Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, a Nigerian beauty queen, was crowned winner of Miss Muslimah World, an Islamic pageant, in Jarkata, Indonesia on September 18, 2013.

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The contest was organised by the World Muslimah Foundation in direct response to the reactions and protests that trailed the mainstream Miss World competition that took place in Bali, Indonesia on September 28, 2013.

The Indonesian pageant saw the then 21-year-old Nigerian and her rivals judged not only for beauty but their ability to recite verses from the Quran and their knowledge of modern-day Islam.

Over 500 women who competed for the crown had answered a round of online questions about their relationship with Islam, including when they first began wearing the headscarf which was a requirement for the beauty pageant.

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Muslimah World saw 20 finalists from six countries — including Nigeria, Brunei, Bangladesh, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia — compete in a contest that was tagged a “non-violent” answer to the Miss World pageant rallied against by Islamic hardliners.

Organisers of the event had disclosed that they wanted to show Muslim women that there is an alternative to the idea of beauty being put forward by those overseeing the Miss World pageant.

Now in its 12th year, the annual Muslim event is held exclusively for Muslim women. The pageant also does not accept selection tests, such as the “bikini contest.”

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For winning the World Muslimah 2013 title, Ajibola had received a prize of 25 million rupiah (£1,375) and trips to Mecca and India.

'It's anti-Islam' -- Hisbah to invite Shatu Garko's parents over Miss Nigeria participation
Shatu Garko

SHATU GARKO AND THE MISS NIGERIA CONTROVERSY

Eight years later, Shatu Garko, the Kano-born model, is now in the public eye after she became the first-ever hijab-wearing contestant to win the recently ended 2021 Miss Nigeria in its 64-year-old history.

“Winning this competition means a lot to me. My whole life, I have always wanted to be a Miss Nigeria. I’d like to thank Miss Nigeria and its sponsors,” Garko had said after her historic feat.

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“I would also like to thank my mum for supporting and loving me.”

But Haruna Ibn-Sina, the Kano Hisbah board commandant, had condemned Garko’s participation in the pageant.

He also said the pageant was against Islamic tenets, adding that the beauty queen’s parents would be invited for interrogation.

To buttress his point, the Kano Hisbah commandant cited several verses in the Quran and teachings in Islam to show that Garko’s participation in the beauty contest was “illegal”.

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“In Islam, it is forbidden for anyone to participate in a beauty contest. A lot of things happen in such contest which is against Islam. For instance, there is usually a lot of people usually exposure their body exposure during the event while such contest teaches girls not to be shy and reserved,” he added.

18-year-old hijab model Shatu Garko crowned Miss Nigeria 2021
Shatu Garko

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), an Islamic rights advocacy group, also backed the decision of the board.

Ishaq Akintola, MURIC director, said it was still a sin for Garko, even though in hijab, to have “done the cat walking with thousands of men eating her up with their eyes.”

According to the director of the Islamic rights advocacy group, “it is not an exercise a Muslim lady should participate in, people who are decent, who have shame, who have honour, who would not display their nudity, who would not expose their bums for millions of naira should not participate in such pageants.”

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