Europe's first hijab-wearing mayor to take office in Bosnia

By AFP
Published: October 10, 2012

"My fellow citizens showed a great open spirit because they elected me first as a woman but also as a woman who wears a veil," said Amra Babic. PHOTO: AFP

VISOKO: A new woman mayor in Bosnia who is the first in her country and the continent to wear the hijab, said Tuesday her election was “a model for Europe and Islam.”

“This is a great victory of democracy. My fellow citizens showed a great open spirit because they elected me first as a woman but also as a woman who wears a veil,” said Amra Babic, elected Sunday in the town of Visoko.

“This is a model for Europe but even beyond, for the East and the West which meet here in Bosnia,” she told AFP at the local branch of her party, still plastered with her campaign posters.

Babic, 43, who regularly wears the hijab, won 30% of the votes in the mayoral race in Visoko, a town of some 40,000 people near the capital of Sarajevo.

Two days after the vote, Babic, wearing a scarf covering her hair, ears and neck, was busy receiving by telephone congratulations for her victory. Others were coming in to bring her bouquets of flowers.

“Islam is very clear regarding the woman. It reserves for her a place in the public life and all those who interpret it correct know that this is the way it is,” said Babic, who belongs to Bosnia’s main Muslin party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA).

However, she is confident that the place for her country is “among modern European states.”

“I believe that my headscarf should not be a hindrance…. Europe will understand that it has to do with people who respect their own identity, but who are tolerant enough to respect the rights of others,” she said.

Babic, a mother of three and an economist, served as finance minister in the central canton of Zenica prior to running for mayor.

Muslims are the biggest religious group in Bosnia, making up some 40% of its 3.8 million population. Orthodox Christian Bosnian Serbs account for 31% while the traditionally Roman Catholic Croats represent 10%.

Bosnian Muslims are Sunni, introduced in the Balkans in the 15th century by the Ottomans.

The hijab was banned under communism when Bosnia was part of the federal Yugoslavia from 1945 until the early 1990s. A number of Muslims in Bosnian nowadays wear the hijab, although most women do not cover their heads.

“I will never abuse politics for religion. If I have the strength to protect my own rights, I will find the strength to protect the rights of others,” she said.

Having lost her husband in the 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war in Bosnia, Babic has for years led an association of families of Muslim fighters killed in the conflict.

“I put on the veil after my husband’s death,” she recalls, adding that the religion had helped her to overcome the loss.

“My religion tells me that everything that happens is God’s will. It helped me to concentrate my energy and survive. My sons are my greatest motivation,” she said.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • Kay
    Oct 10, 2012 - 11:49PM

    “My religion tells me that everything that happens is God’s will”

    Similarly Muslims should believe that,

    America is super power with Gods will

    Whatever happening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libia, Egypt etc is also Gods will.

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  • BlackJack
    Oct 10, 2012 - 11:51PM

    Why make so much of this? A woman wearing a headscarf is elected mayor of a city in a country with majority muslims. Big deal. As long as she does not try and save souls of kafirs, why should anyone have an issue with her choice of attire.

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  • meekal a ahmed
    Oct 11, 2012 - 12:28AM

    Is covering your head a veil?

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  • shoshe
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:25AM

    Good for her and wish her best of luck

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  • s
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:50AM

    @Kay yes its happening with God’s permission and they are running away as well with their tail in their mouth

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  • gp65
    Oct 11, 2012 - 2:43AM

    Though she claims she is wearing a veil (niqaab), she is actually wearing a scarf (hijaab). Perhaps a slip of tongue on pat of the good mayor.

    Anyway how is this any different from a sari clad Indira Gandhi becoming a Prime Mnister in a Hindu majority India?

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  • anonymous
    Oct 11, 2012 - 4:04AM

    Perhaps our superficial Pakistani female politicians can learn something from her. It’s not about showing off your designer clothes, sunglasses, handbags and hairstyles, but about being an intelligent person and serving your people properly.

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  • Yaida M
    Oct 11, 2012 - 6:54AM

    What an achievement! :-/

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  • Abreez
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:14AM

    @Kay
    Hell is also God’s will, where everyone will reap what he is sowing.

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  • god
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:17AM

    @s:
    god is not allah, allah is human creation.

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  • gp65
    Oct 11, 2012 - 12:37PM

    @anonymous: “about being an intelligent person and serving your people properly.
    Recommend”

    She just secured a 30% of vote but is elected because that was the plurality. How does this action alone tell you that she is a role model fo Pakistani women leaders who may not be hijabis or that she is an ‘intelligent person serving her people properly’ (she maybe but where is the evidence). Also are you saying that Sherry Rehman and Benazir Bhutto and Asma Jahangir (none of whom are hijabis) are/were NOT intelligent and or did not serve their people?

    HE dress choice is just that – her dress choice. It does not reflect well or poorly on her.

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  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:08PM

    Islam is the religion of peace and tranquility not of the barbarism/barbarity but unfortunately this is the greatest dilemma of the West that Western nations,Western and some other non-Western countries’ nations and media choose some black sheep muslims from the muslim’s ummah and portray the negative aspects and usage of Islam before the world and defame the whole muslims for cheap popularity instead of reading the exact and true teachings of Islam……..

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  • M.Ahmer Ali
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:10PM

    Islam is the religion of peace and tranquility not of the barbarism/barbarity but unfortunately this is the greatest dilemma of the West that Western nations,Western and some other non-Western countries’ nations and media choose some black sheep muslims from the muslim’s ummah and portray the negative aspects and usage of Islam before the world and defame the whole muslims for cheap popularity instead of reading the exact and true teachings of Islam……..Recommend

  • Oct 11, 2012 - 1:29PM

    @anonymous: are you saying this against the PTI lady members? beware of the trolls mate!

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  • IceSoul
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:56PM

    @Anonymous: If you are so intent on teaching Pakistan politicians, I ask that you first learn tolerance from Europe and America. Can a Hindu or a Jew ever become mayor in Pakistan?

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  • faraz
    Oct 11, 2012 - 2:36PM

    @IceSoul: Learn tolerance from Europe and American LOL. Anyway, first understand that she has been elected from a Muslim majority town, so the comment is irrelevant here. About Hindu or Christian at higher posts in Pakistan, yes there are many examples. Go google around!

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  • MK
    Oct 19, 2012 - 12:56AM

    @IceSoul:

    Intolerance is a fact in Pakistan. But to keep records straight she was elected a Mayor of a Muslim Majority city. We do not see Muslim mayors running Christian Majority cities even in Europe.

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  • david o, allen
    Oct 24, 2012 - 11:44PM

    All that is required for any religion to live in peace and brotherhood with any other religion is to practice the most humane teachings of their own religion. I have no desire to convert people to my religion. I believe that we are, all of us, the children of a single creative intelligence. Anyone who wishes me to treat them as a beloved brother or sister has only to ask.

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  • david o, allen
    Oct 24, 2012 - 11:50PM

    All that is required for any religion to live in peace and brotherhood with any other religion is for each follower to live by the most HUMANE teachings of their own religion.

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