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. muslim woman with an opinion

    ok here is my opinion as a muslim woman. I'm far too busy living my own life and worrying about my own inequities to point fingers at others and tell them what to do so I don't care what she does or who she is. More power to her if she likes it and wants to win....its her personal decision. She's acting as an individual, her actions represent herself and not Islam or anything else. IAs for pageants and all that nonsense...well i do think the importance of pageants is kind of overblown and silly....you are just acting as a representative of the pageant once you win and doing promos and publicity stunts to publicize the pageant name and all it is is a money machine which basically rakes in money via advertising and special appearance fees. Its not like she is the first muslim to win the nobel prize, the first muslim woman president of the US, or doing charitable work like Mother Teresa...so perhaps thats another reason I simply just don't care about it.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Burbank

      That's a very intelligent and well thought out comment.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • NC

      Exactly.This day and age when women strive for equality, pageants are nonsense.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  2. A

    you know if she is allowed to be in the pagent, she will win as even the judges don't want to tick off the muslim community, so she's it folks regardless of her beauty of lack-there-of.....people are skeered of the muslim s after the things they have done and while she 'may be a good muslim' all muslims need to denounce the violence vs sitting back and not-saying-a-word.
    people you asked for what we now have with all the liberal thought process and not wanting to offend anyone...just bend over and enjoy........

    April 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  3. Burbank

    She's a legend in her own mind, a.k.a. narcissist. Most of us think she's average to ugly.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Stan13

      Most of us..pls do not speak for most. Most of you trolls on this blog, will not see her beauty because you are blinded by your bigotry!!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  4. McIgnot

    Beauty knows no race or religion, not sure why everyone hates such a beautiful woman.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Burbank

      She's not beautiful, that's the problem.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Stan13

      She is beautiful...the problem is that you feel so comfortable stataing that an obviously beautiful woman is not simply because she is Muslim. Do you think that your wife or sister would place higher in the Ms Universe contest, I THINK NOT!!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  5. Confused

    Why is there a Mr/Miss 'Universe' contest?

    Did we invite people from other planets, solar systems, or galaxies?

    On the behalf of extra terrestrials (including omnipotent extra terrestrials like Yahweh, or Allah), I protest.

    Myself, given the choice, I would vote for Allah for Miss Universe over this woman, manly from an assumption that Allah does not wear as much eye paint.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  6. Captain_OWNER

    now that is a HOMELY woman

    April 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  7. Mirza

    Err....hate to burst the writer's bubble...but she UGLY.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  8. Burbank

    If Muslims are so set on women keeping themselves covered and being modest, then what is belly dancing? It's an original Muslim dance form, so isn't that being grossly hypocritical?? I guess that's not really a suprise, the words religious and hypocrite seem to be completely interchangeable, no matter what the denomination!

    April 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • John

      These idiots wouldn't be so uptight and want to kill if they could just look at their women in a bikini!

      April 15, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  9. lisa

    the only way to heaven is by accepting jesus . do good and respect others. love your neighbors . then you will stand with confidence on the day of judgement.by the way i have lots of muslim friends who are very nice. it is not the religion that matters . we need to respect every human being and the way they are.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  10. reema

    I am a Muslim. I just have to say that Islam means SUBMISSION. To submit your entire life to what God wants. God tells us in the Quran that as humans, we must cover ourselves. We must not view woman as objects to be used as pleasure. I feel this is not the actions of someone truly following Islam. The same way that a Christian committing adultery would be doing something anti-Christian. This woman is doing something not only un-Islamic, it is anti-all Islamic values which are central to Islam: Submission to God.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Burbank

      Then why are there belly dancers?

      April 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Submission

      Submission does not mean blindly. Some Islamic leaders today call for murder of other human beings. In America, Britian, and many other countries, leaders in Mosques talk bad about non-Muslims. But it is not ok for anyone to talk about you???Muhammad made many rules for himself, men in general and his religion, that disrespected and offended others. Islam wants freedoms, but will not respect others. Be more Christian and turn the other cheek. I have never done anything bad or disrespectful to a person of another faith. Never will.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • FFFF

      @Burbank Belly Dancers weere around long before the cult of Islam...that is why.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Reality

      Is this what the Muslim god/allah wants?

      Some examples of the koranic/mosque- driven acts of terror and horror:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,483 and 925 in non combat roles. 99,901 – 109,143 Iraqi civilians killed as of 3/3/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,141 killed in action, 242 killed in non-combat situations as of 03/03/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      April 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
    • Stan13

      @ Reality

      U honestly need to look at reality because if you did you would realize that soooo many people have killed in the name of religion...all religion has had many casualties. Political movements such as capitalism (american natives, blacks etc) Communism (nearly 200 million killed) Facism (germany WW2). Blame the species not the religion or political party...then only then can we begin to fix the real problem. Religions divide. The best invention of the mythical Satan was religion!!

      April 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  11. JohnR

    People who care deeply about who represents their country in a beauty pageant are beyond pathetic.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  12. Tahar Abousejir

    I only think of her an average looking woman far from filling the criteria, her selection is by Gay People, no one would courted her. Whait till she shows up in BIKKINI, that would compensate for the BOURKA.
    Poor sister, you been used for a GREAT OFFENCE; May God guides you.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  13. John

    This is the best England can do? I am talking about her looks. Yuck!

