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. Ayeesha

    You all need to read about Shanna Bukhari – and see the opportunity she is missing as she seeks to help herself rather than many others.


    April 16, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  2. Reality

    Once a week WARNING for new commentators:

    • The moderators of this blog have set up a secret forbidden word filter which unfortunately not only will delete or put your comment in the dreaded "waiting for moderation" category but also will do the same to words having fragments of these words. For example, "t-it" is in the set but the filter will also pick up words like Hitt-ite, t-itle, beati-tude, practi-tioner and const-tution. Then there are words like "an-al" thereby flagging words like an-alysis and "c-um" flagging acc-umulate or doc-ument. And there is also "r-a-pe", “a-pe” and “gra-pe”, "s-ex", and "hom-ose-xual". You would think that the moderators would have corrected this by now considering the number of times this has been commented on but they have not. To be safe, I typically add hyphens in any word that said filter might judge "of-fensive".

    • More than one web address will also activate “waiting for moderation”. Make sure the web address does not have any forbidden word or fragment.

    Sum Dude routinely updates the list of forbidden words/fragments.

    Two of the most filtered words are those containing the fragments "t-it" and "c-um". To quickly check your comments for these fragments, click on "Edit" on the Tool Bar and then "Find" on the menu. Add a fragment (without hyphens) one at a time in the "Find" slot and the offending fragment will be highlighted in your comments before you hit the Post button. Hyphenate the fragment(s) and then hit Post. And remember more than one full web address will also gain a "Waiting for Moderation".

    And said moderators still have not solved the chronological placement of comments once the number of comments gets above about 100. They recently have taken to dividing the comments in batches of 50 or so, for some strange reason. Maybe they did this to solve the chronology problem only to make comment reviews beyond the tedious.

    “Raison's Filter Fiber© (joking about the copyright)
    1. Here's my latest list – this seems like a good spot to set this down, as nobody's posting much on this thread.....
    bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to post that wonderful argument:
    Many, if not most are buried within other words, but I am not shooting for the perfect list, so use your imagination and add any words I have missed as a comment (no one has done this yet)
    – I found some but forgot to write them down. (shrugs).
    c-um.........as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, etc.
    sp-ic........as in disp-icable (look out Sylvester the cat!)
    ho-mo...whether ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, etc.
    t-it.........const-itution, att-itude, ent-ities, etc.
    tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, (an unexpected one)
    va-g....as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant
    ar-se....yet "ass" is not filtered!
    jacka-ss...but ass is fine lol
    p-is.....as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, etc.
    o ficti-tious, repeti-tion, competi-tion.
    There are more, so do not assume that this is complete.
    okay words that you might not expect to be filtered....!!!

    Here's a word to add to the banned list: co-co-on
    whether it's c-oc, or co-on, this is ridiculous.”

    April 16, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  3. Muneef

    Beauty contest ? Does it benefit other than flesh traders?

    April 16, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  4. ahmed

    salam to all muslim im requsting each & evry muslim plzzzzzzzzzzzz do not talk bad abt shanna or any muslim plzzzzzzzzzzzzz try to giv her good advise in a right and soft way our duty to giv dawat and advise and to make dua.hidayat in allahs hand so plzzzzzzzzzzz sand her good msgs quranic verse and ahadith.

    April 16, 2011 at 5:54 am |
  5. ali

    I don't think the poeple criticizing her have ever seen a typical pushto or punjabi movie from Pakistan! Funny how people have such double standards.

    April 16, 2011 at 3:20 am |
  6. Peter

    OK, those who don't like her competing in the beauty contest don't have to watch it . No one force you guys to do so. So, why waste threatening her? I guess that really is none of your f***ing business.

    April 16, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  7. Allah muhammed

    She's not even hot. Who cares about what religion she chooses to practice, bottom line is she isn't good looking and this definitely is not news worthy.

    April 16, 2011 at 2:31 am |
  8. sam

    i think she's fat! she's kind of pretty but she doesn't have a nice body

    April 16, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  9. shtam

    Shanna Bukhari, do not allow other dictate your life. When you do, you are a robot and not human. Keep to your rights. Nobody has to dictate what you should do and not do. Just observe at the countries which are dictated by zealots. They think they own you and answerable to them (NOT GOD). Enjoy your life and do what you think is right.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  10. GIJane

    The only thing she's guilty of are those eyebrows...

