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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Controversial Pageant Won by Turkish Model

LONDON -- A 21-year-old Turkish model and dancer took the Miss World crown on Saturday in a contest moved to Britain from Nigeria after deadly Muslim-Christian riots sparked by controversy over the pageant.

"I am so happy and excited," Azra Akin, 21, said after winning the 2002 title and 100,000 British pounds ($157,000) in prize money ahead of Miss Colombia, Natalia Peralta, in second and Miss Peru, Marina Mora Montero, in third place.

"I hope to represent the women of the world in a good way," Akin said.

The gala show in Alexandra Palace in London went ahead despite calls for its cancellation that followed last month's violence in Nigeria that killed more than 200 people.

One prominent British feminist had said the women would be parading in "swimwear dripping with blood" if the show went on, and about half a dozen competitors withdrew.

Akin said she had been "shocked" by the carnage in Nigeria but did not believe the Miss World event was responsible.

"People who think Miss World was to blame should research more about this competition, because we are doing great things," she said.

"Our thoughts go out to the families who have suffered, and we hope that Nigeria recovers swiftly and will finally be recognized for the beauty it possesses," presenter Sean Kannan said in the show's only formal reference to the violence.

Muslim opposition to the pageant, originally planned to be held in Nigeria on the same day, boiled over after a local journalist wrote that Islam's prophet Mohammed would have approved of Miss World and possibly married a competitor.

Rioting broke out in the northern city of Kaduna, forcing shocked organizers to pull out of Nigeria.

Although sniffed at by many as anachronistic and sexist -- and not even broadcast in the event's home country Britain -- the show remains popular. Alexandra Palace was sold out, and millions watched it on television in 142 countries.

There was a pause -- at the contestants' request -- to remember Amina Lawal, sentenced to die by stoning under Islamic law in a northern Nigerian state for bearing a child outside marriage. Even before the riots, some had been boycotting the show in Nigeria in solidarity with Lawal.