JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian Muslim hard-liners staged a protest Tuesday in the country’s capital to try to stop the holding of the Miss World pageant this weekend on the resort island of Bali.
More than 200 members of several Muslim hard-line groups organized by the Islamic Society Forum staged a rally and march on the MNC Tower, the building that houses the local organizer of the contest.
They held up banners with “Reject Miss World that exploits women” and “Go to hell Miss World” on them, and shouted “Allah akbar,” or God is great, outside the building, which was guarded by 300 police.
“This is an insult and humiliation of women,” Muhammad Al Khathath, an Islamic Society Forum leader, told the crowd. “Muslims should reject the Miss World contest,” he said.
The demonstration was peaceful and broke up after protest leaders met with the pageant organizers.
Some of the contestants have already arrived for the competition set to be held partly on Bali, where the opening ceremony is to be held Sunday, with the final round set for Sept. 28 on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Last week, the Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s most influential clerics group, urged the government to cancel the event, saying the exposure of skin by women in such a competition violates Islamic teachings, even after organizers agreed to cut the bikini competition and instead outfit contestants in more conservative sarongs.
The chairwoman of the Miss World Organization, Julia Morley, earlier confirmed that none of the contestants would wear a bikini.
Most Muslims in Indonesia, a secular country of 240 million people and the world’s most populous Islamic country, are moderate, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.