London, March 20 (IANS) A 24-year-old British Muslim woman, who entered the qualifying rounds of the Miss Universe contest, has reportedly received death threats — on charges of denigrating Islam.
Shanna Bukhari, a Pakistani-origin woman, wanted to be the first Muslim to represent Britain in a global beauty pageant but has been subjected to a flood of online hate messages, The Guardian reported.
“I have felt fear for my life,” the 24-year-old contestant said.
The threats have come from many directions – Muslims who say she was maligning Islam, white people who say an Asian cannot represent Britain, and women who condemn beauty pageants.
Bukhari was born in Blackburn and grew up in Lancashire. She later graduated in English literature.
The opposition to her participation in the Miss Universe preliminaries has made her question Britain’s multiculturalism.
“I thought my participation might be something that people did not agree with, but I never thought I’d get abused.”
She has received around 300 messages a day on her Facebook page, many of which were abusive.
“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.”
“We simply live in a multicultural society where there are significant numbers of Muslims. Islam is about peace; abusing me is itself wrong in Islam.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m a woman saying to other women ‘stand up for yourself, don’t let anyone dictate what you can do or can’t’. Some men don’t like that,” she said.
“I’ve had a few girls saying ‘shame on you’ or ‘rot in hell’. But I’d like to know what their real issues are, so we could have a constructive debate.”
One Facebook message calls her a “dirty Muslim” and asks why she is representing Britain “when you don’t even f***ing belong here”.
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.”
Support for the beauty has, however, poured in from Spain, the Middle East, Pakistan, India and China.