Birmingham, March 31 (Express Tribune): Twenty year old Maria Mahmood is a psychology student from Birmingham who is the first hijab-wearing Muslim to compete in Miss England – now that she’s through to the semi-finals.
“Muslims are associated with negative things like terrorism. I’m determined to do my bit to challenge those views,” Maria told The Mirror.
“It’s pretty rare for a Muslim woman to be in a beauty pageant but there’s nothing to stop us entering. I entered Miss Birmingham and the organisers were delighted to have a hijab-wearing Muslim in the competition. They fast-tracked me through to the final where I competed against 30 girls and came second. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Though her family, friends and the Muslim community at large are supportive of her, she is aware that not all will approve of her decision.
“When I came runner-up, they were delighted for me. I’ve got three brothers and they’ve also been so good. Most people have been supportive. There have been a few negative comments and I’m fully expecting some criticism from old-timers and conservatives. But what I’m doing is empowering for Muslim women. I’m anticipating most people will back me,” she added.
Speaking on the swimwear round, she said: “Obviously, I’m not going to parade on stage in a bikini as that is going against my religion and beliefs. I’ll wear a burkini.”
The Miss England semi-final will be held in Newark, Notts, in July. If Maria bags the title, she’ll be competing in Miss World.
(The featured image at the top is that of Maria Mahmood)