Nigeria’s representative at the Muslimah World
Beauty pageant, 21-year old Obabiyi Aishah
Ajibola has been crowned winner of the
pageant, beating the other 19 contestants to
the final prize.
The 20 finalists, who were all required to wear
headscarves, put on a glittering show for the
final of Muslimah World, strolling up and down
a catwalk in elaborately embroidered dresses
But the contestants from six countries were
covered from head to foot, and as well as
beauty they were judged on how well they
recited Koranic verses and their views on
Islam in the modern world.
After a show in front of an audience of mainly
religious scholars and devout Muslims, a panel
of judges picked Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola from
Nigeria as the winner.
While the event in a Jakarta shopping mall
paled in comparison to Miss World on the
resort island of Bali, in which scores of
contestants are competing, Ajibola was
Upon hearing her name, the 21-year-old knelt
down and prayed, then wept as she recited a
She said it was “thanks to almighty Allah” that
she had won the contest. She received 25
million rupiah ($2,200) and trips to Mecca and
India as prizes.
Ajibola told AFP before the final that the event
“was not really about competition”.
“We’re just trying to show the world that Islam
is beautiful,” she said.
Organisers said the pageant challenged the
idea of beauty put forward by the British-run
Miss World pageant, and also showed that
opposition to the event could be expressed
Eka Shanti, who founded the pageant three
years ago after losing her job as a TV news
anchor for refusing to remove her headscarf,
bills the contest as “Islam’s answer to Miss
“This year we deliberately held our event just
before the Miss World final to show that there
are alternative role models for Muslim
women,” she told AFP.
“But it’s about more than Miss World. Muslim
women are increasingly working in the
entertainment industry in a sexually explicit
way, and they become role models, which is a
Hosted by Dewi Sandra, an Indonesian actress
and pop star who recently hung up her racy
dresses for a headscarf, the pageant featured
both Muslim and pop music performances,
including one about modesty, a trait the
judges sought in the winner.
The pageant, which also featured bright
Indonesian Islamic designer wear, is a starkly
different way of protesting Miss World than the
approach taken by Islamic radicals.
Thousands have taken to the streets in
Indonesia in recent weeks to protest Miss
World, denouncing the contest as
“pornography” and burning effigies of the
Despite a pledge by Miss World organisers to
drop the famous bikini round, radical anger
was not appeased and the protest movement
The government eventually bowed to pressure
and ordered the whole pageant be moved to
the Hindu-majority island of Bali, where it
opened on September 8.
Later rounds and the September 28 final were
to be held in and around Jakarta, where there
is considerable hardline influence.
But there are still fears that extremists may
target the event — the US, British and
Australian embassies in Jakarta have warned
their nationals in recent days of the potential
for radical attacks.
More than 500 contestants competed in online
rounds to get to the Muslimah World final in
Indonesia, one of which involved the
contenders comparing stories of how they
came to wear the headscarf.
The contest was first held in 2011 under a
different name and was only open to
Indonesians, Shanti said, but after the media
began comparing it to Miss World, it was
rebranded as a Muslim alternative to the
Because of its popularity, organisers accepted
foreign contestants this year for the first time,
with Iran, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei,
Nigeria and Indonesia represented.