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 the Guardian.
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 death threat.
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 belong here".
"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.
She fears that Britain's Miss Universe finals in Birmingham in May will also be target.
"It worries me that haters will turn up. I know what they are capable of," she said.
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 representative.
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.