Before you ask if there’s a swimsuit competition, you should know that the Miss World Muslimah pageant is about much more than superficial definitions of beauty.
As Islam tends to place a high value on modesty, this contest focuses less on beauty’s physical aspects and more on its ideational ones: in this pageant, strength of character, intelligence, and piety matter most.
Unlike American beauty pageants, orphans–not celebrities or beauty experts–help choose the winners of Miss Muslimah. Like American beauty pageants, travel and minimal sleep largely define the contestants’ days in the pageant. As with their Western counterparts, the young participants in the Miss Muslimah competition hail from a variety of backgrounds and ages. In the past, winners have received prizes such as a pilgrimage to the Hajj, educational trips around the world, and scholarships.
World Muslimah Foundation organizes the competition, which was first held in 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. At that point in time, it was only open to Indonesians, but the pageant has since internationalized. Before entering the World Muslim competition, the 20 finalists must take part in a workshop in Jakarta, which includes Quran memorization, and classes on public speaking, humanitarianism, and women’s development.
As with any platform which places competitive value on women’s beauty, there is some debate on just what kind of Muslim woman this pageant is promoting–and if that woman is “empowered” at all. On the one hand, the headscarf–which isn’t abandoned by pageant participants–is seen by some as an object which diminishes the woman’s autonomy; on the other, that World Muslimah Foundation would host a competition in the first place is seen by some as antagonistic to the virtues of Muslim faith.
Learn more about the competition and participants below and make up your mind for yourself: