Why security is tight at Miss World finals in Indonesia

The Islamic Defenders Front has threatened to disrupt the Miss World beauty contest. In response to protests, Miss World organizers agreed to cut bikinis from the swimsuit competition.

(AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Muslim women hold posters reading: 'Indonesia is not America', left, and 'Reject Miss World,' during a protest in early September demanding the cancellation of the Miss World pageant, in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Thousands of security personnel were patrolling at the Miss World final Saturday on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, where the event was moved following protests by Muslim hardliner groups.

Despite threats from the Islamic Defenders Front to disrupt the event, police said no rallies had been staged Saturday. The group has demonstrated for weeks, calling for the government to cancel the pageant because members say it goes against Islamic teachings.

Miss World organizers had earlier agreed to cut bikinis from the swimsuit competition, replacing them with more conservative sarongs. But pressure continued to mount, and more mainstream groups joined in and called for the show to be banned.

The 127 contestants vying for the crown were introduced Saturday wearing evening gowns shimmering in sequins, many of them with plunging necklines and slits up the leg.

Indonesia's government announced three weeks ago that the final would be moved from the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, and instead held on the Hindu-dominated resort island of Bali, where earlier rounds were taking place.

The British, Australian and U.S. embassies also issued warnings to citizens planning trips to Bali during the competition, saying there could be large-scale protests or even attacks.

Col. R. Umar Faroq, the Director of Vital Security for Bali provincial police, said thousands of security forces had been deployed to secure the final.

But Faroq said that security was tightened along the north coast of East Java to Bali in anticipation of possible protesters from other islands.

"The success in securing the Miss World final will be a benchmark for the police in securing the incoming APEC Summit," Faroq said, referring to the upcoming Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit on Bali to be attended by world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and thousands of delegates.

Miss World is the latest controversy in Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country of 240 million where most Muslims follow a moderate form of the religion. However, a small extremist fringe has become louder and more violent in recent years, attacking Christians and other religious minorities, along with anyone else deemed immoral.

Last year, the Islamic Defenders Front forced Lady Gaga to cancel a sold-out show after branding her a "devil worshipper."

In 2002, Bali was the site of suicide bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Since then, the government has aggressively pursued militant groups, which in recent years have committed much smaller-scale attacks mainly focused on security personnel.

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