Indonesia moves Miss World final to Bali after protests
JAKARTA, Indonesia - The final of Miss World later this month would take place on the Hindu-majority holiday island of Bali instead of near the capital, Indonesian authorities said Saturday, September 7, after days of Muslim hardline protests.
Thousands took to the streets this week to denounce the decision to hold the beauty pageant in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, with protesters burning the organizers in effigy and branding them "infidels."
The contest opens in Bali on Sunday, September 8.
Later rounds had been scheduled to take place in and around Jakarta, with the winner originally set to be crowned at a venue outside the capital on September 28.
But the government said Saturday they had decided all events would now be held in Bali, where hardline influence is almost non-existent and where hordes of foreign tourists sunbathing in skimpy swimwear are a common sight.
Hardline influence is strong in areas of the main island of Java, not far from the capital.
"All the events will now be held at venues in Bali - it will all be concentrated in Bali, until the closing," Agung Laksono, coordinating minister for people's welfare, told reporters in Jakarta.
He said the government had "listened to what the people wanted." The decision was taken in a meeting between Laksono, Vice President Boediono, and police and tourism ministry representatives.
Laksono's comments came after some 600 people joined protests Saturday on Java, bringing along goats wearing Miss World sashes in Yogyakarta city to ridicule the event, while students in Surabaya city held banners reading: "We are ready to die for the Miss World contest to be scrapped."
They join a human rights commissioner, a government minister, and mainstream Muslim groups who have all voiced their opposition to the event, many arguing it exploited women and was an export of Western hedonism.
There was no immediate reaction from the organizers regarding the change of venue.
But the British chairwoman of Miss World, Julia Morley, told reporters in Bali earlier Saturday that the contest would respect the local culture.
"In keeping with respect for this country, all the girls were happy to work together," she said. "We didn't want to aggravate or hurt anyone."
Contestants were photographed visiting Bali's attractions, all wearing long-sleeved shirts or body-covering shawls.
The event will feature women from 129 countries, and has been touted by some authorities, including Bali's governor, I Made Mangku Pastika, as a free promotion for Indonesia's tourism industry.
Around 90 percent of Indonesia's population of 240 million people identify themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practice a moderate form of Islam.
A vocal hardline fringe, however, has succeeded in getting events canceled in the past.
Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hardliners threatened to burn down the venue and criticized her for wearing only "a bra and panties." - Rappler.com