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First Saudi Contestant In History Of Miss Universe Pageant

Saudi, Miss Universe

For the first time in the 70-plus year history of the Miss Universe pageant, a contestant from Saudi Arabia will be making an appearance. Rumy Alqahtani, 27, announced her selection as the Saudi representative on her Instagram page and shared images of herself in a strapless sequined gown.

Rumy is a dentist by training, a social media influencer with a huge and devoted following, knows multiple languages and is a seasoned participant in beauty pageants all in her mother country. She’s been crowned Miss Saudi Arabia, Miss Middle East and even took part in Malaysia’s recent Global Asian Pageant.

Arab News quoted her as saying, “My contributions are to learn about world cultures and to transfer our authentic Saudi culture and heritage to the world.”

Born and brought up in Riyadh, Rumy clearly represents the new face that this conservative Arab kingdom is seeking to present to the world. Until recently, women were largely barred from public life, could not drive cars and had to travel anywhere only with a male relative.

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Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, driven by concerns over his country’s future given the worldwide shift away from oil amid the climate crisis, is pushing a hard line on moderation. He has relaxed many of the restrictions on women, reined in the conservative mullahs and even allowed the consumption of alcohol.

He has been tough on political Islam, giving no space for the Muslim Brotherhood in his kingdom and cracking down on extremist Islamic groups and sentiment. So far his moves have not provoked any backlash but that may be more because few would dare to challenge the authoritarian manner in which the country is run.

Political dissent is not allowed. Nothing anti-monarchy is permitted and certainly not anything even vaguely critical of Prince Salman. So this is not a democracy nor is it moving towards democracy. Incidentally, Iran is also fielding a contestant for the first time but details are awaited.