    April 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Drew

      Well England has never been exactly renowned for its great beauties, but yeah they probably could do a bit better. She is attractive, though

      April 14, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  14. muslim

    If a muslim claims to be true muslim and follower of prophet Mohammed (swt), Quran and Allah, they will not distroy each other like they are doing now. Blowing mosques, schools, killing other muslims while they are praying . This is because they are not following prophet Mohammed (swt), Quran and Allah. Instead they are following uneducated mullahs, local imams and man written books like Sahih al-Bukhari and other.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      Terrorism is an infectious virus, and Muslims have the worst case of it in history. Terrorism affects Muslims more than any other group. When Arafat gave the first order to bomb an Israeli bus, he didn't realize it but he would (also) in a sense be transmitting this same order to be done to hundreds of millions of fellow Muslims. Arafat obviously didn't intend this, but it happened nonetheless. It's a gigantic irony.

      April 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Muslim as terrorist??? Say it is not so!!

      What group(s) have committed the most terrorism against unarmed men, women and children since the 1968 Olympics? Are Muslims proud of these attacks? What religious groups are terrorizing Africa now? What groups leaders are preaching the downfall of governments and other religions openly in their own mosques? But we as good Christians and Jews are suppose to turn the other cheek to they can continue their attacks. The constant attacks from Muslims are forging a great bond between Jews and Christians.

      April 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  15. herpaderp

    She looks so fake. it's disgusting. Shame that everyone's being so prejudice though...

    April 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Burbank

      I agree, some Muslim women are drop-dead gorgeous but she's not one of them.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  16. Mohareb

    I am not a racist, but I am an anti-religionist. I think all religions are just made up nonsense. How can I take seriously anybody who claims to know the unknowable?

    April 14, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Burbank

      I agree with you. It's just another vehicle where a small " self-styled special" control-freak minority spreads baloney to get these poor suckers to donate money to support them so they don't have to get real jobs like the rest of us. – Ex brainwashed Catholic

      April 14, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Great question man...

      Your comment is spot on, who can know the unknowable? But God has left us much information about himself and his son, Jesus Christ. Look in Roman history, daily reports from leaders of the Roman Empire writing daily transcripts of events. The tell the story of a man named Jesus who caused many religious issues with the Jewish faith. It was written by non-Christians Romans of that day. The difference between Jesus and other professed 'Gods' or fake religious leaders is Jesus never put himself upon a pedalstal. He was and is a servant of God. Never did he create a worship rule to put himself first.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Peter Stone

      @Great question man, could you tell me where to find these daily reports the Romans wrote on Jesus? I have yet to hear of any Roman reference to Jesus prior to Pliny the Younger in 112 CE, and neither has anyone else. Indeed, there are no references anywhere from any source before 30 years after Jesus's death.

      April 14, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Gomer Pyle

      To dream the impossible dream
      To fight the unbeatable foe
      To bear with unbearable sorrow
      To run where the brave dare not go
      To right the unrightable wrong
      To love pure and chaste from afar
      To try when your arms are too weary
      To reach the unreachable star

      This is my quest
      To follow that star
      No matter how hopeless
      No matter how far

      To fight for the right
      Without question or pause
      To be willing to march into Hell
      For a heavenly cause

      And I know if I'll only be true
      To this glorious quest
      That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
      When I'm laid to my rest

      And the world will be better for this
      That one man, scorned and covered with scars
      Still strove with his last ounce of courage
      To reach the unreachable star

      April 15, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  17. Frank

    I don't care what religion she is, she's hot.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Burbank

      You would probably think any female was hot. Most of us think she is underwhelmingly average looking.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Knuckle-Dragging Troglodyte

      I seriously doubt she'll put out for you Frankie... you might be better off hitting on a camel.

      April 15, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • Prince Of Wales

      She's probably well hung as well...

      April 15, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  18. TED


    April 14, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  19. mangus

    ease up on the mascara honey, unless you plan on going to the circus as a moooslim clown

    April 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Beauty Judge

      Hopefully she was not chosen because someone thinks she is attractive. She reminds me of Tammy Faye Baker. I have nothing against Muslims, but this story is in the news only because she is Muslim.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • PuRaul

      That is one ugly guy!

      April 14, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  20. TED


    April 14, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • NewYork Nick

      How bout it ted? These people call for more tolerance Muslims and leftist Fascists, yet they can't nor won't tolerate anyone anytime anywhere who's opinion doesn't march lockstep with their jackboot thought and word Gestapo .

      Total hypocrites through and through

      And just like the Muslims they push around Christians thinking they're too nice to fight back and I got news for both groups, they've just about pushed us all as far as we're taking, and they're about ready to get a 'boot on the throat' (like Obama himself told his little jackboots to do to US) that they never dreamed of nor will wanna encounter ever again once they get it.

      MY cry isn't remember the Alamo, it's remember the crusades. And those so called Holy warriors be advised we can bring em back anytime they wish. Just Bring it and see.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Fred Furdinand

      Wow, what a masterpiece of illiterate ignorance, Nick! Badly written and totally out-of-touch with reality. Nice work!

      April 14, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Peace to all of you

      God wants us to live in peace and serve him. Put our petty bickering aside and get on with life. Amen.

      April 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
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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.