    April 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  11. Pal

    Women has to go through life & death situation to bring in someone or create this world. Child stay with mother before & after birth, world has to get social sense from mom by nature or God. Women are worse off in economic base system than any social system. Its market stunt, doesn't care anyone's life, social system or this world.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  12. DB

    OK to murder not OK to go in pageant??

    April 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  13. Mary

    IT show that people are still Racist. you have to be White.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  14. Muneef

    Suggest to solve this mess that the beauty contest change the looks of beauty to be the Mind intel-lig-ence and morals aren't those the real beauty of any women or men..rather than the s-exuality of body shape and face complexions??

    Maybe only then with such true beauty contest where no one needs to take off their cloths and show flesh,only then I would support and fight for Muslim women to join such contests...

    An ordinary looking women with strong personelty with big mind and big heart, to me are hundreds times better than an empty headed Beauty of flesh and complexions....

    What you are doing is not the real beauty and that's why beauty was misunderstood...and beauties remained stupid good for nothing other than makeup...

    By the way she did not have a beautiful or attractive voice which should be considered as part of the beauty contest beside other looks....

    April 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  15. Jackie Treehorn

    I volunteer to be nice to her!

    April 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  16. Magneto

    Hey knock it off she is beautiful! Besides England let it self become a Muslim country so they win. Are you kidding I'd do her in front of my wife. Let her do what she wants good for her.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  17. Tari

    peace to muslim's and non-muslim's

    i want to say if we own heaven and hell most of us i mean muslim's will send her to hell but only god allah know where is she belong.

    in history the ruler of egypt send a gift and she was slave to the prophet Moha pbuh and she become muslim.

    also in history when islam start spread to the east to the persian gulf the persian army capture two muslim army leader the persian ruler said if one you two bow to me i will let you two and other's muslim's group free and one of them did the ruler
    of persian let them go that was 1000 year ago.

    what she did have action of hate from us as muslim's.

    but one thing that i am sure about that if she ask the god allah for mercy the god allah door's is alway's open for forgivness
    another thing may be she have Great Britain passport at any time she can go to Jerusalem and pray two rahkah how much she could earn as reward from god allah ?

    if you are muslim who have good knowledge you will know.

    while i am in third world can't go to Jerusalem just to pray and earn some reward from god allah i am not saying this to have Great Britain passport while i can dream about it.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  18. JILNK06

    Jesus said "Love Your Enemies." (Matthew 5)

    43 "You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

    44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

    45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

    46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

    47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?

    48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

    April 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  19. Salman

    I think firstly she is good looking but not as beautiful as other girls from country. There are so many pakistani girls suffering with the same disease. Its the fault of her parents. I pray that she should make a wise decision. There are lots of girls at my univercity who are pakistani and they are very open minded. They do things secretly from their parents that even white girls from my univercity dont do. They always have to lie and hide about going out with their male friends or drinking. It's a sad state of affairs with the culture of Pakistan.Its hard to follow religion for typical pakistani youths today but at the same time they are ending up culturally confused. Shana bhukari was in the news for going out with a married man i googled it. All this publicity she is trying to get votes from people by putting her own community down. However she is wasting time. No one will do anything to her except God If her father would have worked little hard to educate her then the who world would have saved time giving her advise.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Whatever

      Maybe if your parents had done more to educate you, you would know how to spell.

      April 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Harry Pairatestes

      Your inability to write correctly and spell correctly has me doubting that you attend any university.

      April 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Shoes on the other foot

      To "Whatever" and "Harry,"
      I wonder how comprehensible a paragraph written by either of you would be, if you wrote it in urdu, or hindi.

      April 15, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • think

      It doesnt matter her religion. It matter that she does not qualify to represent as one of the most beautiful candidate. There are tons of girls who are better looking and can definitely win. She should be disqualified even before she starts. Only beautiful ladies to apply. Part of job req

      April 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Isedora

      If she wants to enter, so be it. That said, beauty contests are plain nonsense. If it had been a muslim tradition the entire western world would be decrying it. As to Salman's English, it is his second language. How many British can write another language as well as Salman writes English?

      April 16, 2011 at 6:28 am |
  20. beam me up

    I will refrain from taking pot shots at the usual 8th graders who comment on these and would just like to say, what the hell does this have to do with religion? This is a culture issue, not a muslim issue. I find it ironic that even muslim people themselves intertwine these two as the same, making it harder for non muslims to differentiate. Most muslim people are not violent or threatenting towards others. The few who are use religion as their weapon, but it's their upbringing that lead them to that conclusion...

    April 15, 2011 at 4:12 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.