hard-liners barged in on Indonesia's transvestite beauty
pageant, panicking its skimpily dressed contestants
but failing to stop the show--the second year
running that the world's most populous Muslim nation
has staged such an event. Dressed in white tunics and prayer
caps, 10 members of the Islamic Defenders Front pushed
their way into the nightclub on Sunday where 30
contestants were competing for the title of Miss
Transvestite, witnesses and organizers said.
After 20 minutes of tense negotiations, the show
continued, though organizers agreed to finish early in
deference to the group, which has a history of
vandalizing entertainment centers it considers un-Islamic.
"We were all traumatized. They said we were immoral, but God
created us this way," show organizer Megi Megawati
said in a telephone interview Monday. "I am a Muslim
too, but I respect other people. Why can't they?"
Indonesia has a secular government, and the
practice of Islam is more moderate and less austere
than in the Middle East. Still, in recent years,
hard-liners have gained ground and there have been a series
of bloody terrorist attacks against Western targets.
The Islamic Defenders Front was formed in 2000 and
campaigns for the imposition of Islamic Shariah law.
Despite its overt displays of piousness, many analysts say
that the group's primary motive is extorting money from
frightened bar owners, not Islamic principles.
"Transvestites should not be made into a role model,"
said the Alawi Usman, who heads the group's
vice-investigation squad. "We are worried it could influence
Homosexuality is considered a sin according to
Islamic tenets, and many Muslims are uneasy with the
way transvestitism blurs the boundary between
traditional gender roles. But the Miss Transvestite
Indonesia pageant highlights Indonesia's seeming
tolerance for transvestites and transsexuals. Known as
"waria"--a combination of the Indonesian words
for man and women--they regularly appear as hosts on
television entertainment shows.
But discrimination is rife, said Megawati, and
many waria turn to prostitution. "Animals are
treated better," he said. "We tried to do this event
to show that we are regular people, and look what happened."
The winner of Sunday's show--a 20-year-old
public relations worker called Olivia--won the
equivalent of $250 and a return air ticket to Bangkok,
Thailand, where he will compete in an international
transvestite pageant next year.