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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Miss Palestine contest shelved over moral fears

It had been billed as a beauty contest tailor-made for the Middle East: a pageant in which the contestants would not dress immodestly and the swimsuit round would be dropped.

But, despite efforts to cater for cultural sensitivities, plans to hold a Miss Palestine competition in Ramallah have foundered as organisers stand accused of "spreading moral corruption'' by Hamas officials.

Thwarting the ambitions of the 58 hopefuls who had been expected to take part in the competition final on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority has asked that the event be postponed indefinitely because the date clashed with the first anniversary of the Israeli assault on Gaza.

A spokesman for the Ramallah governorate added that the event organiser, Trip Fashion, did not have the necessary permit from the Palestinian Authority ministries.

But, as fears mounted that the pageant has been shelved for good, many felt the event had fallen victim to the inevitable tensions of the region.

According to an Israeli news source, Hamas officials had accused the Palestinian Authority of "spreading moral corruption" in holding the event. Other critics noted that the show could hardly be called Miss Palestine while Gazans are not permitted entry to the West Bank, and therefore could not take part.

It had also been pointed out that many of the competition's remaining contestants are Palestinian citizens of Israel.

According to Salwa Yousef, a spokesperson for Trip Fashion, many of the initial entrants pulled out after pressure from family members, while Palestinian newspapers and internet forums have denounced the event as improper and "scandalous".

The first and only Miss Palestine contest was held in 1999 in Bethlehem, and won by a Gazan woman, but it was a low-key, local affair. Palestinian society has since grown more conservative.

Fadi Arouri, the media co-ordinator for this year's planned event, said organisers had been overwhelmed by hundreds of requests from foreign reporters desperate for an upbeat story from the region.

Yousef insisted that the contest would still take place, but could not confirm a date.


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