London: A 24-year-old British Muslim
woman, who hopes to become the first person from the community
to represent the UK at the Miss Universe contest, has received
death threats from those who claim that she is denigrating the
name of Islam, a media report said on Sunday.
Shanna Bukhari was subjected to a tide of online hate
messages after entering the qualifying rounds for choosing
Britain`s Miss Universe candidate, according to a report in
Now she fears her life could be in danger. She has
contacted a private security firm to protect her.
"I have felt in fear for my life," Bukhari said.
The threats on the Manchester-based English
literature graduate began after a local newspaper ran an
article 10 days ago revealing her ambition to become the first
Muslim to represent Great Britain at the beauty contest.
The censure has come from various quarters, ranging
from Muslims who claim that she is denigrating the name of
Islam, to white supremacists who say that an Asian cannot
represent the UK, and to women who condemn beauty pageants as
an affront to feminism, the newspaper reported.
Since then, she has received around 300 messages a
day on her Facebook page, a handful of which are abusive. The
attacks escalated last week when Bukhari received her first
Most of the negative comments have come from a
minority of Muslim men.
One Facebook message calls her a "dirty Muslim" and
asks why she is representing Britain "when you don`t even
"I get people saying, `you`re not a Muslim` and
`you`re using religion to get attention`. I said they were the
ones bringing religion into it. I`m not representing Islam; I
just want to represent my country, and of that I am very
proud. They are trying to control me, using religion as a
tool to attack."
Bukhari accuses her abusers of having the same sort
of mindset as those who support "honour" killings and beat
Many of the comments are, she says, from individuals
who want sharia law instead of a liberal democracy.
She fears that Britain`s Miss Universe finals in
Birmingham in May will also be a target: "It worries me that
haters will turn up. I know what they are capable of."
During last month`s semi-final for Britain`s Miss
Universe candidate Bukhari received the most public votes.
Britain has never won the title. It is increasingly possible
that its first victor might also be its first Muslim
Bukhari said: "I actually replied to him in a very
calm manner because I`m not one to retaliate, my family taught
me to rationalise rather than react. Then I thought `why can`t
I represent Britain?` I was born here and am proud to be
British. My parents are from Pakistan but I am not going to
represent Pakistan as this is my country."
Bukhari says the abuse has been disillusioning
partly because she enjoyed a liberal upbringing; her parents
sent her to a Catholic school in Blackburn where she was the
only Muslim but was "completely accepted".
It was only when she moved to Manchester in 2001, she
said, that she became aware of segregation as an issue.
She does not agree with David Cameron`s speech last
month in which he asserted that state multiculturalism in
Britain had failed.
She believes that more must be done to break down
mistrust. Bukhari cites the thousands who have offered their
backing. Support has come from Spain, the Middle East,
Pakistan, India and China.
Most women supporters say she represents not just a
role model for Muslim women, but all those who refuse to be
cowed by bullies.