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Indonesian Muslim clerics: Cancel Miss World pageant

Published September 4, 2013 11:06 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Indonesian Muslim clerics are asking the government to cancel this month's Miss World pageant because Islam bars women from publicly "exposing their bodies in a contest."

The influential Indonesian Ulema Council held a top-level meeting in August to study the issue and decided the contest should not be held, even though pageant organizers agreed to allow contestants to wear wraparound sarongs instead of bikinis, said council Chairman Amidan Shaberah.

"Our position is clear, we reject Indonesia being the host of Miss World … because exposing their bodies in a contest is against Islamic teachings," Shaberah said on Aug. 26, according to The Associated Press.

The council is the country's highest Islamic authority and includes major, politically active, Muslim and Islamist religious organizations with millions of followers.

A senior council official told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the concession on bikinis was not enough and that the sarongs still expose too many body parts.

The council described its decision as a recommendation to the government and not an official demand or fatwa.

The council's decisions are not legally binding but do influence many people in Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Previously, the council tried to ban cigarette smoking and yoga, but met a mixed response among Indonesia's 240 million population, more than 80 percent of whom are Muslim.

Miss World has already started its monthlong September show, which includes events on Indonesia's only Hindu-majority island, Bali, and a final round on Sept. 28 near Jakarta, the country's capital on the island of Java.

Earlier in August, Indonesia's much-feared, hard-line Islamic Defenders Front vowed to stop the contest no matter where it is staged. "The Miss World pageant is only an excuse to exhibit women's body parts," front leader, Riziek Shihab, said according to the AP.

"We are obliged to disband it if the government allows it to be held in any region of Indonesia."

Previously, the front has also thrown rocks at Western embassies during rallies and fought with rival religious organizations in an effort to force Indonesia's moderate Muslim society to adopt Shariah law.

Last year, Lady Gaga canceled her sold-out show after she was denounced as a "devil worshipper" by the front.

Miss World may face less opposition in Bali, because the island's population is mostly Hindu and welcomes foreign tourists and other international influences.