Apparently, women in the western hemisphere are the most beautiful in the world, if one goes by the winners of the Miss Universe contests

Since the beauty pageant was instituted in 1952, the United States (7), Venezuela (6) and Puerto Rico (5), have accounted for 18 of the 59 winners.

And since Puerto Rico is really part of the U.S., it could be argued that Americans have dominated this beauty sweepstakes.

Of course, many countries don’t even bother to send contestants to something they regard as frivolous and even ‘sinful’ as a beauty pageant.

Nations that explicitly describe themselves as Islamic states (including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan) shun such pageants and consider them an offense to Islam and to God.

However, a quick perusal of the contestants competing in the 2011 Miss Universe Beauty pageant being held in Sao Paulo, Brazil features women from at least twelve countries in which Islam is the dominant religion, or forms a significant part of the population.

The eleven I found were: Albania (Xhesika Berberi); Egypt (Sara El Khoury); India (Vasuki Sunkavalli); Indonesia (Nadine Alexandra); Kazakhstan (Valeriya Aleinikova); Lebanon (Yara El Khoury-Mikhael); Kosovo (Aferdita Dreshaj); Malaysia ( Deborah Henry); Nigeria (Sophie Gemal); Sri Lanka (Stephanie Siriwardhana); and Turkey (Melisa Asli Pamuk).

It is not clear if any of these contestants are themselves Muslim (although given that Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt and Albania are overwhelmingly Islamic, it would suggest the girls from these respective nations are).

Islamic hard-line militants are violently opposed to pageants – presumably these forces have already protested the participation of women from their respective nations in this contest.

One note about India – although the country has a huge population of Muslims, they remain a minority and any opposition to beauty pageants cannot overcome India’s mad obsession with good looks. (The Indian contestant is not Muslim).