Although beauty pageants may still be associated with Toddlers & Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo, you may be surprised to find that on the opposite ends of the globe, beauty pageants have fought with life and limb and even religion to continue to survive. Recent, vicious attacks by the Muslim world's equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church may finally take down this year's "Miss World" Competition.
Proudly advertised in the capital of Indonesia, this year's multi-million dollar Miss World event has been targeted by extremist religious fanatics threatening to hijack the competition. These frightening threats show no signs of diminishing even though both competition organizers and the government itself has made massive concessions.
Government concessions have been viewed as particularly worrisome by some of the Miss World sponsors. The most obvious problem was that the government mandated that the pageant change locations for safety concerns. Moving the location of the pageant itself to the Hindu-dominated resort island of Bali resulted in 6,000 canceled plane tickets and hotel rooms, as well as a complete reschedule weeks before the event that was three years in the making. Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of the MNC media group, brought a more complex but equally valid perspective when he voiced his concern that the international community would view the government's movement of the pageant as a weakness and an attempted political buffer in an election year.
Nonetheless, for the well-being of all its constituents hailing from 131 countries, the pageant also replaced the traditional bikinis with conservative sarongs three months ago to appease the main protest party, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). But their strict values condemning anything from drinking and pornography to prostitution have led to multiple furious protests, violent raids, and the threats of a violent uprising, with demonstrations calling on their supporters who range in the thousands to picket signs reading "Miss World is Whore Contest" and "Miss World Go to Hell."
Haidar Al-Hamid, head of the East Java branch of the FPI, has since stated publicly that he plans to continue his rallying against the event and demanded his members to find ways to reach the island. At this point, international governments including British, Australia, and the United States have issued travel warnings. While the more mainstream Muslim groups are only calling for the show to be banned, the well-supported extreme groups may resort to more violent means of immediate action.
Miss World has still been scheduled to continue. In a country where 240 million people follow peaceful and moderate forms of Islam, standing side by side in both bikinis and hijabs, the organizers are confident that this community can function positively alongside a system of democratic government. The fights that the Miss World competition must endure simply to be held may just be the cultural shock and shift the world needs.