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Danish hijab contest ‘contradicts’ modesty

Tahira Yaqoob

  • Last Updated: June 16. 2008 7:25PM UAE / June 16. 2008 3:25PM GMT

Huda Falah, the winner. Freddy Hagen / AP

Beauty contests for women who wear the hijab are against the “spirit” of the Islamic message, says Shadia Abdullah, a board member of Jumeirah Islamic Learning Centre in Dubai.

Miss Headscarf 2008 took place in Denmark this month, giving a platform to “cool Muslim women who often make up a very fashion-conscious and style-confident part of the Danish street scene”.

The competition’s website has had more than 100,000 hits and the contest’s popularity means it is likely to be repeated.

A total of 46 women entered the competition and submitted photographs of themselves in hijab to the organiser, Danmarks Radio. The state broadcaster offered an iPod to the winner and magazine subscriptions to five finalists.

“The whole idea of the hijab is for a woman to cover herself and conceal her beauty,” Miss Abdullah said. “It is not about being ostentatious and showing off, but about being modest. This contest contradicts all those things.”

There were, she said, “a lot of criteria attached to wearing the hijab. For example, it should not be too flashy, expensive, show class or race differences, or draw too much attention to the wearer.

“It is as much about your behaviour when you are wearing it and covering what is inside while asking not to be judged on your looks,” Miss Abdullah said. “Islam does not say we should not be interested in fashion, but that industry is all about consumerism and our faith says you should not let fashion dictate to you.”

Some of the entrants sent in head-and-shoulders photographs, while others stood with hands on hips or struck provocative poses. The winner was Iraqi-born Huda Falah, 18, chosen for her “hidden beauty”.

One of the entrants, Hibo Abdull, 24, an aspiring actress, said: “I just feel like showing people a different side of what it is to be a Muslim. It makes me feel more feminine not to show too much of myself.”

There was, she said, a point to the competition. “We do not feel free in the country anymore. This competition is a kind of joke, but it is also something I hope will force Danes to accept women who choose to wear a headscarf.”

Skum, the station’s youth section, insisted the competition was about fashion rather than a beauty contest. “It is always just politicians who discuss these issues, rarely the people who actually wear the headscarves,” said Bjarke Ahlstrand, a spokesman.

Bettina Meisner, of the Islamic Faith Community based in Copenhagen, said: “We do not wish young women to expose themselves as objects.”

Experts from the UAE’s fatwa call centre had a more moderate message: “The competition might encourage people to wear the hijab. The contest is acceptable as long as the women have their heads and necks covered and are not ornamented or wearing make-up.”

Most of the entrants, however, were wearing make-up.

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