A British fashion sensation, Dina Torkia, aged 25, is all set to feature in a documentary that describes how she entered the world of Muslim beauty pageant called World Muslimah.
Validating Dina’s perception is Samaneh Zand, a 25-year-old industrial designer who confesses she is “not the pageant type” but decided to enter the Miss Muslimah competition because it is not about “showing off” or being the sexiest contestant.
Dina with Miss Iran
Participants of this programme are first required to attend a two-week boot camp where they go through a series of sessions concerning comforting orphans, medical exams as well as a psychological test where women prove their intellect and health.
Dina and Miss Iran on the train to Yogyakarta
The women are then given a ‘psycho test’ to complete to rate their personality. They are also given the task of interacting with underprivileged people in the slums of the city. In another interesting test, they are given Rs150,000 (£750) and asked to buy three presents for elderly women who live in a local residential home.
The event was initiated as an international charity event by the World Muslimah Foundation (WMF) in 2011 to benefit relief of Muslim women in food crises, wars, conflicts and natural disasters. The interesting aspect is that it is not just ‘beauty’ that gets these women awards but traits such as piety, religious knowledge and comprehension of Quran are valued to choose a participant as the winner.
But who is behind this entire campaign? An Indonesian woman Eka Shanty who is on a mission to empower women as the head of World Muslimah. She came to surface when she lost her job for refusing to take off Hijab to work as a TV presenter.
Speaking to the media, she said, ‘This is about mind, body and soul, adding, ‘Women are supposed to be highly educated and well appreciated – my duty is to empower them’.
This ambition drives and inspires hundreds in each contest wherein 20 finalists come to surface.
Some of the participants elaborate on the purpose and aim of the programme. Last year, after embracing Miss India, the newly crowned Miss Muslimah 2014, said, “I just want to say, may Allah help me to do some very important things for the Muslim world,” she manages, slightly overwhelmed. “And I will ask you something, to always keep in your prayers Palestine, Gaza, Syria and all Muslims suffering all over the world.”
Hundreds of women enter the contest online and 20 finalists are then chosen by judges. The winner of this year’s competition will win $10,000 worth of gold dinars, a visit to South Korea, a gold watch and a trip to Mecca.
The contest finalists visit Borobudur, a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple outside of Yogakarta, Indonesia, where the competition was held.
Previously, entrants were asked to talk to people through their path to the religion and what wearing a headscarf meant to them. This year, the contestants will take part in a new segment, where they will be asked questions to outline their vision for improving the lives of their Muslim sisters around the world.