Miss World and Indonesian Islamists

Posted on September 20, 2013 by


My initial thoughts for my post here were fueled by the recent Miss America racism. I wanted to find some bigot, probably on Fox News, and continue the tradition of decent people telling the racists to shut up. Then as I thought more, I figured I wanted to go further. I want to provide something new to the discourse and I wanted to talk about something positive instead of negative. What I came up with will be presented in two parts, an article that deserves attention alongside everything said about Miss America and the news source where I found said article.

While Miss America faces controversy, the Miss World competition in Indonesia is also under fire. According to Richard S. Ehrlich and Religion News Service, Islamists are protesting the competition on religious grounds. To the protesters, the Miss World competition flies in the face of Muslim tradition, including the importance of modesty. Instead of addressing the topic, the pageant was moved to Bali, a predominately Hindu island in Indonesia, so that there would be “less chance of confrontation with Islamists.” This is a controversy worthy of discussion. People have no right to question the legitimacy of Miss America. However, whether or not a beauty pageant should be held in a Muslim majority country is a good question.

To further contrast the Miss America rhetoric, the response of Islamists to Miss World is in many ways more sober. Eka Shanti is the founder of Muslimah World, a pageant designed to exemplify a pious Muslim woman. She says that, ““We don’t just want to shout ‘no’ to Miss World, we’d rather show our children they have choices. Do you want to be like the women in Miss World? Or like those in Muslimah World?” Much of the Miss America hatred being thrown around is aimed at Muslims. Eka Shanti is a prime example of how a Muslim can face a controversial issue and respond in a more human way.

The above quote is taken from the article on religionnews.com. This is a news source that I didn’t know anything about until today. Their stated goal is to provide an authoritative source of news related to religion in an informative and non-sectarian way. From what little I have seen of their work, they do exactly that. Right away I am struck by how the site is divided. There were many organizational schemes that the news source could have chosen. Possible examples include dividing by region and dividing by religion. Instead of these choices, however, the categories are: politics, culture, beliefs, institutions, and ethics. There are many aspects of, and surrounding, religion. By splitting the website up in this way, Religion News Service shows that they consider these aspects important. It is reassuring to see thought has been put into a story more than just whether it is Christian, Muslim, etc…

To me, another telling portion of a website is what ads they have chosen. Ads can show a particular bias or viewpoint. On religionnews.com there are ads for scholarships in religious journalism and for religious research. These bolster the image of an informative and non-sectarian news source. Notably, there is also an ad for Share International. I’m not here to judge Share International but it does provide a certain viewpoint. If Religion News Service really wants to remain unbiased and give ad space to this group, they then have to give ad space to every point of view. I don’t think full inclusion of every point of view is possible for anyone.  On the whole, I am glad to have discovered this source. Religion News Service provides informative, international, religious news in a responsible way. I urge any reader of this to check it out.

Posted in: Islam