RAMALLAH, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- The declaration of a commercial Palestinian company on Saturday to organize the first-ever contest to choose Miss Palestine aroused a large argument among the conservative Palestinians who considered the contest a contradiction with Islamic traditions.
A private Ramallah-based commercial company called "Trip Fashion" announced on Saturday that it intends to organize soon the first-ever contest to choose Miss Palestine under the title "Miss Palestine 2009" in the Palestinian territories.
Salwa Yousef, director of Trip Fashion, told Xinhua that the competition had already started, adding that Dec. 26 will be the date for choosing the competing winner who will be called Miss Palestine.
She said her company has received the applications of around 200 competitors, adding that only 58 girls were chosen. "32 girls are from the West Bank and 26 others are Arab residents in Israel (Israeli-Palestinians girls)," Yousef said, adding that it was difficult for Gaza Strip girls to participate due to the siege.
"In the last stage of the contest, five top girls will compete on the post of Miss Palestine, and two other companions to Miss Palestine will be chosen," she said.
She added that each competitor would wear four different dresses, but bathing suits were annulled because it contradicts with the Islamic Palestinian traditions.
The competitors are aged between 18 and 22. The choice of the winner would depend on the cultural level of the participants as well as their tact and the external beauty. Each competitor will be asked two questions by a special committee, according to Yousef.
"The winner of the title Miss Palestine would win a new car, a 10-day trip to Turkey and she will be paid 2,700 U.S. dollars in cash," said Yousef, who expressed hope that the first unprecedented experience would succeed in the Palestinian territories.
The Miss Palestine contest has received the Palestinian National Authority's (PNA) support, in addition to international finance. However, the Palestinian government of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has expressed reservations concerning the organization of the competition.
Ghassan al-Khatib, head of the governmental press office, told Xinhua that the competition is organized by a private Palestinian company, where the Palestinian government is not involved and has no relation with it, adding "such activities are commercial and not official."
"Our government doesn't oppose any activity of any private commercial company as long as it is in the frame of the law and discipline and doesn't hurt the social values or the public morality," said al-Khatib.
Asked about the criticism of the competition, al-Khatib said "this comes under the title of the freedom of public opinion," adding "the disagreements are only related to the social traditions."
However, the declaration for the competition to choose Miss Palestine was strongly opposed by the Islamic Hamas movement which rules the Gaza Strip.
The Culture Ministry in the deposed Hamas government in Gaza said that setting up such a contest "is completely contradicting with the Palestinian values and traditions," considering it as a violation to the current Palestinian status which is under the Israeli military occupation.
"Showing beautiful girls in front of the mass media and the audience while our people in Gaza are suffering and paying a high price due to the occupation is rejected and is considered as a blind imitation of the Western traditions," said the ministry in a statement.
The ministry called on the organizers of the contest "to stop it immediately," and also called on the Palestinian organizations and corporations in the West Bank and Gaza "to act by all means to stop organizing the competition to keep the pure Palestinian identity."
The Syndicate of Palestinian Scientists of Religion, which is close to Hamas movement, said in a statement that organizing the contest "is a step that encourages immoral actions," adding that the contest encourages women to show the beauty of their bodies which is taboo in Islam.
However, Yousef said "the competition never contradicts with the Palestinian morals or traditions," and "it shows how developed and promoted Palestinian women are."
Last year, Yousef's company has also organized a fashion show in Ramallah, where four Palestinian models showed different types of fashionable garments and dresses.