A Muslim Miss Universe Contestant Fought for Her Right to Wear a Kaftan Instead of a Bikini

Photo: Muna Jama/Instagram
Photo: Muna Jama/Instagram

A Muslim woman just made history at the Miss Universe Great Britain beauty pageant. Muna Jama fought for her right to wear a kaftan instead of a bikini during the show’s swimsuit portion. Spoiler alert: She wore more clothes, and she still fit right in among her fellow contestants.

Jama first applied to the Miss Universe qualifying pageant two years ago, but got cold feet after she was invited to compete. Since revealing swimwear was against her religion, she decided to forego participating rather than face the segment. “I wouldn’t wear a bikini to the beach, so I’m not going to wear one in a competition to score points” she told The Telegraph.

This year, she decided to reapply. Metro UK reports that she was told she could wear a cover-up “if she chose.” Of course, she did, and strutted down the runway in a colorful ankle-length kaftan. “It wasn’t easy but I think it was the first time they have heard someone asking for it,” she said.

Aside from her days on the runway, Juma works as an advocate for migration rights and child abuse in East Africa. She hopes to use the Miss Universe platform to raise awareness for Cloudless Research, the start-up she co-founded. “The contestants and I raised so much money and most importantly raised awareness for Strongbones Children’s Charity and Sheroes Hangout in India,” she wrote on Instagram. “Opportunities like this do not come around often so it’s important to make the most and take in every moment like it’s your last.”

Sharing a photo of herself in her kaftan on Instagram, Jama spoke about how important it was for her to do so. “This moment has proved that I am capable of almost anything I set my mind to and limitations is a status waiting to be changed. I thank everyone who stood beside me and believed in my vision,” she said.

Jama is certainly tearing down walls, and she’s not the only Muslim woman in fashion to do this year. Nineteen-year-old Halima Aden, a Somali-American hijab-wearing model, made history as the first Muslim woman to enter the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. Her rapid-fire rise has included groundbreaking appearances on the cover of Allure, in the pages of Vogue, and on the Milan Fashion Week runways.

Jama cheered her success as “permanent and positive change.” Now, let’s make sure that change expands.

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