CAIRO - A Bosnian hijab-clad Muslim woman has been elected as mayor of Visoko municipality in central Bosnia, making history as the first veiled European mayor.
It's a victory of tolerance, Amra Babic, a wartime widow, told Springfield News-Leader on Monday, October 29.
The 43 year-old economist has been elected as Bosnia's first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe.
She was a bank auditor and served as the regional finance minister before running for mayor.
She decided to wear her headscarf after her husband was killed while fighting in the Bosnian army in the war-scarred Balkan nation.
For Babic, religion and hard work helped her overcome her husband's death, raise their three boys alone and pursue a career.
Viewing her hijab as a human right, she sees her electoral triumph as a proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values.
I am the East and I am the West, she declared.
I am proud to be a Muslim and to be a European. I come from a country where religions and cultures live next to each other.
All that together is my identity, she added.
Bosnia, a small country on the Balkan Peninsula, is home to three ethnic "constituent peoples": mainly Muslim Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
Out of Bosnia and Herzegovina's nearly 4 million population, some 40 percent are Muslims, 31 percent Orthodox Christians and 10 percent Catholics.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
Praising her as a successful economist and local politician, 45,000 people in Visoko municipality hope Babic would play an active role in Bosnia's emergence from the ashes.
We are proud to have elected her, says Muris Karavdic, 38, a local small business owner.
It doesn't matter whether she covers her head or not. She is smart and knows finances.
A decade after aggressive Balkan war, Bosnia is still trying to rise from its ashes.
Bosnia fell into civil war in 1992 that left 200,000 people dead and displaced millions as Serb forces launched ethnic cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims.
During the 43-month war, which claimed some 200,000 lives, nearly two million people fled their homes, half a million of them are still listed as refugees.
In the final months of the three-year war, Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic, overran Srebrenica, killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military chief Ratko Mladic, the two people considered most responsible for the massacre, are both facing trial for genocide before the UN war crimes court in The Hague over Srebrenica.The other main protagonists of the war have all died or have been convicted of war crimes.