Malaysia model Tuti hits back at Muslim critics

Screenshot of Asia's Next Top Model Facebook entry on Nuraini Noor also known as Tuti Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ms Noor's participation has drawn mixed reactions online

A Malaysian model has hit back at critics who say it is inappropriate for her to compete in a modelling TV show.

Nuraini Noor, also known by her stage name Tuti, was recently unveiled as one of 14 contestants in the latest season of Asia's Next Top Model.

The news triggered online comments from Malaysians saying it was wrong for a Muslim woman to take part.

However, Ms Noor told the BBC she respected everyone's opinions, but did not like to put labels on anything.

"What really separates us is not skin colour nor religion. It's opportunity," she told the BBC via email.

Malaysia is known to be a moderate Muslim country, but has seen rising religious sentiment in recent years.

Ms Noor is said to be the show's first ethnic Malay participant. Malays make up the majority of Malaysia's population and are mostly Muslim.

'Not proper'

The critical comments reportedly began surfacing online shortly after organisers unveiled the contestants in February, with some calling for her withdrawal.

Image copyright Asia's Next Top Model
Image caption Asia's Next Top Model's website lists Ms Noor as among 14 contestants for its fourth season

The show is the Asian spin-off of popular US television show America's Next Top Model, and will begin airing across the region on 9 March.

"For me, this programme [is] not for us Muslim[s], we have rules!" said one commenter on the show's Facebook page.

"This is not a matter of pride for Malay people, who are mainly Muslim. Furthermore in this event people are told to wear clothes that are not proper, and can be touched by boys," said another Facebook user in comments reported by The Malay Mail.

But other Malaysians have defended her saying they were glad she was representing their country.

'Chasing dreams'

"Different people have different point[s] of view and I am not in control of that. I respect each and everyone's opinion," Ms Noor said.

"I don't like to put labels on anything. I'm a citizen of the world. I'm that kind of girl who chase[s] her dreams."

The 24-year-old said she did not face such controversy in the past when she took part and won modelling competitions in Malaysia.

As a Muslim model, "that really depends on how you approach the task. You need to be open to the producers, photographer, stylist and everyone involved on issues such as this and the sensitivities attached to it."

"At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to produce good photos and to fulfil your brief and that's what I intend to do every time," she said.

Malaysia has seen a rise in religious sentiment in recent years.

Last year religious authorities condemned an incident where Korean pop stars were seen hugging girls onstage, while a satirical video poking fun at an Islamic party prompted death threats as well as a police investigation.

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