Islam and Pageantry

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Perizat Rasulbek-Kyzy
Perizat Rasulbek-Kyzy

It is quite unfortunate that most of the people would paint one broad brush when describing Islam. The enduring image of oppressed women in their burqas where they can’t vote, own a property or have any legal rights whatsoever had been wrongly attributed to world’s fastest growing religion. The truth is, Islam is a very diverse religion and like any other it has its own extremes and fringes as well as its own version of moderation.

Countries such as Turkey, Tunisia, Indonesia and Egypt have a population that is overwhelmingly Muslim but they have been regularly participating in beauty pageants. These are secular nations where they don’t recognize an official religion and that they have mechanisms in place to ensure the separation of the state and religion.

In Kyrgyzstan, a central Asian nation and an ex-Soviet republic, Islam is the religion of more than 80% of its population. The recent crowning of Miss Kyrgyzstan Perizat Rasulbek-Kyzy and her anticipated participation at Miss World 2016 (the 6th time that her country will compete at Miss World ) shows that Kyrgyzstan is a secular nation. In fact, it is said that Islam in Kyrgyzstan is more of a cultural thing rather than religious.

The pageant world definitely needs more nations like Kyrgyzstan – Islamic and secular and unafraid of beauty pageants. Now that Miss World has ditched the swimsuit competition, this would definitely incentivize conservative Islamic countries to participate. We have seen countries such as Algeria competing and it would be great to see Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Jordan making a comeback.

Indeed, there is no reason why Islam and beauty pageants should not be compatible. It is quite unfortunate that the perception about this religion had been confined on what is going on in ultra-conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. That Perizat Rasulbek-Kyzy is competing as Miss Kyrgyzstan at Miss World 2016 is a strong reminder that Islam can’t be simply defined by a single stroke of a very broad brush.

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