May 21st, 2010
09:19 PM ET

Miss USA says 'American' is her preferred label

"Religion does not identify me," Miss USA Rima Fakih tells CNN.

Rima Fakih's beauty pageant sash declares that she is Miss USA, but journalists want to find other labels for her.

Questions about Fakih's ethnic and religious identity have been nearly as frequent as questions about photos of her dancing against a stripper's pole.

"I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American," Fakih said. "I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American."

Fakih, 24, was born in Lebanon, but her family moved to New York when she was 7 years old. She later moved to Michigan, where she went to college.

The rarity of a woman born in the Middle East representing the United States in the Miss Universe pageant spurred internet buzz. One rumor was that Fakih had family connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group that the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization.

"Absolutely not," Fakih told CNN's Octavia Nasr. "That is a stereotype and a prejudiced statement made by only one reporter who had made that title before I was crowned Miss USA."

The blogger's accusation "was completely made up out of her own prejudiced mind," she said.

Contrary to some reports, she said, her family did not live in Southern Lebanon, the hub of Hezbollah.

"We lived in the mountain area of Lebanon, which is predominantly Christian-based," she said. "The majority of my family is diverse. It's Muslim and Christian."

Fakih said religion should not be a question for Miss USA winners.

"Religion does not identify me, I would like to say that," she said. "My family is more of a spiritual family rather than religious. We've never been religious, we've been never known to be religious, and on top of everything, we celebrate Christmas."

Fakih attended a Catholic high school in New York, she said.

"We are Muslim," she said. "However, we appreciate and admire all faiths."

The reaction to Fakih's selection was cause for celebration for many in Lebanon, a country she visited just a few months ago.

"I want them to know that the United States is not what they see on TV," she said. "It is still a country of freedom and opportunity."

Fakih said she has been invited to visit Lebanon and meet with leaders there, including President Michel Suleiman.

Post by:
Filed under: Lebanon • Showbiz • U.S.
soundoff (450 Responses)
  1. My0002

    Congrats to Rima Fakih from a Christian, and boo to the haters. She's American and she shouldn't have to defend her Muslim faith. Why is that even an issue of discussion here?

    May 22, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. david

    Phantom, you are obviously into blonde bo's like pam anderson. As for speaking Spanish, it would be great if Americans could speak more than one language. Almost every other country in the world has a bi-lingual population – usually speaking their national language, and then English. We need more educated people who do the same.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. jfaf

    How soon we forget! A few years ago muslims attacked us and now all is forgiving and a muslim wins the usa pageant. I will never forget. I don't care how pretty she is. I want nothing to do with Arabs ever. Go back to the rock you crawled out of because we don't want you here.

    May 22, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      STFU. Stay in Idaho, redneck. Spew your hate with your inbread kids. She didn't blow anything up, you ignorant jerk!

      May 22, 2010 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Rin

      jfaf have you forgotten about the WTC that was two white Americans that did that. Do you has as much hate for white American as you do for Arabs? The fact that a woman such as her can win and represent shows how diverse the country we CHOOSE to live in is. It demonstrates to the world that America is truly accepting and giving even with ignorant fools like this jfaf.

      May 22, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Painful Deceptions

      People like jfaf are a Shame for the home of the brave i.e. USA. Such people bring disgrace to America and should be deported to the lands from which their forefathers were thrown out only to come to America and spreed their filth on this beautiful land. Take the letters j and a out of your name so people can get a better idea from your name

      May 22, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • MJM

      For all those bashing JFAF, you go to Iraq and fight the war and see if you accept "them"

      May 22, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      How soon we forget our own fellow Americans attacked us as well. Timothy McVey ring a bell? He is just one of many yet now when we say the word terrorist we think arabs/muslims. :/

      May 22, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      Sean-I'm an Idahoan as well. I don't spew hate, I'm not a redneck and my child isn't inbred. You are being an ignorant jerk as well.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • white

      You should go back under your rock because if you're not a native Indian your an immigrant and don't belonh here either.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Silvio Robledo

    Brava, bravissssssssima, Rima... you're beautiful inside and out...and you have all the right to be Miss America!!!
    I am a naturalized American. I was born in Colombia; this makes me "double American (one from the South), what a privilege!!!... and when people ask me: "Where are you from?" -probably due to my accent- I say: "I'm originally from Heaven, and that's where I intend to return, but I was born in Colombia, and I'm very proud. I love this "Good Old USA more than a lot of Americans who haven't been abroad; they just don't appreciate what we have here!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joel

    Lets get out of this double standard guys, "What is Muslim-American?" I have never heard of "Christian-American" before , do they exist or not?
    What is the big deal for a Muslim do posses anything in America? People said a lot when Obama was a candidate for presidency even drew couple of cartoons, so what if he was a Muslim? Are Muslim not human? This is ignorance.
    Most of Americans came here from different parts of the world as immigrants from Europe and stole native Indians land,.
    Rudy Giuliani his origin is from Italian Immigrants, and I have never heard in the news like " An Italian-American won New York Mayor, the John Kennedy family originated from Scotland,unfortunately I have never heard anywhere in the news something like Ted or John Kennedy is a " Scottish-American", am still confused about this. But nowadays we hear a lot about Pakistan-American, Lebanese-American, Kenyan-American, what is this?

