If Maria bags the title, she'll be competing in Miss World.
If Maria bags the title, she'll be competing in Miss World.

She's 20-years-old and she's hoping to change mindsets about Muslims through a beauty pageant.

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.

Maria hopes to become a social worker. Photo: The Mirror
Maria hopes to become a social worker. Photo: The Mirror

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.

The 20-year-old is a psychology student. Photo: The Mirror
The 20-year-old is a psychology student. Photo: The Mirror

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.

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