Islamic Pageant Masquerade

Ah yes: Miss World! Miss Universe! Miss What-Have-You! They all raise loads of money and attract widespread media-interest. And did you know that they even have a beauty pageant for young misses in Saudi Arabia? Indeed they do, in the capital Riyadh; the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad is kind enough to report on this today (Miss Pageant in a niqab).

That reference to the niqab – namely the veil over the face worn by Muslim women – and for that matter to Saudi Arabia should warn you, though, that what is going on here is somewhat different from the normal template. Take “beauty”; in Saudi Arabia, it’s all about inner beauty, you see, which is good since naturally no sort of evening gown – much less bikini – competition could ever be allowed.

So how do they judge that? Apparently the whole evaluation-process takes ten weeks, and is conducted by a panel of all-female judges – and that last bit alone tells you quite a lot. What is examined is things like respect for elders and how contestants respond when asked about how they “discover their inner force.” There’s even a “bring-your-Mom-to-the-contest” day, during which contestants are evaluated as to their respectful interaction with their own and everyone else’s mother. At bottom as a fundamental consideration, as you might expect, is any given candidate’s fealty to “Islamic values.”

Not likely to be a top-ten television hit, then, either in the rest of the world or, I dare say, within the Kingdom itself. On the other hand, there’s some serious money involved: the woman with the “most beautiful soul,” as the AD puts it, walks away with a prize of $2,600. And that prospect has attracted this year a field of some 200 contestants.

UPDATE: What do you know: It looks like even the Saudi beauty pageant has fallen victim to scandal! Yes, topless photos have been discovered of the winner – you can even see her entire forehead.

[Cymbal crash] I wish I could take credit for that one. But no, it’s from Jay Leno.

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