COPENHAGEN, Denmark - A Danish TV station said Tuesday it has chosen an Iraqi-born woman as winner of the Miss Headscarf 2008 competition, as the Nordic country debates Islamic traditions in the aftermath of a deadly attack on its embassy.
Judges picked 18-year-old Huda Falah from photographs of 46 contestants in an Internet-based pageant organized by public broadcaster DR1's teenage show. Falah was chosen because the light blue Islamic headscarf was "a fantastic and shocking colour," said Uffe Buchhardt, one of the judges.
The contest highlights a continuing debate over Islamic traditions in Denmark, which drew world attention in 2006 when Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad triggered violent protests in Muslim countries.
A June 2 bombing, claimed by al-Qaida, outside the Danish Embassy in Pakistan killed six people. An al-Qaida commander said it was carried out to fulfil the promise of Osama bin Laden to avenge the Feb. 13 reprinting in Danish papers of a cartoon depicting Islam's prophet wearing a bomb-shaped turban.
Organizers of the monthlong TV competition said they started it as "an alternative way of encouraging young people to participate in the debate, by addressing them on their terms," DR1 said, adding it was a fashion - not a beauty - contest.
First prize in the contest included an iPod, a headscarf designed by a Danish fashion boutique and a one-year subscription to the English-language Muslim Girl Magazine.
Falah, who is studying to become a social worker, moved to Denmark with her family in 1997. She started wearing a headscarf at age 9.
She said by participating in the contest she hoped to help remove barriers between young Muslims and Danes "who don't talk easily because of the image (of Muslims) created by the media."
The contest has sparked little debate in Denmark where the government has said it will introduce laws to bar judges in court from wearing religious attire or insignia, including Islamic head scarves, crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans.
But the Islamic Faith Community, a small Copenhagen-based Muslim organization, had advised young women not to participate in the contest.
"The whole point of the headscarf is that it's a symbol of chastity," the group's spokeswoman, Bettina Meisner, told The Associated Press. "We don't wish young women to expose themselves as objects."