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April 14th, 2011
04:26 PM ET

Muslim beauty contestant faces critics on all sides, she says

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

Manchester, England (CNN) - Shanna Bukhari gets some pretty nasty messages through Facebook, she says. They call her a "dirty Muslim." They say England is a "white nationality country" and she shouldn't be allowed to represent it.

But that's just what she hopes to do at the Miss Universe beauty contest this year. If the Manchester, England-based fashion model wins the British contest next month, Bukhari will become the first Muslim to represent Britain at the international contest.

The idea isn't going down well with everyone - Bukhari says she has gotten hate mail from across the board.

"I've had racists, I've had a minority from Muslim community, I've had it from all religions and all communities that dislike what I'm doing," she said.

The most upsetting messages, she said, are video links suggesting she should be murdered.

Since she started getting threats, she has made a point of never being alone, and a private security firm guards her when she appears at charity events, she said.

Some of the abuse she gets is based on a misunderstanding, she said.

"I am not representing Islam and I am not the one that brought my religion into this," Bukhari said. "The minority out there should not use my religion to attack me."

She's not planning to wear a bikini, she said, explaining that her swimsuit will be a one-piece topped with a sarong.

"I don't think I would be comfortable wearing a bikini," she said.

Bukhari says she's a good Muslim.

"This competition does not define me as a person. It doesn't make me any less of a Muslim being in a pageant like this," she said. "Pageants like this are happening in Muslim countries as well."

And a British woman shouldn't have to defend herself from the sort of criticism she's getting from a few Muslims, she argued.

"We live in a Western society and there is a minority out there who is trying to dictate and control others... they need to start accepting England as a whole and treat it as their country."

One of her critics agrees with her on that point.

"As much as I may oppose the way a certain person dresses, I think it's important that people should have the right to dress the way they want to dress," said Mohammed Shafiq, the chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Manchester-based Muslim youth organization working to build cross-community understanding.

But, although he says Shanna Bukhari may have a right to enter a beauty contest he says she should not.

"Islam is very clear that women should dress in a modest way and guard their modesty, and certainly as a liberal Muslim myself, I do believe that she should do just that."

He objects to pageants "where women have to be paraded and idolized as sexual objects," and dismisses the argument that pageant winners do a lot of charity work.

"You can promote peace without having the title Mrs Universe or Mrs UK for that matter," he said.

Despite his objections to beauty contests, Shafiq says he bears Bukhari no ill will.

"I totally condemn the death threats she may have received and the hate mail she may have received," he said. "I've opposed her but it doesn't mean I'm full of hatred and I wish her well."

More people back Shanna Bukhari's quest to be Miss Universe than oppose it, she said.

"I've had so much support from all over, not just the United Kingdom ... Hong Kong, China, Pakistan, India, many Muslim countries - it's way more than the hate that I've received," she said.

On the streets of Manchester, where she lives, not a single person who spoke to CNN objected to what Bukhari was doing.

"Whether you're Muslim or whatever your religion is, you should be entitled to do what you like. You should be allowed to do it regardless of your religion," said David Yates.

"Why not?" asked Priya Baghani, who is not Muslim. "In Manchester there are a lot of Muslims, so that might be representative of this community, so why not?"

Several women wearing headscarves declined to answer CNN's questions about Bukhari.

But one of the world's best-known Muslim beauty queens is backing her.

Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih is both the first Arab-American and the first Muslim to win that title. She sought out Bukhari after hearing her story to offer advice and a gift.

"Be fearless, be proud of who you are and no matter what anyone tells you by using religion as a tool against you, don't let that affect you," she said.

"I sent Shanna a bracelet just like mine," Fakih said, jangling a wrist covered with good luck charms, "and I hope it's going to keep her safe."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Culture wars • Europe • Islam • Muslim • United Kingdom

soundoff (1,004 Responses)
  1. Sutemi

    She won't win anyway...too much facial hair.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  2. Ron

    Beauty Queen? I see the scary lady in the video but no beauty queen.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  3. amust

    she does not look that charming at all, how can british even choose her Manchester Muslim beauty , let apart Bristish beauty, etc....and for charity work, you donot need to be beautiful.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  4. hurf durf

    Muslim beauty contestants: giving a new meaning to the word "bombshell"

