LONDON, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Azra Akin, a 21-year-old model from Turkey, won the Miss World competition Saturday, two weeks after Muslim-Christian violence in Nigeria forced organizers to move the pageant to London. More than 200 people were killed in the religious riots.
Akin, who was raised by her Turkish parents in the Netherlands, won more than $150,000 in prize money, finishing ahead of Miss Colombia, Natalia Peralta, and third-place Marina Mora Montero of Peru.
"I hope I represent the women of the world in a good way," Akin told reporters.
"I think it is good for a woman to have this position, and I hope I can make a difference," Akin said.
She is the first Miss World titleholder from Turkey, a traditionally secular Muslim nation. Last month, Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, known by its initials AKP, easily won Turkey's election and now holds 60 percent of the seats in the new Turkish parliament.
Riots flared for four days in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna last month, forcing organizers to move the Miss World contest. The rioting then spread to other areas in Nigeria as Muslims there protested the hosting of the pageant in their country because they consider the event immoral. The contestants hopped on a jetliner to Britain amid criticism that attempts to put on the event in Nigeria was "insensitive and irresponsible."
A local newspaper article which suggested that the prophet Mohammed would have approved of the pageant apparently set off the riots. The newspaper ThisDay published a commentary that suggested Mohammed, the historical founder of Islam, would have wanted to marry one of the beauty queens. The contestants hopped on a jetliner to Britain amid criticism that attempts to put on the event in Nigeria was "insensitive and irresponsible."
The dress and behavior of women has been a volatile issue in Nigeria, particularly between the mostly Christian south and mostly Muslim north. Traditional Sharia law had recently condemned a Nigerian woman to death by stoning for giving birth to an illegitimate child, but government authorities subsequently said the sentence would not be carried out.