    May 22, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Painful Deceptions

      My friend Joel is asking "what is this?"
      This is media's brain washing
      This is ignorance
      This is prejudice
      This is hatred
      This is evil
      This is the fellowship of the Devil........

      May 22, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. MJM

    I'm sorry, after spending nearly 10 years in the Marines, it's hard to accept "HER"

    May 22, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • MJM

      I mean, I spent 3 of those years in a war against Muslims...I can't believe the pagent allowed this...

      May 22, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Rin

      MJM thankyou for fighting in our military but you did not fight all Muslims. I was in Kuwait when it was evacuated and went back when I was allowed and my family is there still. And I am a white American that loves my country. Hate the men you fought not the whole religion or race.

      May 22, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Painful Deceptions

      MJM, the biggest liers in the history of America i.e. Bush/Cheney gang sent you to kill a million innocent Iraqis in a wrong country. If Bush/Cheney were loyal to American, first they would have investigated how the strongest buildings on planet Earth (i.e. twin towers, which were designed to take multiple plan hits at the same time) collapsed. Building # 7, a 47 story building which was not even hit by a plan and did not have any significant fires, collapsed just like DEMOLITION. And in Pentagon a 747 went throw a 16 feet hole without leaving any wreckage outside especially the large engines.

      If you are so dedicated to defending America then instead to listening to the liers and propaganda media like, FOX, CNN you should use your own common sense and a little bit knowledge of science to figure out that it is impossible for cave men to beat the air defense system and the only way those buildings could have been brought down was by using military grade demolition explosives.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      My husband spent 21 years in the military. He also fought in this war. He thinks she is very pretty. If you have a problem against her being muslim/arab I suggest you seek out a mental health professional. You shouldn't be judging her for the actions of those you fought against. I'm not saying this to be mean to you. But seeing how hatred against an entire group of people has eaten at others who fought in different wars I just don't want to see it eat away at this generation. We still live in a town outside a huge military post and just yesterday I was speaking with a vietnam vet who has held onto his hate for long time. He was talking about all the problems him hate has caused and how he is trying to work on it. It is very sad....For yourself, your future and your happiness seek out help.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • casey

      What if one day a Vietnamese were to tell you, "I hate you because your people dropped so much Agent Orange on us that my people are still having birth defects!". What would your reaction be? Perhaps it would be "I have nothing to do with that and I don't agree with dropping Agent Orange on people!". Same idea here!

      May 22, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. JB

    Finally, a Miss USA who has something relevant and thoughtful to say!

    May 22, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. AntiWar

    By the way, I have seen many other Muslim women even more beautiful. May be 'Burgha' makes a difference.
    Miss USA, Can you please comment on this one !!!!

    May 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. om

    All you white are one this and that Native American when you know dam well it's a lie because a lot of the Natives die off, it's more like a little Black but you all a shame.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Laura

      Really? Most died off? Uhm....OK. I must admit living in the south I have yet to see the reservations and Native Americans like I did back home in the west but I would never say they died off. Several tribes yes, but not all Native Americans. Please learn more.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. om

    You all are a bunch of low life peasants.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. om

    These Arab women have so much plastic surgery have you Rima?

    May 22, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. om

    she's ok not beautiful, alll!

    May 22, 2010 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Larry

    Liking this young woman more and more. She's an AMERICAN, no hyphen. I'd like it even better if she's simply said that she's of Lebanese descent (Cpl. Klinger would be proud!) and a Muslim. "Muslim-American" sounds stupid – you don't hear "Catholic-American" or "Presbyterian-American", do you?

    May 22, 2010 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Laura

    I keep wondering who these people who think she is ugly are looking at. She is very pretty, is she the most beautiful woman in the US? There really is no such thing due to personal preferences. Beauty is only part of a beauty pageant. There is no way she is ugly though.

    My husband is retired army, did several tours to Iraq. The first tour he sent home a picture of Iraqi girls with one of his female soldiers. My daughter who was 8 at the time said "those girls are so pretty, I thought they weren't supposed to be pretty...." This is what kind of mind set hate causes. It trickles down into our children's minds causing prejuidice and more hate. Since I leave race, religion, ect out of how I form an opinion on a certian person I was suprised my daughter thought that way. Kids at school and media played a role I found out after talking to her about it. One shouldn't form an opinion (or judge) a person on race or religion but instead how that person is, their actions as an individual.

    America likes to lump everyone of a certain race or religion we deem as the "enemy" into one catagory. We have done it many times in the past. Just because they are this religion or race we think they must do this or can't do that or must be like this. Just worry about keeping your own house clean and keep away from those you have proof who don't, let people be who they are.

    And to those who think it is just muslim terrorists who are trying to disrupt the American way of life perhaps we should be reminded of Timothy McVey and our own home grown terrorists.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Painful Deceptions

      Laura, they are looking at themselves. I agree 100% with your comments

      May 22, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  15. pjlytle

    Oh no just what we need is another Arab American.

    May 22, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • pjlytle

      I mean a muslim arab american. CNN please stop trying to be OBAMA's puppet and portray the muslim religious beliefs as a peaceful religion. This girl is very pretty dont get me wrong but islam is not peaceful. The koran calsl for a non believer to loose his head. I dont think this is a religion i want my kids looking up to.what about you.

      May 22, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17