaica, Miss Lebanon, ...

Miss World contestants from left to right: Miss Indonesia, Miss Cameroon, Miss Australia, Miss Jamaica, Miss Lebanon, Miss Philippines, Miss Puerto Rico and Mrs. Liliana Tanoesoedibjo, the head of the Miss Indonesia contest attend the opening press conference during the 2013 Miss World Pageant last week in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Photo: Ed Wray

“I think there is a misunderstanding, I assure that there will be nothing that runs against our culture. I would not accept if there was a bikini show,” Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of MNC, said before the entire contest was moved to Bali (a locale that has a lower hard-line Islamic presence and is, arguably, not unfamiliar with people in swimsuits).


Inevitably, certain corners of the media attempted to play a witless game of oppression olympics with the news (“Bikinis are more oppressive than hijabs!” “No, Muslim women are more oppressed than beauty queens!!” “All you bastards ruined Christmas!”), as though women’s liberation and/or oppression is a strict binary in which there are only two options: everyone get their rack out, or everyone cover up from head to toe.

Some commentators even tried to spin the fact that the contestants would be wearing sarongs as some sort of blow to feminism. Witness the point flying past Dr Brooke Magnanti in The Telegraph: “Personally, I'd love to see bikinis on more women, not fewer. We are so often ashamed of our bodies and think going for a dip on a hot summer's day is something that need to be dieted and exercised for, as if the enjoyment of cooling off is only for the thin and the young. Why not be comfortable and stylish if a bikini's what you fancy?”

Members of the conservative islamic group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI as it is known in Indonesia) protests ...

Members of the conservative islamic group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI as it is known in Indonesia) protests against the upcoming Miss World competition which will be held in Indonesia starting this week on September 3, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Ed Wray

Nobody’s talking about bikinis on everyday women, Dr Magnanti, and it doesn’t need to be said that any person should feel free to display their body whichever way they choose. However, the idea that exposing the body is a handy conduit to liberation is a tiresome one.

Mainstream feminism’s long-held notion that all Muslim women are oppressed and require saving remains a thorn in the side of its more positive work. Look to the “surprising” news that bare-breasted anti-Islam group FEMEN, celebrated by many white feminists as righteous warriors for equality, was masterminded by a man who “hand-picked the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls sell more papers” for a recent bloodcurdling example.

(Additionally, coverage painting the protests - that were peaceful - as some sort of example of aggressive Islamic rhetoric, or suggesting that clerics must have forced those poor women to protest, does a grave disservice to the agency of the women who chose to, as their signs read, reject Miss World and embrace Islam.)

I have no beef with the women who enter pageants; they are just as free to wear bedazzled swimsuits as other women should be to wear the burqa, hijab or niqab. Rather, I wonder - time and time again - why the pageants themselves still exist. 

Despite the fact that Miss World, by its very name, claims to be a celebration of global beauty (to say nothing of Miss Universe’s interstellar aspirations), these high-profile pageants present a very Westernised ideal of beauty; there may be entrants who don’t quite fit the narrow spectrum of what is dictated as beautiful - perhaps they are tall, thin and big busted and/but dark-skinned - but they rarely win. What does that say to young girls who happen to watch these pageants on TV (as they are regular prime-time fodder) whose bodies and skin colours are unlikely to mature into pageant-fodder?

And why aren’t we angrier about that?




  • i myself is indonesian. but i realised this is the main issue with my country. this is why indonesia is less likely to grow. the people are too conservative and it is very hard for them to accept different culture. consequently, tourists feel apprehensive to visit. i think they should learn to challenge themselves to see the world in a different way and in wider perspective. therefore, it might bring more peaceful live for themselves. appreciate the beauty, ignore the negatives, think positively.

    Date and time
    September 09, 2013, 9:43AM
    • I am surprised that the miss world organizers even considered Indonesia as an option for hosting the competition. It is a deeply, fundamentalist religious society based on Islam and what on earth made them think they won't face any troubles in hosting a competition where women wear bikinis and swim suits. The only exception to Indonesia is Bali, where the predominant population(85% of the population) practice Hindu religion and no surprises they moved the pageant there. However, If the Indonesian government has its way, they may decide to ban there as well!

