Indonesia axes Miss World bikinis
Miss World organisers have axed bikinis from this year's pageant in Indonesia, replacing them with conservative beach sarongs amid mounting protests from hardline Muslim groups.
The 2013 competition is being hosted in the resort island of Bali and the capital, Jakarta, in September.
All of the around 130 contestants will be required to wear Bali's traditional long sarongs instead of the bikinis that are traditionally part of the competition, said Adjie Soeratmadjie, one of the local organisers. He said the London-based Miss World Organisation has agreed to the request out of respect for the traditional customs and values of Indonesia.
Most Muslims in Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country, are moderate, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years. "There will no bikini in this year's Miss World pageant to respect our traditional customs and values," Mr Soeratmadjie said. "This is a sensitive issue in Indonesia." He said the sarong would be made creatively and designed specifically for the event.
The Miss World Organisation did not immediately respond to a written query. The pageant began in the 1950s, and the first winner was crowned in a two-piece bathing suit.
Controversy over the pageant has been mounting in Indonesia, which has a reputation as a tolerant, pluralist society that respects freedom of expression.
Clerics of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, or MUI, said they would send a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to demand that the beauty pageant be cancelled.
"That contest is just an excuse to show women's body parts that should remain covered," said Mukri Aji, a prominent cleric from West Java province's MUI branch. "It's against Islamic teachings."
Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a hardline Islamic group, said it planned to stage a protest and called for the competition to be moved elsewhere.
Extremists have pushed through controversial laws - including an anti-pornography bill - and have been known to attack anything perceived as blasphemous, from transvestites and bars to "deviant" religious sects. Lady Gaga was forced to cancel her sold-out concert in Indonesia in May following threats by Islamic hard-liners. Jennifer Lopez toned down her sexy outfits and dance moves during a show in Jakarta last December.