A beach resort in Muslim-majority Malaysia on Friday scrapped a publicity event for an international "Miss Bikini" pageant after officials warned it could promote indecent behavior.
The Pangkor Island Beach Resort had planned to host a preview of the pageant, which is scheduled to take place in Thailand later this year. However, government officials in Malaysia's northern Perak state issued a statement this week insisting the event would "tarnish the country's image."
The resort will proceed with a "Full Moon Beach Party" on Oct. 7 but will cancel the "Miss Bikini" preview that was to be part of the program, resort spokeswoman Doris Chin told The Associated Press.
The preview would have featured an ice sculpture and announcements of pageant details, but no women parading in bikinis, Chin said. The two-day barbecue beach party with a disc jockey music competition is expected to attract 1,500 guests.
Controversy surrounding the event surfaced partly because some Muslim activists in Perak believed the resort was organizing a bikini-wearing contest in Pangkor, a fishing island that authorities often promote for its idyllic seaside and boating activities.
Hamidah Othman, the state government's official in charge of tourism and investment, said authorities would not allow such an event, which she said could "cause a negative impact and shame the nation."
Activists were also concerned because photos on Facebook of a beach party at the resort last year showed several young bikini-clad women, mainly from Malaysia's ethnic Chinese non-Muslim minority. Chin said the resort cannot prevent female guests from wearing bikinis, but it will ensure that no women who do so appear onstage during the party to "respect the government requirements and local culture."
Malaysia is known for conservative policies for issues related to sexual morality. Unmarried Muslim couples caught alone together in hotel rooms and other private places can be jailed for an offense described as "close proximity." Muslim women who become pregnant without getting married can also be imprisoned for up to two years in some states.