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Posted: 6/4/2008 1:17:09 AM EST
Good for them, not letting the extremists push them around.

www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aCNUVARyjtG4&refer=home



June 4 (Bloomberg) -- Hibo Abdull wants to be Denmark's first Miss Headscarf.

The 24-year-old aspiring actress is competing to scoop up the title in a pageant for headscarf-wearing women sponsored by state broadcaster Danmarks Radio. While some Danes regard the hijab as a symbol of what they see as the inferior status of women in Islam, Abdull says her scarf should be celebrated.

``I just feel like showing people a different side of what it is to be a Muslim,'' says Abdull, who lives in Odense, west of Copenhagen, Denmark's capital. ``It actually makes me feel more feminine not to show too much of myself.''

The contest comes as Denmark grapples with the fallout from the 2005 publication in a local newspaper of cartoons that linked the Prophet Muhammad to terrorism and sparked riots across the Middle East. This week, a bomb attack outside Denmark's embassy in Pakistan killed at least six people. Danmarks Radio said it wants to ``spark debate'' and won't cancel Miss Headscarf.

``It's always just established politicians who discuss these issues away from reality,'' said Bjarke Ahlstrand, a spokesman for the Copenhagen-based station. ``It's rarely the people who actually wear the headscarves.''

Entrants have until June 6 to upload their photos to the station's Web site. Twenty-nine contestants have posted snapshots of themselves wearing scarves ranging from pink with sequins to floral prints.

One woman, described only as Zerife, wears a cream-colored scarf that covers her hair, ears and throat. Another, 16-year-old Mona, lounges in front of a fountain, her dark blue scarf twinned with blue jeans and black shoes.

`Symbol of Chastity'

The contest is drawing criticism from inside and outside the Islamic community.

``My advice is don't participate,'' said Bettina Meisner, who converted to Islam. ``The whole point of the headscarf is that it's a symbol of chastity; to cover women instead of turning them into objects.''

Inger Stoejberg, a spokeswoman for the ruling Liberal Party, said the headscarf is a sign of repression.

``I'm afraid having a pageant like this will normalize the use of the headscarf, which essentially is a symbol that says women are inferior to men,'' she said.

Most of Denmark's Muslims arrived as so-called guest workers from Turkey and Pakistan in the 1970s, while later arrivals were refugees from Iran, Iraq, Bosnia and Somalia. Today, 3.7 percent of the country's population is Muslim, making it the second- largest religious group, according to the U.S. State Department.

Al-Qaeda Threat

Relations between Muslims and other residents have been strained since September 2005, when Denmark's biggest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, including one showing him with a bomb in his turban.

The June 2 bombing outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad came six weeks after al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on Muslims to ``cause damage to Denmark'' following reprinting of the cartoons.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said either al-Qaeda or the Taliban were probably behind this week's attack.

Postponing Miss Headscarf ``is not something we've at all considered,'' said Rune Sparre Geertsen, content editor of Skum, Danmarks Radio's youth portal, which is organizing the contest.

The winner will receive a ``hot, specially designed'' headscarf and an iPod. The top five contestants will receive subscriptions to Muslim Girl Magazine, the broadcaster said.

The station will announce the winner, chosen by the owner of a Danish fashion company, on June 10, a month after the government banned religious headscarves for court judges.

Forty-eight percent of Danes said they back a ban on headscarves and other religious attire worn by public employees, according to a Megafon poll of 1,106 people conducted for TV2 News on May 7.

``We don't feel free in this country anymore,'' Abdull said. ``This competition is just a kind of a joke, but it's also something I hope will force Danes to accept women who choose to wear a headscarf. I was never forced to wear mine. Sometimes I wear it, sometimes I don't.''
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