Malaysian Islamic authorities investigate ousted beauty contestants

KUALA LUMPUR (July 25, 2013): Four Muslim former contestants in a Malaysian beauty pageant were under investigation by the country's Islamic authorities for allegedly criticizing the religious edict that got them ejected from the contest, an official said Thursday.

The four women, aged between 19 and 23 years old, were to be among the finalists in the Miss Malaysia World in Kuala Lumpur next week.

But they were disqualified at the weekend after organizers learned of a 1996 religious edict or fatwa, which prohibits as sinful any participation by Muslims in a beauty pageant.

The women expressed disappointment and outrage in media interviews, with some describing the ban as discriminatory and "ridiculous."

"They are being investigated for criticizing the edict which is tantamount to disrespecting or insulting Islam," according to an official of the Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) who requested not to be named since he is not authorized to speak about the case.

Aside from the four contestants, JAWI was also investigating Sisters in Islam, a Muslim women's organization that also criticized the edict, the official added.

JAWI director Che Mat Che Ali confirmed an investigation was being conducted against several individuals for insulting Islam related to the beauty pageant, but would not give further details.

Under Malaysian laws, anyone found guilty of disrespecting or insulting Islam can be punished with up to two years imprisonment or a fine of 3,000 ringgit (939 dollars) or both. – DPA