As the debate surrounding women and the veil swirls and simmers to a boil in some Euro-countries, one extraordinary beauty pageant has added an unusual spin on “the V Word.”
The 2010 Miss Arab World Contest ignited considerable controversy, for two reasons. First up, it welcomed veiled and non-veiled Arab women from around the world to compete.
Encouraging Arab Women to Shine
The pageant took place in Cairo, on November 11, 2009. Sixteen stunning women aged 18-24 years old; each representing an Arab country waltzed down the catwalk before the jury and international media.
As our friends at Muslimah Media Watch wisely point out, the pageant encouraged Arab women to celebrate their own values and feel good about themselves without having to conform to beauty ideals dictated by other cultures.
MMW quotes All Beirut News on the ideology behind the contest:
“The Miss Arab World pageant aims to be more inclusive by allowing veiled and non-veiled women to compete alongside without having to compromise their values for events like swimwear competitions. Instead, the contestants strut down the catwalk in their national costumes.”
Bones of Contention
Mawadda Nour from Saudi Arabia was crowned Miss Arab World 2009, and Jessy Zaher from Lebanon was first runner up. No sooner had the winners been announced than a fresh wave of controversy welled up.
Why? Because Mawadda Nour isn’t stick-thin.
According to critics, Miss Nour doesn’t meet the “standard requirements of beauty pageant contestants.” Sawsan Al Sayed, head of the jury, told Wikeez that the Mawadda Nour was not a unanimous choice.
Yet, Hanan Nasr, head of the beauty pageant, told MMW “The main reason Nour has won the title was the fact the she is an example of the modest beautiful Arab intellectual girl who is beloved by all.”
Looking at the photos of a beaming Maddawa Nour wearing her prize-winning sash, she looks to me like a stunning, and very real woman, and a much better role model for young women than some of the stick-thin models I see in magazines and on billboards.
Beauty and the Media Beast
I give the Miss Arab World pageant and its organizers a big thumbs up for daring to go against the standardised norm. They’ve overwritten convoluted media ideals of beauty and encouraged Arab women to take pride in their culture, heritage and… intelligence.