CAIRO – A beauty pageant for hijab-clad Muslim women who can recite the holy Qur’an in Arabic and participate in the welfare of their society has been held in West Jakarta to choose Muslims’ ‘Miss Universe’.
“It’s the first online Islamic beauty contest in the world,’’ Eka Shanty, executive director of the nonprofit Indonesia Islamic Fashion Consortium, which organized the event, told The Jakarta Globe.
“In the Miss Universe contests, the candidates parade their bodies in revealing dresses,” Eka added.
“But in this contest, they’re all covered. Not an inch of skin shows, except for their faces and hands.”
Coming to Puri Agung Grand Ballroom in West Jakarta last Week, 10 young women wearing colorful hijabs and dresses sat on the floor to recite the verses of the holy Qur’an.
These young women were all finalists of Muslimah Beauty 2011, a beauty pageant held for young Muslim women in Indonesia which aims to recognize the beauty and potential of young women who wear hijabs.
Coming through a long way, the contest began by online registration on social media Web site DetikForum.com.
The contest required Muslim Indonesian women between the ages of 18 and 24, over 165 centimeters in height, who don hijab, could recite Qur’an in Arabic and was fluent in another foreign language.
“The registration method was very effective,” said Arifin Asydhad, the Web site’s deputy editor in chief.
“We received 1,170 registrations from almost every part of Indonesia.”
Candidates from different areas in Indonesia were first shortlisted to 50 based on their physical appearance, achievements and educational background.
Ten finalists were selected and placed under “quarantine” at Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel in Central Jakarta .
“We call the quarantine period Manasik Kecantikan Hati [rituals for inner beauty],” Eka said.
“During this period, all candidates performed sholat tahajud [early morning prayer] at 3 am and studied the Qur’an together.”
Trotting in their colorful hijab, contestants’ beauty was more than just a pretty face.
“In my opinion, true beauty comes from the inside,” Dika Restiyani, the winner of the beauty pageant, said.
“A truly beautiful woman is someone who benefits and inspires other people.”
Restiyani studies at the Nanyang Technological University.
She also manages, along with a group of friends, Pelangi Anak Negeri (Children of the Nation’s Rainbow), an organization that provides education for street children in South Jakarta.
Another finalist, Kholifah Nuzulia Firdausy, works as an architect in Malang, East Java. She also runs a library for disadvantaged children in the area.
Most of the finalists said they have been wearing the hijab since they were young.
“I feel comfortable in a hijab,” said finalist Shayma Faisal Abri, who started donning hijab when she was 6.
“It protects me from exposure to matahari [sunlight] and mata laki-laki [men’s eyes],” the 18-year-old added with a smile.
Reaching the final stage, the finalists represented role models for Indonesian women who observe their religion.
“They’re the heroines of Indonesian Muslim women,” said Edy Putra Irawady, the deputy minister for trade and industry.
“They’re all very young, yet they possess great talents and huge potential. They should be the role models and benchmarks for Indonesian Muslim women.”
Eka, the executive director of the nonprofit Indonesia Islamic Fashion Consortium, agrees.
“The winners will be the fashion and beauty icons of young Muslim women in Indonesia,” Eka said.
“They’ll also represent Indonesian Muslim women to the world at large.
The event is also expected to draw the attention of all Muslim world, being held in the country with the largest Muslim population
“Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world,” Eka explained.
“That’s why it should also be the Mecca for Muslim beauty and fashion in the world.”