Indonesian Muslim hardliners have resumed protests against the Miss World pageant as organisers said the event would go on as scheduled this weekend on the resort island of Bali.
In Jakarta, the capital, about 1,000 members of the hardline Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia rallied outside the building housing the local organiser of the contest.
Chanting “Allah akbar” (God is great), the protesters, mostly women, waved banners reading “Miss World Culture Liberalisation Campaign” and “Reject Miss World”.
There were also protests in the Sumatran cities of Medan and Pekanbaru, and in Makassar, in Sulawesi. Protesters gathered at council buildings, calling on the government to revoke the permit for the contest.
The organiser, MNC media group, said it was not possible to cancel the contest or move the venue, and said the government had given assurances that it would provide security and protection for the event.
“I think there is a misunderstanding,” Hary Tanoesoedibjo, head of MNC, said in Bali on Wednesday. “I assure that there will be nothing that runs against our culture. I would not accept if there was a bikini show.”
The chair of the Miss World Organisation, Julia Morley, had earlier confirmed that none of the contestants would wear a bikini.
The competition will be held partly on Bali, with the final round set for 28 September on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Budi Rusmanto, an organiser in Jakarta, said: “The contest will not be different from other beauty pageants in Indonesia. The only difference is the participants.”
Rejection of the event has come not only from hardline groups but also from the country’s most influential group of clerics, the Indonesia Ulema Council, whose fatwas are followed by many devoted Muslims.
Last week the council urged the government to cancel the event, saying the exposure of skin by women in such a competition violated Islamic teachings.
Most Muslims in Indonesia are moderate but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.
On Wednesday, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, and Bandung, the West Java capital. On Tuesday, hundreds rallied in Jakarta.
The Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline group with a long record of vandalising nightspots, hurling stones at western embassies and attacking rival religious groups, has pledged to disrupt the event if it is allowed to be held in Indonesia.
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