While Indonesians continue to debate the appropriateness of holding Miss World in their country, a rival event made headlines this week.
Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a contestant from Nigeria, won the World Muslimah pageant, which is open to Muslim women only. The competition finals took place at the Balai Sarbini concert hall in Jakarta on Wednesday (September 18th).
"I was very surprised to be chosen," Obabiyi told reporters after the event. "I never thought I would win. My expectations were low in this contest. I just wanted to show the world that Islam is beautiful. This is the happiest moment in my life."
She received free tickets to Mecca and India, along with an additional cash prize of $2,200. The 21 year-old knelt down and recited Qur'anic verses when the judges announced her name as the winner.
Obabiyi, meanwhile, says she will work to promote Islam internationally and to help popularise the hijab, or Islamic headscarf. "Hopefully, this can be an inspiration for Muslims," she said.
The teachings of the Prophet Muhammad have become influential in her home country of Nigeria, according to Obabiyi. "Lots of people are interested in these teachings, and I think it will add to the Muslim population there," she said.
A Muslim approach to beauty and elegance
According to contest founder Eka Shanty, who is CEO of the World Muslim Foundation, the event is an opportunity to show young Muslims from all over the world that Muslim women can still look elegant and beautiful while adhering to Islamic norms.
Eka, who launched the pageant three years ago after losing her job as a TV news anchor because she refused to remove the hijab, said the contest centers around three attributes: style, intelligence and being a good Muslim.
"This year we deliberately held our event before the finals of Miss World to show that there is an alternative role model for Muslim women," she told Khabar Southeast Asia after finals.
Jameyah Sheriff, an education expert from Malaysia, was a member of the contest jury. "What I'm looking for is a strong personality," he said. "Somebody with a strong vision of the future, which will give something to the community and show that beauty is not just about the body."
Jakarta residents who spoke with Khabar said events such as this are a good way to spread the message of Islam. "It showed to the whole world that Muslim women have character," said Sulistiyowati Sutanto, a graduate student from Muhammadiyah University in Jakarta, adding that the recent emergence of Muslim fashion is leading more women to adopt the hijab.
"I think the Miss World Muslimah is a god opportunity for Muslims who are interested in fashion. As a Muslim I do not think that we should not love fashion. We can still be respectful of the messages of the Qur'an [while still enjoying] this fashion show," Sulistiyowati said.