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Religious fury alters Miss World in Indonesia

By Kathy Quiano and Madison Park, CNN
updated 3:42 AM EDT, Fri September 27, 2013
The top 10 Miss World contestants pose during the modeling event at the convention center in Indonesia's resort island of Bali on September 24.The Miss World finals were held Saturday, September 28, after weeks of protests from Muslim hardliners. The top 10 Miss World contestants pose during the modeling event at the convention center in Indonesia's resort island of Bali on September 24.The Miss World finals were held Saturday, September 28, after weeks of protests from Muslim hardliners.
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Miss World sparks controversy
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Radical Islamic groups protest Miss World 2013 Contest
  • They decry it as pornography and degrading to women
  • Contest scraps swimsuit contest and moves final round to Bali

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) -- Demeaning, exploitative, degrading. Beauty pageants have been called lots of things.

And it's also the line coming from Islamic hardliners, who are protesting this year's Miss World Contest, which is held in the most populous Muslim nation in the world.

Protesters in Indonesia denounce the contest where women sashay in swimsuits and form-fitting evening wear, calling it insulting to Muslims and triggering threats of violence.

Islamic groups urged the government to shut the contest down. Hardliners burned signs featuring the image of last year's winner Wenxia Yu of China that read "Reject Miss World." They also presented what they deemed as appropriate attire for beauty contestants -- long dresses and full head scarves.

"It's only beauty, beauty and beauty, but also body, body and body, so that's why we consider it as a contest that exploits women physically," said Ismail Yusanto, spokesman of Indonesia's Hizbut Tahrir, a conservative Islamic group.

In an attempt to appease religious concerns, the pageant has scrapped the swimsuit competition and replaced it with less-revealing beachwear attire.

Miss World pageant moved after protests

Also, the finals were originally to be held on the outskirts of Jakarta, but angry protestors forced the event to relocate to the Hindu resort island of Bali. Members of the group, Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) tried to travel to Bali by sea from East Java, but were stopped by police.

Hary Tanoesoedibjo, the CEO of MNC Group who organized the pageant locally, disputed the government's decision to move the contest to Bali.

He said no laws have been violated by the pageant and that "everything has been adjusted to the local culture. We all know that, so no bikini."

Even before the three-week contest began on September 8, protesters slammed it as "pornography" and held signs reading: "Miss World is whore contest."

"Our demand is still the same," Yusanto said. "Don't continue this contest."

Miss World's 127 contestants competed in beach fashion, fitness, world fashion, talent and "Beauty with a Purpose" meant to honor charitable work. The top 10 models -- from Ukraine, South Sudan, Brazil, Philippines, France, Cameroon, Cyprus, England, Italy and the United States -- were announced earlier this week.

A winner will be crowned in Bali on Saturday.

Security forces will have 700 police officers for the final event.

There has been criticism of how the Indonesian government handled the Miss World controversy, that it sent a message of capitulation in favor of a vocal minority.

Indonesia is a secular country with moderate Muslims, but "a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years," according to the Jakarta Post.

"We are a complex country, so we have to balance domestic concerns with our ability to host international events," said Mari Elka Pangestu, the Tourism and Creative Economy Minister of Indonesia. "But in general, Indonesia is very open."

But not all such women's contests are so vehemently opposed.

A week ago, the World Muslimah 2013 competition was held in Jakarta, to crown a woman who applies "Islamic values in everyday life," which includes the ability to recite from the Quran. Contestants dressed in head scarves and floor-length dresses. Obabiyi Aishah Aijbola from Nigeria was named World Muslimah 2013.

Photo gallery: See World Muslimah 2013

Eka Shanty, founder of World Muslimah says the difference between Miss World and World Muslimah is that the latter is not a pageant.

"This is an international award event to appreciate young and talented Muslim women."

In addition to decrying the Miss World contest, the conservative Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir does not support the World Muslimah competition.

CNN's Kathy Quiano reported from Jakarta and Madison Park wrote from Hong Kong.

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