      Date and time
      September 09, 2013, 10:21AM
      • No Prince, Indonesia is NOT "a deeply, fundamentalist religious society based on Islam". Your statement is simply false. Indonesia has a secular constitution, based on Pancasila (the five principles), which includes democracy and freedom of religion, and officially recognises several religions, including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. The vast majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderate, not fundamentalist. There are several parts of Indonesia where the majority are not Muslim, not just Bali. And anyone who has watched Dangdut concerts and other music shows knows that sexy clothes, including bikinis, are frequently worn by dancers at these events. Yes Indonesians are conservative, but that applies to Indonesian members of all religions, not just Islam. But Indonesia has a problem dealing with this vocal minority of fundamentalist Muslims who are quite willing to resort to vigilante type violence, and they get away with it because they have sympathisers in the parliament and the police force. There are so many positives in Indonesia society, like the remarkably quick transition to genuine democracy, but unfortunately these positives are often overshadowed by a few big negatives, like corruption and the activities of fundamentalist Muslim minority, which get more media attention. But losing what even many westerners would consider the rather cringe worthy Miss World pageant is hardly something that should cause anyone any great concern.

        Date and time
        September 09, 2013, 12:43PM
      • Typical commenter that has no idea how Indonesia politics works.

        Infonesia is NOT an Islamic fundamentalist society. It is a society that runs on money.
        Example: Alcohol (beer, mixed drink) is available in super markets and 7-11
        Alcohol is available even during Ramadan (not as overt as other months, but it is still easily procured)
        Look at Jakarta's nightlife and see if it screams Fundamentalist society

        MNC Media group is among the most powerful and wealthiest local corporations in Indonesia, and its CEO is running as a vice president in next year's election. So if they want to make it happen in Jakarta they will make it happen. But again, as much as I love Jakarta, it is not be in anyone's beautiful city list. Since that is the case moving it to Bali make a lot of sense.

        These hardliners islamist? They're the local equivalent of the Tea Party in USA and well Australia First party in OZ. They are nutters that bring shame to the country, they scream the loudest, but hardly representative

        Date and time
        September 09, 2013, 1:24PM
      • As far as Islamic countries go, Indonesia is pretty liberal (it even had a Christian President). There are pockets of fanatacism, but it's generally pretty relaxed. The question really should be, why are people still holding these ridiculous beauty pageants at all?

        Date and time
        September 09, 2013, 1:49PM
    • So do you see the irony..

      As a modern society, it's obvious Miss World is a throw back to chauvinistic attitudes that although we all cringe and moan at the ridiculous nature of choosing one woman over others.

      But it took a backward minded bunch of Muslims to get rid of this show from their country.. LOL...oh the irony!!!!

      Date and time
      September 09, 2013, 10:38AM
      • this is to show that they still live in the stone ages.

        Date and time
        September 09, 2013, 10:40AM
        • Who? Indonesia or the organisers of the beauty pageant?

          Date and time
          September 09, 2013, 1:50PM
      • Why are they still peddling this pointless pageant!! Ban it everywhere!

        Miss Unwordly
        Date and time
        September 09, 2013, 11:49AM
        • "What does that say to young girls who happen to watch these pageants on TV (as they are regular prime-time fodder) whose bodies and skin colours are unlikely to mature into pageant-fodder?"

          I'd like to see science shows with people like Stephen Hawking banned, and that damn Lawrence Krauss. I've no hope of ever reaching their level of brilliance. How dare they. How many kids will go on to obtain a PHD in theoretical physics when they're 17. Am I a failure if I don't?

          My sarcastically worded point is that there are always people who will be good at specific things. Hiding them away and getting angry at there being ways in which they can demonstrate that superiority is a terrible idea unless you only want to ever see homogenised mediocrity.

          Tim the Toolman
          Date and time
          September 09, 2013, 11:59AM

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