PETALING JAYA, July 23 — Local personality and Miss Malaysia Universe 1978 winner Datuk Yasmin Yusuff said it was brave for the four Muslim girls to compete in Miss Malaysia World 2013.
“Once there is a law or a decree, that’s it, you tow the line,” she said, in response to questions regarding the disqualification of the girls based on a fatwa.
She said that Indonesia had a similar rule but a girl there wanted to enter and she was able to do so, although without the government’s endorsement.
“I understand the reason for the fatwa, but back in my day, we really lived with the 1 Malaysia concept. The runners-up then were Nancie Foo, a Chinese, and Rona Pinto, a Eurasian,” Yasmin told The Malay Mail.
“Not once did any of us consider race an issue.”
She said a year after she won, the Iranian Muslim Revolution of 1979 took place, sparking a Muslim revolution across the world.
Despite that, she has remained clear of any kind of negative backlash for contesting.
“Don’t forget that I did quite well and I was the first to bring back a trophy,” she said.
“I also got first prize, not for my looks or my character, but for my traditional dress.”
She said it was a good way to showcase Malaysian culture.
“The day Malays could not represent Malaysia was the end of Miss Malaysia because you don’t have representation from more than half the population of the country,” Yasmin said.
“The competition still continues within the constraints of the country but maybe they should change it to Miss Malaysia Non-Muslim or something like that.
“It’s really a shame because we have some beautiful Malay women who could be potential Miss Universe or at least a top five finalist.”
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim declined to interfere with the decision of booting out the four Muslims.
“We should let the relevant Islamic authorities handle the issue as it is something we do not have a say in,” she said.
“Their decision could be because it is the month of Ramadan”
Federal Territory Islamic Department director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali said that although the fatwa was announced in 1997, the Syariah Criminal Offences Act was passed in Parliament in 1993.
“The reason Muslim women are not allowed to take part in pageants is because it may lead to social ills,” said Che Mat, without elaborating.
However it was noted that section 9 of the Act does not state that Muslim participation was banned. It only says that anyone who goes against a fatwa can be punished with two years’ jail or a fine of up to RM3,000 or both.
It is understood that Miss Malaysia World official licensee and organiser Datuk Anna Lim was not granted a meeting with Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Wan Zahidi Wan Teh.
Lim, who dropped the four finalists after Wan Zahid raised the issue of the fatwa, is apparently seeking clarification as to why it is illegal and sinful for Muslim girls to take part in beauty pageants.