Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Boogie on, Burkha Woman

One of my all-time favorite Mark Steyn columns is titled “My Sharia Amour” and it ran in the Telegraph in 2002. It’s a satirical piece that finds the author doing a celebrity-judge stint at a “culturally sensitive Miss World” contest. Here’s his fictional exchange with fellow judge David Hasselhoff:

I glanced at my watch. “For crying out loud, when are they going to raise the curtain?”
“They have raised the curtain,” said David. “Those are the girls.” I peered closer at the shapeless line of cloth, and he was right: there they all were, from Miss Afghanistan to Miss Zionist Entity.

I sighed. “How long till the swimsuit round?”
“This is the swimsuit round,” said David.

In seven years, reality has caught up to satire, chewed it up, spat it out, and left it for dead. Let’s cut to that bastion of burlesque, the Associated Press:

Sukaina al-Zayer is an unlikely beauty queen hopeful. She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she’s a little on the plump side.

But at Saudi Arabia’s only beauty pageant, the judges don’t care about a perfect figure or face. What they’re looking for in the quest for “Miss Beautiful Morals” is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.

“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,” said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak.

But there’s no Hasselhoff and no Steyn. There are, in fact, no male judges. It’s a strange contest all around. Here’s the first ever winner from 2008, Zara al-Shurafa: “I tell this year’s contestants that winning is not important . . . What is important is obeying your parents.”



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