    April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Josh

      That's funny

      April 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  5. Human

    Beauty also represents God. I am a SIKH and the Sikhs in England fully support you as the Miss Universe GB. Don't listen to the idiots who put you down for any reason. Be yourself and do what ever brings you happiness. Good Luck.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Hey, off topic ... Can you put the word out we need more Indian chefs in the USA, Indian food is so hard to find especially the great stuff the UK has! 🙂

      April 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  6. ABD

    Whdy does she say she is a muslim in the first place, do christian participants tell the media they are christian, do athiest contestants say they are athiest !!!, she is talking about the religion from the beggining, and obviously she is not religous becasue if she is religous she will not participate in the first place, so I ask her to shut up, and do whatever she wants, but stop talking about religion to grap attenstion from the media.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  7. Sikhead47

    She's not even pretty. All that make up on her mug, hasnt done a thing for her.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  8. CNN_viewer

    Can there be anymore HATERS.. only issue i have with this woman are her eyebrows.. can those be tamed?? lol

    April 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  9. Izzisgirl

    "I totally condemn the death threats she may have received and the hate mail she may have received," he said.

    "MAY HAVE" received? So she may be claiming she received it just to call more attention to herself? Nice.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  10. Ed Bermeo

    i just dont think she is that attractive compared to other British chicks out there.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  11. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Idea for a Muslim beauty contest. All the contestants wear burqas and the judges try to guess which one is the best looking.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
  12. terrix2000

    I understand her feelings, but if she is going to represent anyone, how about a smile and be friendly. She looks like a miserable Arab woman, frowning and scowling on society. She is way over-rated and I would not want her representing my country, not because she is muslim, but because she shows no signs of hope or is lovable. I didn't like her from the first shot, and first impression is everything.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  13. Amrullah Yousafzai, Margalla Hills

    She looks ugly!
    This girl cleans my toilets and she is much prettier:
    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JfggTjKmUk&w=640&h=360]

    April 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • FML

      LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOO

      April 20, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  14. BadgerFan

    ~~LAST DAY to VOTE for UW-MADSION~~

    Send this message to all your friends with the link:
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    http://www.ballroomfantasy.com/cbdcvote.php

    Thanks for all the support so far!

    April 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  15. sunira

    I advise all muslim women to do as I did and leave this false religion that teaches women must be covered, must be second class servants to men, must look to them for spiritual guidance. God is really out there, but you will not find him in Islam. My saviour once said that you would know a tree by its fruit. One only needs to look at any place where moslems are the majority or the minority and see their fruit to know whether the religion follows God. It is hard for a woman to leave and her family may not follow her at first, but it can be done and you will eventually save many of them, too.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • DGH Concord Ca

      great, comment

      April 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • EDDIE

      oh so you were a muslim eh...... or is that moslem..... lol... n while we're quoting ur saviors words... look up ' many will come unto me that day asking for forgiveness and i shall turn away from them'.. anyways.. not here for religious arguments.. only here to say be who you are.. admit to who you are .. cuz u definitely aint no convert

      April 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • Mike

      EDDIE get back in that cave!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
    • EDDIE

      its ok mike.. u cant pick a fake ' muslim' out.. i dont blame u.. so i hold no ill will against u.. all ill say is get an education.. thats whats happening back there.. some self proclaimed expert on christians and islam misleads others into doing stupid things... anyways.. ignorance is bliss.. so sit back.. hit that bowl and pretend like u know it all.. cheers

      April 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  16. Emilio De Luigi

    All people should be free to express themselves as they like. It is time that we send out a clear message to all bigots (from religious people to nationalists to defenders of the purity of the race) to take a hike, that enough is enough: They have made horrendous damages to so many innocent people in so many countries, and have so badly polluted our life. I plaude to the initiative of this corageous lady, and I wish her the best success in her life.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  17. John

    On a different note, I wish we had more people like Mohammed Shafiq. Even when they disagree with someone, they understand the concept of respecting others decisions. If we had more like that in the US just maybe our government wouldn't be spending 95% of it's time & energy having to deal with the crazies who can't accept that someone else thinks differently than they do.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Mike

      Especially when most of them of the off spring of immigrants who were 'different' at some point! Although the Tea Party probably think their ancestors were deposited directly in the US as babies by white storks.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  18. Stan13

    Newsflash for the Bigot Trolls....MIDDLE EASTERN IS CAUCASIAN BY RACE!! The only difference is religion..I guess it's not only Africans that are still involved in tribal warfare huh!! People need to get past this race/religion issue. It's getting really old really fast..and will eventually wipe us all out..then we will start all over again...so lets just stop now..pls foe humanities sake!!

