The Miss World pageant began in 1951 as a celebration of bikinis. Eric Morley, pageant founder and late-husband of current co-chair Julia Morley, originally saw it as a once only event, but when the rival Miss Universe pageant began, Morley decided to make it an annual contest. However, for the second pageant, the bikini was replaced by more modest swimwear. The world in the 1950s was a much more modest place.
This year’s Miss World pageant is scheduled to be held in the mostly Muslim country of Indonesia, on the island resort of Bali. However, on Tuesday 200 hardline Muslims descended on the MNC Tower to protest the upcoming event on Sunday.
Beauty pageants across the world have been protested by religious and feminist groups since their inception. Tuesday’s protest was organized by the Islamic Society Forum, and they marched on the MNC Tower because that is where local organizers are headquartered.
“This is an insult and humiliation of women,” the leader of the Islamic Society Forum Muhammad Al Khathath told the assembled crowd. They waved their signs reading “Go to hell Miss World,” and “Reject Miss World that exploits women,” according to the Associated Press. The protest was peaceful, even though 300 members of the local police force stood guard. Leaders of the Miss World pageant met with the leaders of the protest, and afterwards the crowd dissipated.
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The Miss World organizers have already acquiesced to a request by the Indonesian Ulema Council—a group of the most influential clerics in the country—to do away with bikini contest because such a display of skin violates Islamic traditions. In response to these concerns, the organizers of the pageant agreed to cut the bikini competition and instead dress contestants in slightly more conservative sarongs.