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Bosnians elect their first hijab-wearing mayor

VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — When Amra Babic walks down the streets of the central Bosnian town of Visoko wearing her Muslim headscarf, men sitting in outdoor cafes instantly rise from their chairs, fix their clothes and put out their cigarettes.

The respect is only natural: Babic is their new mayor.

Associated Press/Amel Emric - This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows Amra Babic, mayor of the Bosnian town of Visoko, answering a journalist question during an interview, in Visoko, 30 km north of Sarajevo, Bosnia. The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life. For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

Associated Press/Amel Emric – This Oct. 16, 2012 photo shows Amra Babic, mayor of the Bosnian town of Visoko, answering a journalist question during an interview, in Visoko, 30 km north of Sarajevo, Bosnia. The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life. For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

The 43 year-old economist has blazed a trail in this war-scarred Balkan nation by becoming its first hijab-wearing mayor, and possibly the only one in Europe. Her victory comes as governments elsewhere in Europe debate laws to ban the Muslim veil, and Turkey, another predominantly Islamic country seeking EU membership, maintains a strict policy of keeping religious symbols out of public life.

For Babic, the electoral triumph is proof that observance of Muslim tradition is compatible with Western democratic values.

“It’s a victory of tolerance,” the wartime widow says. “We have sent a message out from Visoko. A message of tolerance, democracy and equality.”

She sees no contradiction in the influences that define her life.

“I am the East and I am the West,” she declares. “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.”

For centuries, Bosnia has been a cultural and religious mix of Muslim Bosniaks, Christian Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats who occasionally fought each but most of the time lived peacefully together. Then came the Balkans wars of the 1990s in which ethnic hatreds bottled up by Yugoslavia’s communist regime exploded as the federation disintegrated. Bosnia’s Muslim majority fell victim to the genocidal rampage of ethnic Serbs seeking to form a breakaway state.

As an economist and local politician, Babic has played an active role in Bosnia’s emergence from the ashes.

She was a bank auditor and served as the regional finance minister before running for mayor. Now Babic feels she is ready to run this town of 45,000 people, mostly Bosnian Muslims, for the next four years.

She wants to fix the infrastructure, partly ruined by the Bosnian 1992-95 war and partly by post-war poverty. And she plans to make Visoko attractive for investment, encouraging youth to start small businesses. It’s all part of her strategy to fight the town’s unemployment rate of over 25 percent.

“We are proud to have elected her,” says Muris Karavdic, 38, a local small business owner. “It doesn’t matter whether she covewrs her head or not. She is smart and knows finances.”

Babic sees her victory as breaking multiple barriers, from bigotry against women in a traditionally male-dominated society to stigmatization of the hijab that sprang up under the communist regime.

“Finally we have overcome our own prejudices,” she says. “The one about women in politics, then the one about hijab-wearing women — and even the one about hijab-wearing women in politics.”

Babic, of the center-right Party for Democratic Action, decided to wear her headscarf after her husband was killed fighting in the Bosnian Army, and views it as “a human right.” Religion and hard work helped her overcome his death, raise their three boys alone and pursue a career.

Babic says she is ready to work around the clock and prove people in Visoko made the right choice. This, she hopes, may clear the way for more women to follow her path.

By Bosnian law, at least 30 percent of the candidates in any election have to be women, but voters have been reluctant to give women a chance. Only five of the 185 mayors elected on October 7 are women.

Signs of the respect Babic commands in Visoko abound.

Election posters still up around town have been scrawled with vampire teeth, mustaches or spectacles; none of Babic’s posters bear such graffiti. Older hijab-wearing women stop in front of her pictures as if hypnotized by her determined blue eyes. Some are seen crying and caressing the image on the wall.

“They probably look at my picture and think of their lost opportunities,” Babic says. “They probably think: Go, girl! You do it if I couldn’t.”

Hijab Volumizer Small Flower Clip- Flower Gems

We’ve Got You Covered!Introducing a popular hijab accessory in the Middle East. The hijab clip, hair volumizer. It raises your hair for you to have added height to your scarf, and adds volume to those with short or thin hair.

  • synthetic tulle a flower on each side of the clip
  • if you have thick hair like our manniqin below-you will have a larger bun, if you have thin hair, a smaller bun will be expected

Introducing a popular hijab accessory in the Middle East. The hijab clip, hair volumizer. It raises your hair for you to have added height to your scarf, and adds volume to those with short or thin hair.