    April 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Mike

      You are totally correct.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  19. Terry

    OMFG its time to get over Religion.. as ALL religions are wrong... there is so much proof out there these days its crazy that ppl are still clinging to religions. All religions are is a tool for controling the masses, Religion is dead... that being said you dont have to be a bad person in life just cause you think all religions are crap... you need to contribute to the greater good of the world, but not cause your scared that if you dont you will burn in some made up place called Hell... Get a brain people and do your research... All religions are is a tool to control you and get money from you.... All religions are evil so to speak

    April 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • Nathan

      Amen to that brother, who are we to judge who goes to heaven, and who goes to hell? If even such places exist... But I think the main reason that people still cling to religion, is that it gives them something to believe in and stand on.

      The men and probably women who threaten this girl... are probably afraid that they themselves don't feel like they belong in this world, and try to take out their frustration on a scapegoat... someone who has found where they belong.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Dina

      Oh Terry I feel for you. God exists and you are a lost soul may God Bless you and protect you !! when you need him he will be theiir to listen and save you from all of your sins. Their will come a day and you will know who God is !!! Save your heart and soul , make your peace with God, before its too late. God Bless you, and if you ever need to talk call me !

      April 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • jeff richards

      2 Peter 3:3

      Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Margie

      You also are not a bad person if you don't believe that relations are "crap". You believe what you want, so why are you knocking others for believing what they want to believe. You can disagree without being disagreeable. No need for name calling.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
    • Amy

      God is a fairy tale made up to scare people into obedience. Nothing more.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • AL

      i bet the people threating her are jesus freaks and extreme muslims, people need to know that because you belong to a religion, it doesnt excuse you to be a racist murderer. religion is a sham, and she's free to do whatever she wants.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • Ed Bermeo

      lmao at some of you ...using the bible to say god is real... how about i get a lord of the rings book and preach it to you saying that elves are real because it says it in the book

      April 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Mike

      Well said.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • Mike

      I left the UK 20 years ago for sunnier climes I can hardly believe this is happening in the England I grew up in. Back then I didn't even know anyone that was religious! When I told a nurse once in a hospital when asked, I had no religion she wrote C of E on the wrist tag. I repeated that I had no religion and she laughed and said ' C of E is the same thing love'.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • DMW

      Dear Terry, the Bible states, It is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgement. W ether you believe in God or not, one day you will stand in JUDGEMENT..... I pray that it is NEVER too late for your soul.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • sbk85

      @Jeff – Since we're quoting from the Bible, let's add a few more!

      Oppress women: 1 Timothy 2:11-12 (11) Women should learn in silence and all humility. (12) I do not allow them to teach or to have authority over men; they must keep quiet.

      Jesus REALLY hating sinners: Revelation 2:22-23 (22) Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their[a] deeds. (23) I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

      So, why don't the churches teach these delightful passages from the bible? Are Christian minds too fragile to handle the truth about the Bible and Jesus in their entirety?

      April 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • zinthos86

      Why is it that when someone says that 'God' loves you anyways they are refering to the Christian god? Or if they quote a verse it's always from the bible? What about the hundreds of other gods? I say may the great Odin strike down my enemies.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • Mike

      zinthos86 ... I think the League of Super Heros are way more entertaining and they never caused any wars!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Robin

      Go ahead Shanna Bukhari, do what you like. Few fundamentalists are idiots.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • JB

      I love this post! Well said!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • PoisonDonut

      The very fact that you are reading my response right now is proof that a creator exists, and many people call that creator "God." Do you really think you and the rest of the wonders of this world were created by accident? The odds are better that a million monkeys sitting at a million typewriters will produce the works of Shakespeare.

      April 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • SkyDaddy

      @PoisonDonut – Please cite your source for the "odds".

