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. http://muslim-marriage-events.blogspot.co.uk/2013_07_01_archive.html

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    July 27, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  2. Chris Yonts

    She's a beautiful woman and it's wholly appropriate for her to try this.

    April 1, 2013 at 1:18 am |
  3. jojo

    Tough crap. I'm sick of these muslims coming to countries and whining about treatment. Most people DON"T want them in their country. No more hiding under the rug the trouble and chaos these people bring with them. Put up or shut up. The free world would be SO much safer without them, and that is the truth. I am sick of hearing them whine, and whine, and demand, and demand. What country is willing so sacrifice the safety of their homeland for these jerks? Not my country.....USA USA USA

    May 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  4. soysauce

    There is nothing "sinful" or "immodest" about a woman enjoying or flaunting her beautiful feminine attributes. Muslim men who can't control themselves are the only ones that are "offended". Women in bikinis are beautiful, women who are naked are beautiful, and women who are conservatively dressed are also beautiful. It doesn't matter.

    May 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  5. Dywlf

    Add mus lim hypo cryptes to the list.

    May 2, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  6. Muneef

    All about Women in Islam;

    April 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  7. JWH

    With all that make up she is a harlot in any religion.

    April 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  8. Christopher Hickman

    Dear Ms. Bukhari, however unlikely it is that you will see this comment I feel compelled to wish you well and suggest that however difficult it may be to not allow the fringe elements to try and dictate how you live your life remember that the vast majority support you and your decision to live your life as you see fit. I am very weary of all the self appointed "Godly" people whether Muslim or Christian trying to dictate how people should live their lives. So I wish you Godspeed and fortunate times and my prayers that you succeed in all you do.

    April 22, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  9. C. Cantu

    Muslims should convert to Christianity. They should open their eyes, minds, hearts and deeply analyze, discern and compare any of the Middle Eastern Christian Traditions which are much older than Islam to their Muslim faith. It is a fact that nowadays, violence, intolerance, hatred, terrorism, discrimination is much greater among Muslims than Christian Arabs. Anywhere in the world, the same conflicts arise caused by Islamic dogmas and practices. Most Islamic religious leaders are the main instigators of these violent actions, they seduce young people with their satanic teachings to commit all kinds of atrocities and justify these actions under their own Islamic dogmas. Muslims should compare their lives and ideology to their Christian Arab brethren and decide to take the first step to change their distorted mentality.

    April 21, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  10. Bif T

    To each is own, but I honestly don't find her the least bit attractive. However, if I did I wouldn't care if she was Muslim, Christian, whatever.

    If I were her, I'd worry about her fellow Muslims (extremist element at least) rather than some knucklheads taking swipes from behind a computer.

    April 20, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  11. HappyyppaH

    This is one of the reasons why I don't feel at all comfy being involved in any religion. I have my relationship with God and leave all the clutter of what to do and when and how behind.

    April 19, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  12. Mekhong Kurt

    As miniscule the use of beauty pageants are, IMHO, they are infinitely more useful than those who seek to impose their own preferences on others.

    Don't like bikinis? - don't wear or even look at them, then. Think women in a country like England shouldn't enjoy the civil freedoms her country offers? - tough stuff; go to Afghanistan and live happily ever after in some cave.

    April 19, 2011 at 5:52 am |
  13. Muneef

    Lord of the Universe:
    Surprised to have seen many of you to state that God Allah is the Lord of the Moon ! When he is the Lord of the whole Universe and Creation ! You accuse Muslims of Worshiping of the Moon ! When the Quran clearly indicated that the Sun and the Moon are being used for knowing the number of days,other than that known or unknown forms of uses and needs for !

    Now the only verse that in which God clearly has indicated that he is Lord of is the "The Planet of Sirius" that can be found within Q/S/V's 53:49
    An-Najm (The Star) 53:
    And that He it is Who is the Lord of Sirius; (49).
    Pronounced in Arabic "El-Sherra".

    Links for you to gain the knowledge of this opportunity which i feel thankful to those who drove me to search for it and research it, adding to that i became to understand that the planets are responsible for what ever goes on in the universe as to disasters on earth and to creations, i take it from the Quranic verse that this "Sirius Planet A&B" is or are the Head Star or Planet of all Group of universal Planets in being responsible as a Head Gear for the entire movement of all Gears of the the Ticking Clock of time "The Universal Life time Granted to it to work..!

    The Question that we should be asking or looking for an answer for is: 
    Would time here haste for manking being hasty or would it be granted more time by becoming:
    -a non corruptor to earth and sea.
    -for holding right God Message of revelations and laws.
    -for showing mercy and being charitable paying out the poor dues.

