| ZENICA, Bosnia, Sept 29
ZENICA, Bosnia, Sept 29 Politicians across
Europe are calling for a ban on the Islamic veil but Bosnian
Muslim Indira Sinanovic is defying the trend as well as
widespread prejudice in her own country, becoming the first
fully-veiled woman here to run for public office.
Sinanovic, 37, wears the niqab - a garment that covers the
hair and all the face apart from the eyes - and her aim if
elected to the council in her central Bosnian hometown of
Zavidovici is to battle prejudice and social exclusion.
Bosnia has no laws against the public wearing of the niqab
and the burqa, clothes that have come to be associated with a
fundamentalist reading of Islam, but a ban on court officials
wearing headscarves has made Sinanovic and other activists wary.
"It's the basic right of every citizen," said the outspoken
mother of two, speaking ahead of Sunday's election in the office
of IML (Islam My Life) Television in the town of Zenica, where
she works as a journalist.
"(If elected) I would try to turn attention to the people
who live in poverty, to be their voice in the municipal council
and push for projects to improve their social status," she said.
Bosnia has one of Europe's largest indigenous Muslim
populations, a legacy of its centuries-long history as part of
the Ottoman Empire, but prejudice against overt displays of
religion is widespread and Sinanovic has borne her share of it.
Sinanovic, who wears a long black robe and hides her eyes
behind glasses, says she herself has been called names in the
street such as "Ninja" or "Terrorist" or has been told "Go to
Afghanistan" and "Go to Syria".
Islam has traditionally been very liberal in multi-ethnic
Bosnia, which for nearly 50 years was part of officially atheist
Yugoslavia, but attitudes have shifted since the three-year
Bosnian war, when Catholic Croats and Orthodox Christian Serbs
fought a war of "ethnic cleansing" that cost 100,000 lives.
Poverty is still widespread 20 years later and Bosnia
remains deeply divided between Serbs, Croats and the Muslim
Arab mujahideen fighters who came to help their Bosniak
co-religionists during the war brought more conservative habits
with them, as did an influx of Saudi money after the war, much
of which financed the building of traditionalist mosques.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Thomas Escritt and