Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Bikinis have been banned at this year's Miss World Pageant, the popular international beauty contest and showcase that opens the door to the world of entertainment and fashion. The 2013 edition is scheduled for September in Bali and Bogor, a controversial choice opposed by local Islamists, backed by some in government and civil society, who want it stopped because contrary to Muslim principles and morality.
To avoid incidents and prevent the cancellation of the event, which is what happened to a concert by pop icon Lady Gaga considered too sexy for Islamists, pageant organisers decided to upset no one. In lieu of the usual bathing suits, contestants will wear a traditional "sarong" (length of silk or cotton fabric, wrapped around the waist, worn by men and women) when they are on the stage.
In recent weeks, the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) led a moralisation campaign for the cancellation of the contest, issuing warnings and threats against the event. Such a position reflects a broadly held view in Indonesian society, including moderate politicians like Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo, who said that the bikini was "inconsistent" with Indonesian values.
In view of such reactions, Miss World Pageant president Julia Morley made some "adjustments" to the contest, so that all 137 contestants will wear a sarong.
Bali, a famous tourist resort favoured in the West, is one of the scheduled venues for the pageant. Here, wearing a bikini or going topless has never been a big deal. However, the same cannot be said about Bogor, the main site of the contest, scene of frequent Islamist acts of violence and abuse. Over the past few years for example, Islamists and local authorities have put pressures on local Christians, forcing the closure of the GKI Yasmin Protestant Church.
Similarly, in the past few years, Indonesian authorities have repeatedly given in to pressures by the MUI, which acts as the custodian of the nation's "manners and morals". One example is Aceh, a province ruled by Islamic radicals, where women cannot wear tight pants or skirts.
In March 2011, the MUI lashed out at flag-raising, claiming that "Muhammad never did it". Before that, it issued anathemas against yoga, smoking, and the right to vote, particularly for women, as well as Facebook, the popular social networking service it deems "amoral".