Finalists Miss Malaysia World 2013: Malaysian Muslim Women banned from Pageant

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articlePETALING JAYA: The four Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty contest finalists, who were dropped following criticism by a mufti that their participation is “sinful”, are outraged that local Muslim women are facing discrimination based on religion.

They said the decision was uncalled for as other Muslim nations such as Indonesia — where the Miss World pageant will be held in September — do not forbid Muslim women from participating in beauty contests.

They are furious their chance to live out their dream has been crushed.

The four — Wafa Johanna De Korte, 19, Sara Amelia Muhamad Bernard, 20, Miera Sheikh, 19, and Kathrina Ridzuan, 23 — were among 20 finalists selected in a closed-door interview session in Kuala Lumpur on July 12.

A disappointed Wafa Johanna told The Malay Mail yesterday: “I thought finally Muslims were being allowed to join the quest and represent Malaysia.

“I thought it’ll be okay because the finals will be held in Muslim-majority Indonesia.

“I would not be wearing swimsuits or bikinis that would expose my skin but instead would be wearing sports attire.”

Referring to a 1996 fatwa against Muslim participation in beauty contests, Wafa Johanna said it was disappointing that after 17 years the perspective about Muslim women “is still out there”.

She said: “This pageant is not about how sexy or how attractive you are, but it’s about how poised a woman is to represent a country.

“I hope things will start changing and that views about Muslim participation in this pageant will change. Malay women must have the opportunity to take part in such high-profile contests and not be discriminated against based on religion.”

‘Why not ban Muslim women from gymnastics, swimming?’

Sara Amelia, who shares Wafa Johanna’s sentiments, said she was totally shocked and disappointed at being dropped.

“We were told we were allowed to enter the contest as we would not be revealing any parts of our body, but our personalities.

“If they are going to ban us from this, why don’t they ban Muslim women who represent the country in gymnastics and swimming?” she asked.

Sara Amelia said the 1996 fatwa has to be reviewed to allow Muslims to take part in beauty pageants.

She said: “I’m of mixed-parentage and I can’t help that I’m born a Muslim. I don’t have any prejudice against my religion, but to be disqualified from a pageant for that reason is just ridiculous.

“Miss World is internationally renowned and anyone representing the country brings honour to Malaysia.”

Miera and Kathrina were not available for comment.

Meanwhile, the official pageant licensee and organiser Datuk Anna Lim said all four young Muslim women were initially admitted — despite a 1996 fatwa against Muslim participation in beauty pageants — following changes in clothing and the women’s racial backgrounds.

The first reason was that the Miss World pageant will be held in Indonesia and Muslim contestants would not have to wear swimming costumes on stage.

“The Muslim contestants were also supposed to wear long pants on the final night (of the pageant),” said Lim.

She said even then, the judges were cautious in selecting the four to be among the 20 finalists of the pageant.

“But the girls are also very beautiful and are of mixed parentage. One is German-mixed, two are English-mixed and one is Arab-mixed,” she said.

Lim said she informed the press that the four were dropped after it was reported that Federal Territories Mufti Wan Zahidi Wan Teh had raised the issue of the fatwa.

“As Malaysia is a multi-racial country, we have to show respect to the Muslim community,” said Lim.

She said there were now 15 finalists and the finals will be on August 2 in Kuala Lumpur. “But the four girls are very disappointed.”