Competitors of Miss World pageant, from right to left, Elena Ibarbia Jimenez of Spain, Gina Hargitay of Jamaica, Nadyalee Torres of Puerto Rico, Megan Young of Philippines, and Karen Ghraoui of Lebanon attend a press conference at Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
BALI, Indonesia (AP) — The 63rd edition of the Miss World pageant opened Sunday after protests by Muslim hard-liners confined the event to Indonesia’s predominantly Hindu resort island of Bali.
The opening ceremony, which was televised to 186 countries, featured Bali’s Kecak dance and a parade of all 131 contestants.
Following days of protests by Indonesian hard-line Muslim groups and the rejection of the contest by a leading clerics’ organization, the government announced Saturday that it was moving the Sept. 28 final round to Bali. It was initially set to be held in Sentul, on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta.
Bali is the only Hindu-dominated province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Controversy over the pageant has been mounting in Indonesia, which has a reputation as a tolerant, pluralist society that respects freedom of expression.
The Indonesia Ulema Council, the country’s most influential clerics’ organization, and the hard-line groups Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia and Front for Islamic Defenders have urged the government to cancel the event. They have argued that the exposure of skin by women in a competition violates Muslim teachings, even after organizers agreed to cut the bikini competition and instead outfit contestants in more conservative sarongs.
Miss Spain Elena Ibarbia Jimenez, and Miss Puerto Rico Nadyalee Torres walk on stage during the opening of the 63rd Miss World Pageant ceremony in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
The chairwoman of the Miss World Organization, Julia Morley, has promised that none of the contestants will wear a bikini. The pageant began in the 1950s, and the first winner was crowned in a two-piece bathing suit.
“We only want to try to find the best way of working together,” Morley told a news conference Saturday in Bali.
Most Muslims in Indonesia, a secular country of 240 million people, are moderate, but a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.
Lady Gaga was forced to cancel her sold-out concert in Indonesia in May following threats by Islamic hard-liners who called her a “devil worshipper.” Jennifer Lopez toned down her sexy outfits and dance moves during a show in Jakarta last December.
Contestants of Miss World pageant, from left to right, Vania Larissa of Indonesia, Denise Valerie Ayena of Cameroon, Erin Holland of Australia, Gina Hargitay of Jamaica, Karen Ghraoui of Lebanon, Megan Young of Philippines, Nadyalee Torres of Puerto Rico, unidentified, Miss World 2012 Yu Wenxia, Elena Ibarbia Jimenez of Spain and Jacqueline Steenbeek of the Netherland pose together during a press conference at Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. The Miss World contest will start at the island of Bali Sunday. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Miss United States Olivia Jordan and Miss US Virgin Island Petra Cabrera Badia walk on stage during opening of the 63rd Miss World Pageant ceremony in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)