A 25-year-old Muslim woman who fled the Bosnian refugee camp where she spent time as a baby has been crowned Miss World Australia 2017, reported Daily Mail Australia.
Esma Voloder is creating headlines with her positive reinforcement of Islam after her crowning ceremony. She said, “I believe Islam is about peace, unity, prosperity, and inclusion.” At a time when the world is experiencing Islamophobia and hate crimes, Voloder is using her title to shatter these stereotypes about religion.
Esma moved to Australia when she was just five-months-old and in 2008 was named Miss Teen Australia. She went on to compete in a number of pageants as well as pursue fashion and modelling, but education was always her number one priority. Growing up in Australia, the young beauty went on to earn a degree in psychology and currently works as a criminal profiler.
“Thank you, Australia – for giving me a home and opportunity to do good,” she wrote in a post on Instagram following her win. Daily Mail Australia reported that Voloder practices Islam and hopes she can use her new found platform to help people understand the faith better.
“The Islam that I know, that is in the Quran, I don’t associate that with any acts that are occurring around the world,” she was reported as saying. On Friday Esma took home the $68,000 pearl-encrusted crown after competing against girls from across the nation at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Melbourne.
“People tend to blame religion for the atrocities that are happening, but if we do that we take responsibility away from the individuals.” Voloder said a lot has been misconstrued about Islam.
“I feel that a category has been created that is not really what the Quran actually promotes. I believe Islam is about peace, unity, prosperity and inclusion.” Voloder and Somali-American model Halima Aden, who at 19 years of age, rose to fame last year after competing in a US beauty pageant wearing a hijab and a burkini, have both represented Muslim women on international forums.
Like Voloder, Aden was also born in a refugee camp, and moved to Minnesota at the age of six. She has since landed a contract with IMG Models, and recently became the first ever hijabi cover star for Allure magazine.
The Bosnian beauty said she hopes she can inspire unity with her platform. ‘Despite what your personal beliefs are, if we all believe in what is good, we can work together and make this world a beautiful and liveable place while we are here.’
Voloder will go on to compete in the 2017 Miss World finals in China at the end of the year.