“Life is too short for negativity,” the beauty queen says.
When Esma Voloder was crowned Miss World Australia this month, the Muslim model said she hoped to use her title to shatter stereotypes about her religion.
Unfortunately, she has since become the target of an Islamophobic backlash, with some Australians even demanding that another winner be chosen.
Miss World Australia national director Deborah Miller told The Daily Telegraph the pageant had fielded several “awful and mean” calls, including from some who asked: “How did you let a Muslim win?”
Their answer? “We believe Esma is a strong woman and represents a multicultural Australia.”
Voloder, who was born in a refugee camp during the Bosnian war and relocated to Australia with her family when she was five months old, also had a classy response to the hurtful attacks.
“Life is too short for negativity,” she said.
“I forgive them… I feel it comes from a lack of understanding. I am hoping to break down the barriers by just being me.”
Following her win, the 25-year-old said she wanted to help people better understand her faith.
“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.
“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.”
She said she would not let the negative attention prevent her from vying for the global Miss World title in China at the end of the year.