SÃO PAULO - We can all agree that Brazil is the country of beautiful beaches, sensual rhythms and slim, gorgeous bodies. Right? Well, at least for that last category, we may have to leave things loose on our definitions.
Once considered worldwide sex symbols of toned slimness, the ladies of Brazil are starting to look at their body images with a different, some would say, more realistic perspective. The Brazilian weekly news magazine Época published the results of a study of attitudes and self-awareness of some 15,000 women over the age of 16, from a range of different social classes. Most of the respondents (72%) claimed to like rounder bodies better than skinny ones. And 59% would be happy to have a fuller shape.
This trend can also be seen in the world of celebrities, where the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen (see below) had long set the standard for what woman were supposed to aspire toward appearance-wise.
"The model for beauty is no longer that of the fashion shows. That is not considered so attractive or sensual anymore," says Renato Meirelles, CEO of Data Popular research institute, which conducted the survey.
Miss Brazil Plus Size, a beauty contest for overweight women, is an example of the changes in national culture. The most recent winner weighs 98 kilograms (216 lbs). Famous brand C&A invited the chubby chanteuse Preta Gil to be its ad girl, with a new collection based on her look set to be released this month.
In the pop world, singer Gaby Amarantos (see below), who tips the scales at 76 kilograms (168 lbs) and actor Tiago Abravanel are further proof of this change. Gaby sings sexy songs and Tiago will play a Don Juan role in an upcoming prime time soap opera.
Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.
At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.
The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.
The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.
Praying inside a Dutch mosque.
Broken trust in Islamic community
Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.
All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.
It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.
"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.
Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.
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