Remember when Hillary Clinton praised Malaysia as “global thought leader among moderate Muslim nations for promoting the role of women?”

Just yesterday, the organizers of Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest were forced to drop four of its Muslim finalists following a fatwa prohibiting Muslim women from joining beauty pageants.

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Back in 2010, on her Asia trip, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said  that Muslim-majority Malaysia can be a global “thought leader”, praising the multicultural nation’s efforts to avoid religious rifts. On a visit to cultivate ties with the ‘moderate’ Muslim country, Clinton told an Islamic university forum in Kuala Lumpur that Malaysia can be influential among both the world’s Muslims and the broader international community. “Malaysia, both by geography, (its) dynamism, the role that Islam plays, which is a role that is not divisive as it is in some parts of the world, has a real opportunity to be a thought leader in a number of significant areas,” she said.

Hillary in Malaysia

Hillary in Malaysia

TheMalayMailOnline  The move drew protest from one of the contestants, Wafa Johanna de Korte, who told Utusan Malaysia’s Sunday edition that the decision to drop them was unnecessary as other Muslim countries like Indonesia allows Muslim women to participate in pageants.

“In the beginning, the other Muslim contestants and I were happy that we were picked as finalists because we could represent our country in this prestigious event. “However, after the organizers disqualified us, what else can I say. I am so disappointed and saddened,” the 19 year old was quoted as saying.

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Organiser Datuk Anna Lim said the decision was made after Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Wan Zahidi Wan Teh issued a statement against their participation recently. “Therefore the organizers have decided to disqualify the four finalists,” Lim was quoted as saying.

According to Wan Zahidi, the fatwa prohibiting Muslim women from joining beauty pageants was issued and gazetted under the Federal Territories Islamic Administration Act in February 1996.

The move was met with protests from progressive Muslim women’s groups like Sisters In Islam who deemed the fatwas regressive while observers claimed it highlighted the worrying trend of overt Islamisation in Malaysia.

In recent years, the National Fatwa Council, the country’s highest Islamic body, had also issued rulings forbidding Muslims from using Botox and banned women from exhibiting tomboy behavior, which it defined as behaving or dressing like men or taking part in lesbian sex.

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The council came under heavy scrutiny for its proposal to ban yoga after a university lecturer advised people to stop practising it for fear that it could deviate from the teachings of Islam.

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