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. AgentStrom

    Wouldn't true Muslims be the ones wanting to "off" her? I don't get it. Muslims in this Country kill their wives or children if they believe they have become too "Westernized". But she can proclaim Muslim and strutt around in a bathing suit instead of a burka? The rules of this Muslim religion seem to change to suit whomever at the time. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    April 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  2. Ashley

    Lets just congratulate Miss England....enough said, can't wait to hear her british accent

    April 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  3. Rich

    I hate Muslims. They should be cast out from modern society and go live in their deserts with their combination of church and state hokus pokus

    April 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Barry

      “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."
      Jesus (The Gospel of John)

      “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
      But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
      that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
      He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
      and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
      If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
      Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
      And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
      Do not even pagans do that?
      Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
      Jesus (The Gospel of Matthew)

      April 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  4. csy

    So how much of the hate mail came from "racists" and how much of it came from "a minority from Muslim community"?

    And which one threatened her with murder?

    Nonetheless, it's folks like her who'll eventually lead the undoing of radical Islam. More power to her.

    April 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
  5. tim


    April 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  6. Horndog

    She's a MILF (muslim I'd like to F*#@)

    April 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  7. paula


    April 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Observer

    People should read Ayaan Hirsi Ally's books and act locally while thinking globally. Here in Californiastan, in Temecula or soon to be Al temec-allah, the local council approved over the objection of the entire community of over a hundred thousand residents a Madrassa to be built that is over a half an acre of floor space. This to 'service a hundred and fifty Muslim families. It is way too big for that! Its' Mullah, an anti-American type given to say 'death to America, 'muted' this rhetoric for a time in order to allow the bribes from Al-Queda to do their work in buying the votes of enough councilmen to pass the required variances and code exceptions to allow this building when so many other more deserving (read: American) structures had not had the 'financial backing' to be allowed to be built. Soon this jihadi factory will be busy turning out carbon copy shoe bommers, asassins, suicide troops (baseejis), infiltrators of our military, ad nauseum while the traitors that allowed the contruction soon burn through their twenty pieces of silver and come back for more. Just like the old communist Nicolai Lenin said in the last century: "We will supply the rope for our own hanging!". By the time the first 'returns on the investment' of the Madrassa bear its deadly fruit, those handmaidens of evil that allowed it, the crooked politicians who would not listen to the people, will be long gone or have excuses for their behavior that maybe some will even believe. Ms Ally is absolutely right. We Americans have no sense of self preservation of our culture nor any idea of who we are really fighting. Their right to their beliefs is not the half of it, just an excuse to get them past our doorway so they can burn our collective house of democracy down on our ears.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  9. DB

    So by participating in the pageant someones view is that she should be murdered!! OK to murder but not OK to participate in pageant!!! Hmmmm ... something wrong with here don't you think?

    April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  10. JonathanL

    Objectively speaking and I am not biased against Muslims or non-muslims, Atheists or no-Atheists, males or females, or people of different sizes or for any arbitrary reason that could be suggested, though I do questions some of the above, If she won the beauty contest it is for her beauty, not for her religion. This is much ado about nothing. If I were single and had enough money I'd be glad to be her date and I am not a Muslim. Muslim men seem like such control freaks! Really they ought to let it go, climb out of the dark box of dated religiosity. Nobody living in the modern world really buys that crap anymore! I feel sorry for them. I just wish they'd stop getting so emotional about such unimportant trivia. If they don't like it they should lump it as we say. Try a little humility and stop meddling into everybody's personal life and choices... Get back to where you belong.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  11. Ga Peach

    She should look for the "delete" key on emails and hit it! And unfortunately, it does make her less a Muslim as this is not what they preach.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
  12. Someone Smarter Than You

    We are all humans, children of the Earth. We come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, but we're all the same inside. To "hate" someone for being a certain religion is evil.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Whatever

      Son: I'm only going to tell you this once. If you want to continue working here, lay off the drugs.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  13. Samah

    Wow, she is really misinformed. She says it's "her religion" and for "herself." She also claims that what she does "does not make me any less of a Muslim." Yes, being in a beauty pageant DOES make you less of a Muslim, it does not matter what your opinion is. You can't change a religion for your own liking. And if you DO, then don't say you're following Islam like that, because you're not. I have nothing against her personally, I don't want her to be murdered, I don't even want her to go to hell. But a Muslim cannot behave as she is. This "Muslim beauty queen" should study her religion before affiliating herself with it. If she maintains her belief, then I believe she should accept that she is not a Muslim. As a final thought, this woman can do what she wants. I don't believe in forcing anyone to do anything. But she should simply be aware of not following Islamic rules.

