LONDON // An English literature graduate is bidding to become the first Muslim woman to represent Britain in the Miss Universe contest.
Although some Muslim men have posted messages on her Facebook page cursing her for what they say is an offence to Islam, Shanna Bukhari, 24, says she hopes her example will inspire other Muslim women.
"I want other girls from Muslim communities to feel they can do this," she told her hometown newspaper, the Manchester Evening News.
"Muslim girls don't enter competitions like this because Islam does not permit it, but there is so much more to it than looking pretty.
"My family are right behind me and I have had support from many others on Facebook - including friends who wear headscarves - after I set up a campaign."
Miss Bukhari, who works as a model, qualified for the May finals of Miss UK by winning the Miss Universe Asiana, a beauty pageant for young women of Asian origin living in Britain.
Most controversially, Miss Bukhari will be taking part in the obligatory swimsuit round of the finals.
The contest will be held in Birmingham.
Miss Bukhari, whose family migrated to Britain from Pakistan, said that although most people had rejoiced in her success, not all the reaction on her Facebook page had been positive.
"Three men wrote that they would not support me because what I was doing was sinful," she said. "They said I should rot in hell, which is pretty shocking.
"That was because of my religion. But they contradict themselves by going out clubbing, drinking and smoking at the weekends. That is completely hypocritical and they should look to themselves before they start judging others.
"I know there are those people from the Muslim community who are going to object, but I have also had amazing support from the Asian/Pakistani community right across the UK and they have been very supportive and want me to do well."
If Miss Bukhari does win the UK title, she will represent the country in the Miss Universe finals in September in the Brazilian metropolis of Sao Paulo.
"This is my passion and I want others to follow my example. It is not all about appearance and something like this can only be good for the country," said the graduate of Bolton University.
Paula Abbandonato, the national director of Miss Universe GB, said: "It's good to see that our Miss Universe Great Britain final this year will reflect the multiculturalism of modern British society.
"Girls from all corners of the country, from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures, will all get an equal chance to represent Great Britain at Miss Universe.
"The international finals of these big beauty pageants bring together more countries than any other world event and it's great for the UK to be a part of the celebration."