I learned from the World Muslimah website that they were interested in having Iranian girls participate this year. I read all about what they were looking for, and when I was quite sure this wasn’t an event like Miss World, I decided to participate. I wouldn’t have wanted to take part in a regular beauty pageant where people are just interested in your appearance and fake smiles. But with World Muslimah I felt I could present myself the way I am, and correct some wrong ideas about Iranians.
A lot people I met abroad in my travels believed that Iranian girls cannot go out and be active members of society. So I wanted to show in my video submission that I am actually very active: going out with friends, playing sports, and meeting foreigners is all absolutely normal for me.
Samaneh Zand's video submission.
I also wanted to show that Islam is not only about marriage and covering yourself up, and that a hijab doesn’t stop me from being active. There are Iranian girls who don’t like wearing hijabs – they might not want to participate in an event like World Muslimah, but that’s fine. [Editor’s Note: In Iran, it is compulsory for women to cover their heads in public.] For me, living in an Islamic country does not mean that everyone needs to be Muslim or should be forced to believe.
I am not proud to see Iranian girls who live abroad participating in events like Miss World or Miss Norway. [Norway has a large community of Iranian exiles]. It’s their choice, but I think these events are all about beauty, which you are either born with or not. It would make me a lot prouder to hear that an Iranian girl got an international prize for mathematics, or something of the sort.