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. Abdulameer

    Rima Fakih, the American "Muslim" beauty queen is Muslim in name only. She is a non-practicing Muslim, and she even celebrates Christmas. The American Muslim community does not like her precisely because she defies Islamic doctrines in many ways. No doubt, the British Muslim beauty is the same. There is no way that she can be a religious Muslim and participate in beauty contests at the same time. So, more power to her for defying Islamic standards!

    April 15, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Koduro

      Hey everyone listen!! Do we have substantial evidence to support those books? What about if their content were not true? Hold on- before you pass any comments or become mad at me. If today, let's say hypothetically, someone wrote a voluminous book, like one of those, and made a hoax claim that it was from GOD or ALLAH, it may not get enough publicity today. About 6000 years down the line a new religion could emerge and the members could consider it sacred, and use it as a holy book. Yes this will happen anyway, though it was just a hoax. This is how the bible and Koran came about. They did not come from God. NO. All those who claim they were sent by God and authorize the killing of their fellow human just because they will not practice their religion are people who should be confined for life because they pose a threat to humanity!!!!!

      April 15, 2011 at 5:59 am |
  2. app

    Yes. Western society is sometimes crazy. They created x rated videos. They love blacks, hispanics and asians interracial scene.

    It's good for muslim who tried to defeat her rights. Good for her...

    April 15, 2011 at 2:54 am |
  3. Dan

    I Think this woman is beautiful and we should all be proud to be human in her shadow, God has given her to us and we should graciously accept his gift and display her as God's good work!
    Thank you God!

    April 15, 2011 at 2:50 am |
    • Dan

      A christian is only a non practicing Muslim and a Muslim is only a non practicing Christian Live and let live and get rid of negativity and extremism in all forums "We better get it together folk's!

      April 15, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  4. Bob

    I guess the standards of beauty for Muslims is different from ours – she is not what I would call a beauty by any means but she sure wears an excessive amount of make-up. I guess beauty is relative.
    But that's not really the point. When will Muslims learn how to be less hateful and more tolerant towards non Muslims and their cultures, and even towards Muslims who show an interest and will to understand other cultures?
    Tolerance and understanding of others goes a long way in building peace and a kind world.
    The 21st century is really not that bad of a time to be living in.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Abdulameer

      Muslims will never learn to be tolerant and peaceful - unless they abandon the doctrines and laws of Islam which require them to make war on non Moslems until Islam reigns supreme in the world. Here is a sampling of the doctrines of Islam which motivate the hearts and minds of all religious Moslems:
      - The unbelievers among the people of the book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98.6).
      - Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)
      –The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)
      - Mohammed is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).
      - Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
      - Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)
      - Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. (2:193)
      - The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. (4:76)
      - We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:151)
      - I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers. (8:12)
      - Allah's Apostle said, "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' "
      - Mohammed said, "I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, "None has the right to be worshiped but Allah, and whoever says, " None has the right to be worshiped but Allah , his life and property will be saved by me." (otherwise it will not).
      - Mohammed said, "Whoever changes his Islamic religion, kill him."
      - Muhammad said: "Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, …"

      April 15, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  5. Craigs Gator

    kinda of like the J-Lo story. I just dont get it??????

    April 15, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  6. John

    EW she's ugly. Where's the "Muslim Beauty"?
    I do think the people saying she should be murdered are psychos though. They need to be locked away if they think that a woman entering a beauty pageant deserves death, that's absolutely ridiculous and people like that belong in an insane assylum

    April 15, 2011 at 2:30 am |
  7. tonyl

    Islam is not a monolithic religion in which unanimity of belief exist. There are several different sects and interpretations and traditions. It is a pluralistic religion and belongs to differing traditions. It is practiced in lots of countries with different languages and cultural beliefs. Some extremists Muslims are forcing others to accept as they wish but it will never work. This Muslim beauty should not worry about the crazies. They exist in all religions through out the world. The only way to beat them is to do whatever you wish to believe and do. Stand your ground and ignore the creeps. There are billions of moderate Muslims around the world in her support.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  8. poconos

    live and let live

    April 15, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  9. lawsrus

    Created with no cloth nor defined cloth to wear, what to wear or not? Humble and accepting of ones choice, the heart inside is key.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:11 am |
  10. MM

    This is the crap I don't like. Using religion to control another human being. So what if she was born a Muslim. That's just that. She has a right to be a Muslim in her own right. These ugly a$$ men need to stop dictating to the woman how they should dress and and what they should or should not do. It's just down right oppressive and wrong. Leave the woman alone to live out her dreams. Jealous whining wimps!

    April 15, 2011 at 2:01 am |
  11. Gerry

    Meh...shes ok. I'd prolly pass her off to a friend tho. n_n

    April 15, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  12. MP

    When the woman has to stay in the house covered from head to toes with a burqa people want to kill her oppressor. When she is liberated enough to get on the stage wearing a bikini and winning beauty pageant they want to kill the woman herself.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:56 am |
  13. david

    llive and let live,,,treat every one the way YOU want to be treated and take what is good from every religion

    April 15, 2011 at 1:46 am |
  14. Edwin

    "We live in a Western society and there is a minority out there who is trying to dictate and control others..."
    Yes, and it's going to get much worse before Western society wakes up and corrects the problem.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:42 am |
    • Dave

      Fascism is alive and well...