    Wouldn't that make a change when majority become as that since as seems that the darker side overtaking the brighter side meaning Evil-being taking Over the Good-being in their deeds ? It is only when signs like that are shown the earth shake and maybe the whole universe shake that same shake ! After all "The head Key Planet of all those universal planets "The Sirius" is in the hand of God the creator and the lord who is either crediting or debiting our intentions and actions on what was deposited upon us to maintain uncorrupted but rather to go on spreading Justice,Respect even before Love since they say "Some Love do Kill more than hate kills" !!!

    Sorry having got carried away kindly read the links that i found to be very interesting and very informative :         



    April 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • HappyyppaH

      Who the heck accused you of worshipping the moon? Do tell.

      April 19, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • BFF

      ... you are explained everything very calmly. Thank you, may Allah blessed you always

      May 5, 2011 at 7:31 am |
  14. Muneef

    In one of the meetings on TV programes an Islamic scholar was asked why mankind is so violent and all those killings ?

    He simply answered because all mankind had derived from a criminal that had killed his brother,meaning that all mankind derived from the son of Adam named as Cain who killed Abel who had not performed any attack or even self defense;

    The First Murder*
    [5:27] Recite for them the true history of Adam's two sons. They made an offering, and it was accepted from one of them, but not from the other. He said, "I will surely kill you." He said, "GOD accepts only from the righteous.

    [5:28] "If you extend your hand to kill me, I am not extending my hand to kill you. For I reverence GOD, Lord of the universe.

    [5:29] "I want you, not me, to bear my sin and your sin, then you end up with the dwellers of Hell. Such is the requital for the transgressors."

    [5:30] His ego provoked him into killing his brother. He killed him, and ended up with the losers.


    April 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • pnut

      Thanks to the Human Genome Project we can state with 100 % certainty that the story of Cain and Able, Adam and Eve, is just that a story, a fable, a myth, a fairytale if you will.

      God is imaginary.

      April 23, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • lanboodan

      That scholar was an illiterate...All the generation that came forth from Cain were punished by God through flood...Read the history before presenting your knowledge..

      May 1, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • PCissuchBS

      Thank you "pnut"!!
      I agree with your statement.
      A book of mythology from any college has as much credence as any religious text.

      May 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  15. Ferhan Mazher

    Good Luck Shanna Bukhari !

    April 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  16. Muneef

    The Quran says, "Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies." Surah 40:28. In the Hadith, Mohammed was also quoted as saying, "Be honest because honesty leads to goodness, and goodness leads to Paradise. Beware of falsehood because it leads to immorality, and immorality leads to Hell." 

    April 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • ranee

      muneef...who cares what your kuran says. if allah will not guide her, she will find another guide. You go wherever u want ...look for your paradise,

      April 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Muneef


      God guides who look upon him for guidance,the closer one comes to him the more he becomes closer to one...any way don't worry about her this is all is as "a storm in cup on tea" just to be paid by the media for insulting an Islamic population for the purpose of having those who are rated as extremes to come out showing signs or saying out things or approach to attack the girl,maybe she is just being used as a bate for making catches ??

      Have seen similar cases where Australian livestock vessels would be using a well groomed female sheep lead in front of male sheep for them to follow her on board or out board the livestock vessel.... Other than that I do not see why since she has nothing to deserve any stage of the beauty contest...unless British have no taste for beauty and longer...

      April 16, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Coriolana

      Your heaven and your hell. Don't inflict it on anyone else.

      April 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Muneef

      We love for our neighbors what we love for our selves,we like to feed our neighbors on what we feed on,we like to share with our neighbors the stream of light that we enjoy.

      April 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |

      Taking 7 & 10 year old LITTLE GIRLS will not get you into paradise nor will murder in the name of any religion and I read that is what Mohammed did and the men who follow this Islamic faith still do. SHAME ON THEM !!!!!!! NONE OF YOU THAT DO THIS WILL GO TO PARADISE. This religion is full of hate and control!!!!

      April 18, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Bleep

      Muneef, you can try to feed your neighbors on what you feed and to share your light, but don't force it because not every neighbor likes your food and light.

      April 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • klhklh

      muslim+beauty queen. Oxymoron???

      May 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • mk2

      The Quran also says to subjugate the unbeliever (those who do not bow to Allah) and if unbeliever can not be enslaved then kill him.

      May 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm |
  17. Tee it up

    I think she is an attractive woman, and if she wants to represent her country in the Miss Universe Pagaent, she has every right to. Having said that, who did her makeup for that interview??? Good Lord – what's with the extremely dark eye shadow and dark eyebrows?? Her hair is dark already – she is a little old to be going thru a "goth" stage!!

    April 16, 2011 at 11:37 am |
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About this blog

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.