Writer and Documentary Photographer Okky Ardya is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From her project ‘Crown, High Heels, and Hijab‘. To see Okky’s body of work click on any image.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim majority country in the world and more than 80 percent of its population is Muslim. Despite the fact that many Indonesian Muslim women wear hijab as reflecting the call in the Quran to cover themselves; wearing hijab has become a fashion statement among young Muslim women in Indonesia.
For the last five years, there has been a thriving hijab fashion in Indonesia. Hijab becomes fashion and this phenomenon has resulted in several hijab styles and Islamic fashion festivals, not to mention more than six or seven Muslim beauty pageants which are held every year. Various Muslim beauty pageants have been held with the premise that Muslim women can still appear smart, stylish, and beautiful even though their whole body is covered up.
The World Muslimah pageant is one of the beauty pageants in Indonesia designed to instill pride of young Muslim women. The contest aims to recognize the beauty and potential of young women who wear hijab and offer something positive in compliance with its culture as well. The World Muslimah pageant was first held in 2011 in Jakarta. Initially the contest was only followed by Indonesian Muslim women, but nowadays the contest open to young Muslim women throughout the world with ages between 18 – 24 years old. For becoming a finalist, the requirements are very different such as wearing hijab every day and being able to recite Quran.
Unlike other beauty pageants where the contestants wear sexy dresses or bikinis, The World Muslimah pageant judges the contestants on how well they recited the Quran verses, their religious abilities – including memorization of the Quran, their hijab experience, and also their views on Islam and the modern world. Once they are selected as finalists, they underwent quarantine sessions for a few days and performing religious activities, morning prayers, Tahjud (Muslim night prayers), learning public speaking, fashion modeling, attending classes about Islamic finance, or sometimes discussing about Quran, Hadiths, and its translation.
When the contest becomes fashion opportunity, it raises a public debate. Although there has been much debate over the purpose of hijab related to Muslim beauty pageants, this kind of Muslim beauty pageant still attracts thousands of young Muslim women every year.
By Okky Ardya