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Miss World drama fueled by host country Indonesia

  • In this Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013 photo, contestants wear traditional Indonesian outfits during the opening ceremony of Miss World 2013 pageant in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. Beauty queens and backstage drama may seem inevitable, but at this year's Miss World competition, something more serious than hair-pulling and name-calling has come from host country Indonesia: Muslim hardliners have threatened to hijack the competition despite major concessions from the government and organizers. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Beauty queens and backstage drama may seem inevitable, but at this year's Miss World competition, something more serious than hair-pulling and name-calling has come from host country Indonesia: Muslim hardliners have threatened to hijack the competition despite major concessions from the government and organizers.

The bikinis that have been a pageant hallmark were replaced with more conservative sarongs three months ago, after a small but vocal group complained that showing too much skin would be offensive to the world's more populous Muslim country. But that only temporarily quieted protests over the event, which holds its internationally televised finale on Saturday.

The Islamic Defenders Front, known for angry protests and violent raids on bars and prostitution dens, began holding demonstrations weeks ago with thousands displaying signs that read: "Miss World is Whore Contest" and "Miss World Go to Hell." More mainstream groups, including an influential Islamic body, joined in and called for the show to be banned.

Miss World 2013

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Then just three weeks ago, the government announced that the final would be moved from the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, and instead held on the Hindu-dominated resort island of Bali where earlier rounds were taking place.

The organizers were left bewildered and panicked, having just three weeks to rearrange an event that had been three years in the making. Hundreds of hotel rooms and 6,000 plane tickets had to be canceled and rebooked, and a new venue secured.

And even now, concern remains that Muslim extremists may try to disrupt the event. The British, Australian and U.S. embassies have issued warnings to citizens planning trips to Bali during the competition, saying there could be large-scale protests or even attacks.

Haidar Al-Hamid, who heads the East Java branch of the Islamic Defenders Front, said that despite tight security aimed in part at keeping protesters out of Bali, he plans to rally against the Miss World contest and has ordered all members to find a way to reach the nearby island.

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