JAKARTA - Helping Muslim women realize their potential, an international beauty pageant for hijab-clad women is promoting positive role models for females, who care more for inner beauty and dispelling stereotypes about Islam.
"Islam is currently experiencing a branding crisis," Rofi Eka Shanty, a former Indonesian TV journalist and Shari`ah-based Public Relations professional, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Monday, September 3.
Its 'spokespersons' are terrorism and poverty.
Shanty says she wants to showcase a different and modern face of Islam.
"I want people to see Islam as something universal and I want to counter Islamophobia," she said.
Looking behind outer beauty, the contest, World Muslimah Beauty (WMB), was launched last year under the title of Indonesian Muslimah Beauty competition in 2011.
This year, it was upgraded to international event, including contestants from other nationalities.
"This year, there will be Egyptian, Nigerian, Australian, German, and Malaysian participants" in addition to Indonesians, Shanty said.
Participants are required to don hijab, have Internet and technology capabilities, Qur'an-reciting proficiencies, and accomplishments in sports, academics, and culture.
The preliminary round of the competition was held online in July. From August 17th to September 15th, Internet users can vote for their favorite participant.
The final will be held on September 16th.
Prominent figures from the fashion and communications industries and a Muslim scholar are included in the contest panel of judges.
"This year we invite 1,000 orphans to become our honorary judges," Shanty said.
Some of them will be put on the participants' care during the [contest] to test their ability to nurture and set examples.
Inviting hijab-clad women only, the beauty pageant tries to dispel anxieties about the Muslim headscarf and fear of being less competitive in their work fields.
"The WMB ambassador should be seen as ideal, based on the Qur'an's perspectives that say Muslim women should wear Islamic attire that covers their awrat (nakedness)," Shanty said.
The winner will be someone who will truly live the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), she noted.
Shanty will also receive a one-year scholarship, cutting-edge gadgets, a pilgrimage to the holy lands, a savings account in a Shari`ah bank and all-expense paid holidays in Europe, Australia, Asia and around Indonesia.
The contest would also help Muslim women realize their potential, said Kholifah Nuzulia Firdausy, the first runner-up in 2011.
"It was evident that Muslim women can show their potential, be pious, smart, and continue being stylish," she said.
Furthermore, the event is a form of public religious duty to inform other Muslim women about the importance of inner and outer beauties.
Ghitta Laskrouiff, a fashion designer based in Morocco, applauded the initiative, calling on organizers to promote the event in the Arab country via local websites."I think this event is great; we don't have this kind of competition.