      April 15, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Mike in Richmond

      Wow. People like Terry, Amy, and other historically irrelevent blockheads scare me. If you are going to criticize religion (which is your God given right) then please have the decency to have studied HISTORY for Pete's sake. I can appreciate opposing viewpoints, but I can't appreciate pure unfiltered idiocy steeped in ignorance. Religions were not created to CONTROL, or to STEAL your money...lmao!! Religion was created to give ancient people an understanding of what lay ahead in the spritual realm, and in many ways to explain WHY they existed and what purpose they served. God forbid we respect those that ask the meaningful questions of their existence. Ancient people needed to know that their loved ones were in a better place (or their enemies in a worse place) and they were brave enough, and smart enough to delve into religious intraspection and belief. 99% of our societal structure from philosophy, science, art, math, architecture, law, etc owes it's existence to religion in one form or another! How funny is it that TROLLS like Terry and Amy want to simply toss it aside as if it meant nothing...truly laughable and tragic. Let those that believe in peace BELIEVE. It is not your right to judge. OH...and until you can provide evidence, YES EVIDENCE, that God doesn't exist, then stfu. Peace.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Logan

      Dina its clear you're uneducated and have probably been a housewife for the majority of your life. You need to get an education, happiness doesn't come from a fictional book written a few hundred years ago

      April 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Karen

      ABSOLUTELY. I could not say it better myself so I'll just agree. Religion, a man-made tool for control of other humans.
      By the way, the woman is beautiful. For those who don't have an issue about religion but, rather, about the woman
      herself, it's probably simple jealousy. Enjoy diversity for just what it is...NOT a plain peice of cloth but something with color, texture, pattern, and interest. Go with it, and go with LIFE.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Mike in Richmond

      Almost forgot...

      The cynicism on display here is very frightening. I understand many of you desire to NOT believe in God, or a creator, or Buddha, or Yaweh, or The Big Guy in the sky...I get it. You're too enlightened, or too cool, or too jaded, or too ruined in your own lives to extend your mind to a belief of something greater than YOU. What scares me is the desire to destroy and to mock those that do believe. Why the anger? Why does the act of belief enrage you so? Organized religion to some degree is deserving of much of the criticism laid at its feet; the Catholics for protecting pedophiles; the Muslims for not uniting against terrorism; the Protestant Right for its unflinching fundamentalism; but there are soooo many believers out there living in peace...why seek to destroy them? There is no hard evidence that God exists or does not exist. But when you see a baby being born, or the infinite expanse of the universe, how can you not see the creator's hand in that?

      April 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • billf

      @ mikeinrichmond
      a loving, caring, benevolent god does not exist, look at all the disasters happening to his 'beloved'. a creator may exist, yes.
      if god love us, it is not the kind of love we experience, thats for sure. if anything we are a object of his amusement/interest. was god really that bored that he had to make people to worship him? why did he make us? if he loved us, why not send us directly to heaven to begin with? why bait us with an apple? why this, why that?...

      it is the 'why' that separates religious from non religious. religious answer to why is 'faith', non religious answer to why is another why. pick one. i am done with asking why to the bible/religion. there is no way to find/attempt to find any meaningful answer. anything found in the bible can be found elsewhere as far as i am concerned.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
    • Ed Bermeo

      @ mike in Richmond
      maybe because of when i think of the universe...i decide to read into it and bam.. i have a basic understanding about how it was formed and why it is ever expanding.......and a baby being born..... happens in every pro creating species what is special about that???and the reason other people who don't believe in "god" is because we always have to take crap from some idiots who tell us we are going to burn in hell blah blah blah...... religion = ignorance

      April 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Mike in Richmond

      @billf...

      I appreciate your viewpoint, but you make a classic mistake. The loving God you refer to is the Christian god. No other major religion claims to have a "loving" God other than the Christians, so let's start there.

      The greatest gift that the Christian God gave man was FREE WILL. The power to make choices, right or wrong, for the benefit or detriment of humankind. The act of loving does not preclude one from giving another the power to choose. Nor does love have anything to do with natural disasters. What truth would man learn about him/herself if God simply came down from the heavens every time a disaster struck?? Huh?? Man comes to the truth of his own empathy, cowardice, love, desire, forgiveness, courage, etc, exactly because God does not interfere! And for those that believe in miracles, which I do, then you know that God does play a part...but for what purpose is not for me to decide.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
  20. Lover of Humanity

    Sorry to say but she is ugly and need to find another way to earn her living

    April 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.