      April 15, 2011 at 10:00 am |
  15. GIJane

    The only thing she is guilty of are those eyebrows.

    (You would think her makeup artist would do a better job than making her a Groucho Marx look-alike.)

    April 15, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • John

      Lol so true. The makeup is horrendous. I don't mind a woman wearing make up even lots of it, but wow this is completely caked on. Gross. Besides that, she does not have a pretty face at all. Yuck.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • Craigs Gator

      Spackle spakle!

      April 15, 2011 at 2:36 am |
  16. Rolf

    This lady is very beautiful. If allowed I would have dinner with her. I doubt if she or my wife would be crazy about me having dinner with her. I would like to get to know a Muslim person. Once people from different backgrounds get to know eachother, it is harder to have blind hatred towards them or their group.. It doesn't hurt for that person to be a beautiful female.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • John

      Gross, she's ugly. How is she beautiful?

      April 15, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • ArchaicRevival


      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:46 am |
  17. meme

    she is not very attractive.. perhaps it might be better if she consider to becoming a nun..instead.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:32 am |
    • Craigs Gator

      I know! Just like the whole J-Low thing....... J-Low is peoples most beautiful woman??? And this woman is a miss univererse hopeful??? I just dont get it??

      April 15, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Kraznodar

      I suppose that if you are attracted to goats she may not look so good but for normal people she looks fine. Not my type mind you, but certainly not repellent.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  18. Kenneth

    Shanna Bukhari Is a woman it doesnt matter if she is muslum or middle eastern she has her own inner an outer beauty yes i am a white man saying this an yes im a White supporter in america... Some of us understand that not all middle eastern people are bad people... This woman needs to be giving her respect were respect if due she is beautiful in my eyes an is allahs eyes ...

    April 15, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Dan

      Yea Kenneth! read my post too

      April 15, 2011 at 2:54 am |
    • Dave

      Holy sweet Jesus! There's humans that post on these comment threads? Thank you, sir, for a breath of reality.

      April 15, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • Kraznodar

      By "white supporter" you mean racist jack-wagon. Clearly if she was black you would be freaking out about something to do with her. That makes you marginally less horrible than most bigots but only by a little.

      ps. Kraznodar is right on the edge of the Caucus mountains where whites originated. I was born blond with blue eyes so I'm whiter than you Kenneth. The difference is that I judge people based on what they say and do and not on minor superficial variation such as skin color.

      April 15, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  19. meme

    if hair is such an issue for them.. then why don't they just save if all off.. then they would not have to live their lives in a hot stinky gunny sack.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:29 am |
    • Jeff S

      I seriously can't translate what you're trying to say there, meme.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:49 am |
    • Dave

      Stay in school, meme. Seriously.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:33 am |
    • Sy

      what he/she meant is "if hair is such an issue for them.. then why don't they just sHave iT all off.. "

      April 15, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Dave

      She misses the point, it's a form of paying homage to the beauty of women and having a sign of modesty, which if you see old white America, the hoity toity types... what's the difference? "Civilized" America is the same. Not promoting it, but pot calling the kettle black on that one.

      April 15, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  20. 2011

    Saying that I'm Muslim doesn't necessarily make one a Muslim. A lazy (fake or dishonnest) Muslim will go to the Worst of Hell fire says the Prophet [Peace Be Upon Him And His Companions] said.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • The all mighty

      Saying one is muslim simply means one is weak mind and needs an imaginary man to tell him how to live his life, same with all religions, get over yourself.

      April 15, 2011 at 1:39 am |
    • Dont get the reply

      >> Saying one is muslim simply means one is weak mind and needs an imaginary man to tell him how to live his life.
      I'm am not muslim. But can respect the will and total control mind and body it takes to be a Muslim. Weak minded people could not be Muslim.

      >> Get over yourself.
      Obviously troll commit. The one in question already gave him self over to their belief. *think about it.

      To add: not being open to religious believes (which are old as humanity) is very closed minded.

      April 15, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Stromgrandersajesupopolis

      "Weak minded people could not be Muslim. "
      Because that makes sense. Yeah, total trust in the words of some men who died a thousand years ago is indicative of a strong mind?
      F#^@ Allah, F#^@ Muhammad (peace be upon her), F#^@ Jesus, F#^@ Buddah, F#^@ Santa,.... Thor, you're cool.... F#^@ people who use religion for control, and F#^@ the high horse they rode in on.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:14 am |
    • sad days

      so sad what gets people all riled up. for one all religions are based on the same thing. respect and love. but the ego has twisted and tormented them into the sh!t piles we have left today. p.s. Buddhism is not a religion. its a hobby, a practice. never have asked one but i bet if you were to ask any legit monk what their religion was you will never hear the word buddhist.

      April 15, 2011 at 3:51 am |
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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.