Protests will not stop Miss World pageant

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia: The Miss World final takes place on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Saturday after weeks of protests from Muslim hardliners and warnings that extremists could attack the pageant.

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Police and traditional Balinese security personnel, wearing sarongs and armed with daggers, will be out in force on the Hindu-majority island as the beauty queens take to the stage.

A total of 129 contestants will parade in the glittering finale of the three-week event, which will be broadcast to more than 180 countries.

But protests by Islamic radicals in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, have overshadowed the contest and prompted authorities to order the whole event be moved to Bali, where hardliners have little influence.

Radical anger has not been appeased, however. The hardliners are threatening to stage fresh protests on Saturday and even to try to break through heavy security to get into Bali to demonstrate at the venue.

“We are going to protest against it, because it is unacceptable,” said Haidar Al-Hamid, head of the East Java province branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The province sits just across the water from Bali, and he said that the group planned to head to the island on Saturday, although they will face a tough time as main entry points will be heavily guarded.

Hundreds of FPI members have already made one attempt to cross to Bali from East Java earlier this month—but the group was stopped from getting onto a ferry by a line of female police backed by hundreds of elite officers.

Adding to concerns, the American, British and Australian embassies have said that radicals could attack the pageant, a chilling warning on an island where bombings in 2002 killed more than 200 people, most of them foreign tourists.

“Extremist groups may be planning to disrupt the Miss World pageant . . . potentially through violent means,” said the US embassy in Jakarta.

Adjie Soeratmadjie, corporate secretary of TV network RCTI, which is broadcasting Miss World and helping to organize it, said security was the “main concern.”

“We are confident that the police will do everything necessary to ensure safety,” he said.

From Indonesian capital Jakarta to cities on Sumatra island and Borneo, thousands have joined protests across the Indonesian archipelago, denouncing Miss World as “pornography” and a “whore contest” and burning effigies of the organizers.

Despite a pledge by the British-based organizers to axe the famed bikini round even before the pageant began, the protest movement snowballed, pushing the authorities into switching the venue.

Organizers always planned to hold the September 8 opening and early rounds on Bali but later rounds and the final were to take place in and around Jakarta, where radicals wield considerable influence.

AFP

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