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SAUDI ARABIA: An inner-beauty pageant

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Forget about backless evening gowns. Don’t even think of a swimsuit competition. Two hundred Saudi girls are instead polishing their virtue in preparation for Saturday’s launch of the only beauty contest in the staunchly conservative kingdom.

The Saudi pageant focuses entirely on “inner beauty.” This is keeping in line with the strict Islamic beliefs and traditions of a country where women are forbidden to drive, and appear in public draped in a black robe with a headscarf and often with their faces completely covered.

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The aim of the Saudi beauty contest, which will crown the winner “Miss Beautiful Morals,” is to highlight women’s commitment to the values of Islam and not her physical attributes, according to a report published Wednesday by the Associated Press.

For the next 10 weeks, contestants will be observed by female judges who will inquire about their devotion to their parents, their personalities and inner strengths. The winner will be announced in July.

The organizer of the contest, Khadra Mubarak, told the AP:

‘The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants’ commitment to Islamic morals.... It’s an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman’s body and looks…. The winner won’t necessarily be pretty.… We care about the beauty of the soul and the morals.’

This is the second time the contest is being held in Saudi Arabia.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut


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