Since her election last year as mayor of the small Bosnian town of Visoko, Amra Babic has gained attention across her country and in Europe at large both for her political acumen as well as her choice to wear the hijab. Observers hope that by her example she can help heal deep rifts in the country’s political system that continue to keep it well behind neighboring Serbia and Croatia in terms of development. Babic says, “I am European, I am Muslim. This is my identity…[The hijab] is what you see on the outside. But the strength is what’s inside.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Several countries, most notably France and Turkey, are grappling with how to accommodate conservative expressions of faith, such as the practice of Muslim women covering their heads in public. Bosnia is one of the few European countries with a majority-Muslim population, and for years its version of Islam was fairly moderate; even today, women say they experience job discrimination for wearing the hijab. However, despite this, more women are choosing to wear it, and in Babic they have found a role model. Says student Sumejja Essidiri: “When we cover our heads we say, ‘Okay, I’m a Muslim and I’m open.'”