Introducing a popular hijab accessory in the Middle East. The hijab clip, hair volumizer. It raises your hair for you to have added height to your scarf, and adds volume to those with short or thin hair.

Modest Swimwear is in the headlines

Orignial Post By Fabienne Faur (AFP)

‘Modest’ swimwear sheds its mothballs in US

WASHINGTON — Modest bathing suits have shed their mothballs and come back in style in the United States, with a clientele spanning the religious, the curvy and the sun-sensitive.

“Definitely, there was a need for it,” said New York fashion designer Regine Tessone.

“There are a lot of women who need to wear one, including myself,” added Tessone, an orthodox Jew who calls her line “original kosher swim wear”.

While still a niche industry, modest swim wear is experiencing a boom as retailers see a steady stream of new buyers eager to snap up their four — yes, four-piece swim sets, cover-up dresses and body suits.

With sales ranging in the thousands to tens of thousands of items per retailer, industry representatives say these suits fill a gaping void in an industry projected to bring in overall 2.6 billion dollars in 2012, according to market research company IBISWorld.

Zeena Altalib, who owns the Primo Moda boutique in Sterling, Virginia, said she started “out of frustration of things not being available”.

“I had to look until I found something I would be satisfied with that looked nice and stylish but was also cut modestly, especially for the summer,” the practicing Muslim said.

Alongside dresses and athletic wear, Altalib sells swimsuits that conform with conservative Muslim customs: long sleeves, ankle-length pants, headscarves — all in synthetic fabric made for and approved by public pools.

She said that for Muslim women the “lifestyle is changing,” explaining that they “want to and need to participate in everyday activity” as well as “participate in canoeing, go to the beach, enjoy what God has offered us.”

“As long as we have the appropriate clothing, we can do all of this,” she said.

An image on her website shows a woman clad in a beige headscarf, tunic and pants playing basketball.

Tessone, meanwhile, wanted to offer clients — including young girls — the possibility to “shop modest, swim modest and be modest.”

She launched her online label and New York shop Aqua Modesta about 10 years ago in response to a lack of options for women seeking to avoid unwanted ogling by men at the beach and gym.

Her four-piece swim sets include a skirt with briefs and a fully lined sports bra beneath a top with three-quarter sleeves and abide by Orthodox Jewish dress codes of “tzniut” modesty.

“Everything that I learned as a designer, I had to do the opposite in creating my own line,” she laughed, calling herself somewhat of an outcast in fashion school.

“We were taught always to emphasise the breasts, the hips, all the sensual areas of a woman — and here I have to detract,” she said, explaining that under tzniut guidelines a woman can be beautiful but should avoid eliciting sexual desire outside the bedroom.

The idea is echoed by Jen Clothing, which targets Mormons with bathing suits that are modestly cut in a 1950s style, revealing less of the thigh and gathered high up at the bust.

“Is exposure really all that sexy?” the group asks on its website, promising its clients “a bit of mystery and class”.

But Muslims and Mormons are not alone in seeking modesty. Some more conservative Christian women — especially evangelical and born-again Christians — and even a secular crowd of older and plus-size women, in a country with a growing problem of obesity, are also joining the trend.

“I see a lot of women who would never walk around in their undergarments and then do just that on the beach! It is crazy,” a user who went by the name Nicole commented on Christian blog Created to be His (CreatedtobeHIS31.blogspot.com).

Amber Gray of Simply Modest clothiers spoke of a “backlash” against the kind of feminism that “promises freedom, but in reality locks women into thinking that they have to fit a certain idea of what a woman is — and part of that is showing off her body to whomever cares to see it.”

She and her sister Heather, who were home-schooled by their parents, purchased the business in 2009 because “we believe God meant it when he commanded his women to dress modestly,” according to their website.

Joan Ferguson, founder of Oregon-based WholesomeWear, said her customers are not all motivated by their faith.

“A lot of it is for religious purposes,” she said.

“But I have noticed I have gained customers over the years that are buying my suits for weight issues, to stay more covered from the sun, and as a woman ages, she is more self-conscious in a skimpy suit.”

Others may have skin diseases or want to cover up scars from surgery.

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