17 dezembro 2009

Miss Palestine Or Miss Opportunity?

David Singer
16 Dec 2009
The struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for the hearts and minds of the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank has taken on a new dimension in the strangest of arenas - a beauty competition to be held for the first time ever in the West Bank on 26 December to choose Miss Palestine from a field of 58 girls - 32 of whom come from the West Bank and 26 who come from Israel.

The top five will compete for the title of Miss Palestine. The winner will win a new car, a 10-day trip to Turkey and 10000 shekels (US$2700). The competition is being sponsored by a private Ramallah based company “Trip Fashion”.

Ghassan al-Khatib, head of the Palestinian Authority governmental press office, said that
"… 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,"
Asked about the criticism of the competition, al-Khatib commented :
"... this comes under the title of the freedom of public opinion," adding "the disagreements are only related to the social traditions."
Hamas is aggrieved that such a competition should take place at all and has made its feelings known in no uncertain manner.

The Culture Ministry in the deposed Hamas government in Gaza called on the organizers to stop the competition immediately and said in a statement that setting up such a contest
"... is completely contradicting with the Palestinian values and traditions. 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,"
The ministry 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.

Salwa Yousef, director of Trip Fashion, added that each competitor would wear four different dresses, but bathing suits were annulled because it contradicts with the Islamic Palestinian traditions.

This is not the first time a Miss Palestine competition has been held. One took place in January 2007 in Haifa, Israel when Rana Shebley, who was then 21 years and came from Arab El Shebley village, was crowned as Miss Palestine 2007.

Miss Palestine 2007 - Miss Pakistan 2009 - Miss Indonesia 2009

That pageant was organized by “Lady” magazine and “Kol El Arab” newspaper and sponsored by many companies. A lot of political and media figures attended the ceremony in addition to the audience and sponsors.

Many Moslem countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia have been fielding Miss World contestants for many years without too much rancour although not always without some controversy..

This year’s Miss Indonesia - Qori Sandi Riva - caused quite a stir when having entered as Miss Aceh she failed to wear a veil in the competition which according to Muslim clerics in the province of Aceh betrayed her Achenese roots and brought shame to the province.

Aceh has a special autonomy in Indonesian law and is the only province in Indonesia that has partly implemented Sharia law.

The Arab world has been holding a Miss Arab World pageant since 2006. This year’s event took place in Cairo on 11 November when Mawadda Nour from Saudi Arabia was named as Miss Arab World 2009-2010, and Jessy Zaher from Lebanon as first runner up.

Finalists Miss Arab World 2009

What moved Hamas to adopt the position it has is a mystery. It appears to be on a hiding to nothing.

On present indications it would seem that the West Bank beauty competition will proceed giving the Palestinian Authority its first “victory” over Hamas since being crushingly removed by Hamas as the governing authority in Gaza in June 2007.

To cancel the beauty pageant now would involve grave loss of face by the Palestinian Authority and would be perceived by the West Bank Arab population as a real sign of weakness in the face of strident Hamas opposition.

It may not seem like much of a victory but it will be hailed as substantive evidence that the Palestinian Authority does have effective control of what happens in the West Bank - not Hamas.

Conversely it will show up the religious differences and traditions that permeate the West Bank and those that are present in Gaza. Whether the two can ever be reconciled still remains to be determined.

The power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority continues to be a critical factor in ensuring any negotiations by Israel with the Palestinian Authority cannot be confidently concluded whilst this religious and doctrinal schism between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas remains unresolved.

Miss Palestine should be crowned on 26 December. If for any reason she is not it will be just another one of those opportunities missed by the Palestinian Authority over the last 16 years to try and bring some semblance of normality into the lives of the West Bank and Gazan Arabs free of governmental controls or religious coercion.


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