    -by a Muslim

    April 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • SconnieGuz

      typical muslim psycho babble....can you people take a dump in the morning without asking allah's permission?

      April 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Big Bob

      So if she needs to accept that she's not a muslim, would that make her an apostate? What would mo have to say about that?

      April 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Andy 666

      I can't claim to be able to follow the logic of your, or any, religion, but ultimately it's her choice so why do you care? Let her be and call herself what she wants, it won't hurt you..?

      April 15, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Squanto

      How could anyone be "less" of a muslim? You're pretty low on the totem pole already...

      April 15, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Manhattan Hottentot

      Next thing you know, she'll be eating pork....

      April 15, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • Anil

      she better change her religion then.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • csy

      So is your view the view of "a minority from Muslim community"? Or majority?

      April 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm |
    • whocares

      Samah – please keep your closed minded thinking to yourself. As a muslim, i am just embarrassed when fellow muslims act and state such stuff. Live your life anyway you see fit, but let the other practice his/her religion per his/her definition. Honestly, Get a life!!

      April 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Can You Hear Me Now

      Samah: I question whether you're a Muslim because you don't think this woman should be killed for being an apostate and you think she is free to do what she wants. Sounds very un-Islamic to me.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  14. Smiley

    She doesn't come close to the beauty of Bukhari rice.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  15. SconnieGuz

    she'd get it

    April 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
  16. douginmi

    whooaa...lighten up on the eyebrow pencil sweetie......lookin a little cro-magnon-ish

    April 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  17. Barry

    In Genesis 2 we read where God saw that man was alone, and God made a companion for him, woman. If I remember correctly the actual Hebrew rendering is
    “I will make one who stands ‘face-to-face before him”’ (in other words his equal).

    The Hebrew Scripture tells in Genesis 3 that there was a transgression committed at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which resulted in devastating consequences for everyone—man, woman and nature.

    If the position of women has been compromised by this event, the question becomes: Would God want us to hold women down? Or would God want us to restore the parity, equality and goodness, which he made and intended, at the beginning of Creation?

    Or would God want us to hold women down and keep them under hour heel?

    Perhaps we find a hint to the unfolding of this answer in the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Galatians, in the New Testament of the Bible:

    Galations 3:26-29

    26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Mike

      Here are even better verses that tell us how we are to treat women.

      Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Eph 5:25-33

      April 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Andy 666


      Just be nice to one another, is that so hard. No need to go all religious about this...

      April 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Rodney King

      "People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....They won the battle, but they haven't won the war....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out."

      April 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  18. Andrew Messenger

    I read an article about that thirteen-year old girl who came out with the "Friday, Friday" video. She stated she had received countless lewd, rude, crude, and demoralizing comments about her video.

    Ultimately, people will say what they choose to say, but it doesn't really matter what others think and say.
    It really only matters what she thinks.

    Everyone else can go place their opinions wherever they choose.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  19. JILNK06

    Choose LOVE over hatred. Because: Love = Freedom and hatred = Bondage.

    Choose Love because God = Love and reject hatred because Satan = hatred.

    Spread LOVE and not hatred. Because In the end, the Love of God leads to heaven and the hatred that comes from Satan leads to hell. 🙂

    "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:8)

    April 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Pal

      Its exploitation of women by economic base democracy. Women has to go through life & death situation to bring in someone or create this world. Child stay with mom before & after birth by nature or God, world get social ense from her. Women are worse off in economic base democrascy than any social base system. Shanna Bukhari isn't doing what ever nature meant to be women. Controversy created for advertisement doesn't care anyone's life, religion, social system or this world.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  20. Dave

    I think she needs some moe eye shadow.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Doledart

      No kidding...I can't tell if she's attractive or a dog. A true beauty doesn't need all that makeup...IMO

      April 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Phil

      What is the arabic word for spackle?

      April 15, 2011 at 2:29 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.