This post was written by guest contributor Nicole Hunter Mostafa (@nicolejhm).
When I think about topics that are directly relevant to the lives of Muslim women, one that would probably be pretty low on my list is beauty pageants. Sure, in terms of feminist discourse, it’s not that hard to make the connection—beauty pageants’ primary goal is to make judgments about women based primarily on how they look, while media coverage of Muslim women, even when ostensibly regarding other subjects, still holds a primary focus on (you guessed it) how they look.Still, it’s difficult to recall another week in which there was so much discussion in the media regarding Muslim women and beauty pageants…at least not since Rima Fakih was crowned Miss USA in 2010 (and subsequently rode out her tenure as Miss USA under the shadow of scandal, first when her history as a contestant in a stripping contest came to light, and then when she was arrested for driving drunk).
First, there was the Miss World Muslimah pageant, held in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 18, 2013. Contestants were judged on their religious knowledge and piety…and although one of the goals of the pageant is the “empowerment” of Muslim women, one of the primary judging criteria was, of course, how the contestants looked in their spangly hijabs. Which, when it comes right down to it, doesn’t seem all that different from a traditional beauty pageant, no?
In any case, Miss Nigeria, Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, took home the Miss World Muslimah crown, in a tearful crowning ceremony that looked a lot like Miss America’s, just with a hijab. She won, among other prizes, a trip to Makkah.
In addition to the Miss World Muslimah pageant, there was the Miss America pageant, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There were no Muslim women in the Miss America pageant. And of course, a Muslim woman didn’t win. And yet, when the winner was announced, the discussion still managed to turn to Muslim women. [Read more...]