She has a beaming smile, poise, even poses like a model. She is the World Muslim Woman Netizen 2013.
That’s the prize that Nurul Husna Zainal Abidin won as Malaysia’s first entry to the World Muslim Women Beauty Pageant, organised by an Indonesian TV host who was fired from her job for refusing to take off her tudung while on duty.
This is the third year that pageant organiser Eka Shanti has put together what she touts as the Muslim world’s answer to better known events such as the 63-year-old Miss World, which will be held in Bali this weekend.
Her own event this year was seen as partly a protest against the Miss World pageant, which had to be moved from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to diffuse objections from Islamic hardline groups.
They say the competition should not be held in Indonesia at all and that it would be an insult to the Muslim faith.
How is Eka Shanti’s event different from any other beauty pageant?
For starters, the grand final began with the women reciting verses from the Quran “before strutting down the stage, wearing loosely fitting outfits and veils instead of revealing gowns”, reported the Jakarta Post.
It added that “while some of the women paraded with a model’s confidence, others were more awkward as they tottered by in glittering high heels and long gowns”.
Then there were the honorary judges of the contest: children from 100 orphanages.
Also, Malaysia’s Nurul said, "Islam is portrayed as something beautiful. The Quran readings and other events in the beauty pageant were all planned according to Islamic law."
She wanted the Malaysian government to consider organising a similar pageant. She said, "If the government organises a Muslim beauty pageant here, it would be well-received. The Muslim version of the beauty pageant teaches Islamic knowledge without sidelining the hijab fashion style.
"It isn't wrong to organise such an event as it can open up opportunities for Muslim women to learn something new. At the same time, the government could use the opportunity to promote tourism in Malaysia."
Nurul finished among the top 10 finalists. She heard about this competition from an Indonesian friend. She registered online and was told to submit a video of herself. She was then invited to Jakarta where there were about 100 contestants.
"Participating in the beauty pageant has deepened my knowledge of Islam as all the activities involved teaching the contestants how to be a Muslim woman and face the challenges of modern times," Nurul told The Malaysian Insider.
A total of 20 women from six countries, including Indonesia, Brunei and Iran, showed off their skills and Islamic knowledge in the final round, which was held in Jakarta on September 18.
Nigeria's Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, 21, won the competition. Nurul was grateful to walk away with her own prize.
"I am thankful I made my country proud. This has been a priceless experience," said the 21-year-old University Technology Mara student from Negeri Sembilan. – September 26, 2013.