Via the Guardian:
When Shanna Bukhari decided she wanted to be the first Muslim to represent Britain in a global beauty pageant, she suspected the road ahead might not be smooth, but nothing could have prepared her for the abuse she received.
"I have felt in fear for my life," said the 24-year-old Miss Universe contestant. The attacks escalated last week when Bukhari received her first death threat.
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.
Bukhari, born in Blackburn, grew up in Lancashire and is no stranger to intolerance. When she was nine, she ended up in hospital after a man screaming racist abuse had thrown a brick at her, causing so much damage to her stomach that she suffered a blood clot and had to undergo surgery.
But even she has been surprised by the furore that her participation in the British heats of Miss Universe has prompted. Rather than confirming her hopes that society had progressed since her childhood, the controversy has made her question the state of multiculturalism in modern Britain. "It has highlighted the divisions that exist, a lack of social integration, a lack of adhesion between white and coloured people, and this needs to be addressed," she said. "I thought my participation might be something that people did not agree with, but I never thought I'd get abused."
The attacks 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. Since then, she has received around 300 messages a day on her Facebook page, a handful of which are abusive. Most of the negative comments have come from a minority of Muslim men. "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 women. Many of the comments are, she says, from individuals who want sharia law instead of a liberal democracy. "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."
The abuse that truly shocked Bukhari arrived last Tuesday in the form of an online racist rant. Within hours she had shut down her Facebook fan page, but a friend was then sent a number of internet links to images of people murdered for standing up for their principles. "She rang up and said, 'Shanna, you need to be very careful because he's trying to make me aware that things will happen'. Not a direct death threat perhaps, but he was trying to say that something is going to happen to me."