Miss World Pageant Ditches Bikinis for Sarongs After Muslim Pressure

Bowing to pressure from its Muslim host country, the Miss World beauty pageant has announced that it will cut its famous bikinis and replace them with the traditional Indonesian sarong.

In this year's contest, the more than 130 contestants will be sporting the traditional longer sarongs worn in Bali instead of the revealing, sexy bikinis that have always been part of the competition, pageant officials have decided.

The contest will be held on Sept. 28 on the resort island of Bali and in Sentul, areas near the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"There will no bikini in this year's Miss World pageant to respect our traditional customs and values," Adjie S. Soeratmadjie of the RCTI, the official broadcaster and local organizer, told media outlets.

"This is a sensitive issue in Indonesia. We have discussed it since last year and they have agreed," Soeratmadjie said.

The decision is a major departure for the Miss World competition. Even its first winner in 1950 wore a two-piece bathing suit during the show.

A few weeks ago the government had urged the Miss World staff to dump the bikinis and instead wear a kebaya or a batik, both of which are form-fitting, long dresses with a higher, open bodice situated above the cleavage.

In May, Sapta Nirwanda, the deputy minister of tourism and creative economy, also warned that if the Miss World contestants wore bikinis anyway it should be done "in a closed room."

Hardline Muslim groups have been up in arms about the Miss World contest for months.

Earlier in May, the East Java branch of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demanding that the pageant be cancelled.

"Indonesia shouldn’t have anything to do with such an event," Abdusommad Bukhori, the provincial MUI chief, said.

"We want to advise the president not to allow it. The MUI’s rejection has been echoed by other Islamic organizations in East Java."

In 2007, Indonesian protesters forced Riyo Mori, the Japanese Miss Universe winner, to cancel a charity event complaining that she was "against Shariah" and was "a symbol of the world's adultery and pornography."


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