May 20th, 2010
09:31 AM ET

Is Miss USA a Muslim trailblazer?

She's always wanted to be a beauty queen and her dream came true with one of the biggest titles - Miss USA 2010 - Rima Fakih.

As soon as the announcement was made, the labels appeared. She was described as Arab-American, Lebanese-American, Muslim-American. She became the center of controversy overnight after pole dancing photos surfaced and spread across the globe just as fast as an outlandish rumor started by a U.S. neo-conservative blog that she's a spy for the Shiite Lebanese group Hezbollah, designated by the U.S. and E.U. countries as a terrorist group.

It's hard to gauge which claim could possibly hurt the new Miss USA more: the racy pictures or the unfounded rumors alleging she is affiliated with Hezbollah. One thing is certain, the Internet feasted on the story and different groups with different agendas jumped on the opportunity this story afforded them.

Miss USA to Behar: Pole-dancing pictures were all in fun

"To say that she is a Muslim is inaccurate. No Muslim woman can call herself a ... Muslim and be on stage with her bikini," Ghazal Omid, a Muslim scholar, posted on her Facebook page.

Blogs and posts from those with knowledge of the Middle East pointed out that Rima Fakih and her behavior - be it the beauty pageant she entered in 2008 for Miss Lebanon Emigrant or little-known activities such as the pole dancing competition, don’t match up with the conservative Islam Hezbollah preaches.

Fakih's modern looks and open-minded interests are indicative of a portion of Lebanon's population that is Western-oriented and non-conservative even if they belong to the Shiite sect of Islam.

The opinion on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon's urbane capital, echoed this one from Teddy Hajjar, a Lebanese interior designer.

"Just because her religion is linked to what some people call terrorist movement has nothing to do with it," he said.

Hajjar also said that Fakih participated in the contest based on her looks and she won on merit, therefore politics should be left out.

A Hezbollah member of parliament, on the other hand, dodged questions about Fakih and the Miss USA beauty pageant.

According to Hassan Fadlallah, Hezbollah evaluates women in a different way.

"We have a viewpoint based on religion, schooling, moral and societal values, which differs from all the other manners that are presented in the world,” Fadlallah said.

Regardless of which city Fakih was raised in, he concluded, “the matter doesn’t differ to us because the criteria through which we evaluate women are very different from those of the West and other nations."

Many opinions and many more claims and counter claims are online and in traditional media. But the topic that's getting the least coverage is the significance of the Miss USA title and the role this young woman will play as its holder.

Very few comments are discussing how someone with Rima Fakih's background can play a constructive role in bridging the gap between East and West. For now the West calls her Eastern, and the East calls her Western, and despite all criticism, she is celebrated in many corners of her country of origin, and her country of naturalization, as the beauty queen she's always strived to be.

Update 1:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post had a headline we thought was too provocative.

soundoff (221 Responses)
  1. Eric P

    Are you kidding me? Really? She's of Lebanese decent so she might be a SPY? Living in this country is getting to be laden with so much nonsensical crap it's not worth living here anymore. Good god. A SPY!?!

    May 20, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      Well then leave...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      how about you leave JOE MO

      May 20, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • cory

      um... then leave.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      Hey I'm happy here in the good ole' USA...I'm not the one complaining and saying that it's not worth living here anymore. There's no place I'd rather live...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      I will if someone like Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck ever gets elected to any form of national office...and I don't think I'm alone. As for you, if you don't have a fundamental problem with such an insulting headline, there's something wrong with YOU.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Flip

      Jo Mo...what will be the thing that finally sinks the US is when all the intelligent and sensible people start leaving...dumba$$es like you are the reason why the country is so f@#ked up....nothing is perfect...a country and a person should always strive be better...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • 5TT

      Don't worry those that think that way are crazy, this nation is changing and they are panicking but in reality they have no affect at all in this country they just annoying bugs, just slap them off your mind, they will go away soon.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • IEK

      Wow, nice response. You really showed him.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • AK

      are you jealous

      May 20, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • 5TT

      And Palin and the other idiots have no change of ever winning, And if the Republicans keep letting the Tea Party crazies run their Party then I guess Bush was the last Republican President we will ever have.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • IEK

      Just to point out, my response was to Joe Mo and cory.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric P

      It's appalling how radical this country has become. There is no rationality anymore. Being respectful of other people is considered "politically correct" while being a racist, ignorant hillbilly is celebrated as "common sense". It's disgusting.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • 5TT

      Eric lol is an American tradition every time the Economy is down these idiots come out 🙂 Obama finally fix the crap the Bush left us, we just need more time for Jobs to pick up prob by next year and then they will be gone til the economy goes down again the crazies cycle of life.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Hi

      Joe Mo,

      You need to understand Patriotism versus Nationalism. Patriotism is good, while Nationalism is bad. A Patriot is somebody who loves their country, and is willing to admit what is WRONG with their country for the purpose of wanting to fix that wrong. A nationalist is a person who blindly follows his country, regardless of what that country does...whether it is right or wrong. The nationalists are dangerous for countries, because they support the country even down the wrong path.

      Joe, you are CLEARLY a nationalist. America is not perfect. Recognize that, try to be a real Patriot and fix these imperfections. Do no blindly follow like a sheep.

      People like Eric P are the real American Patriots...proud of America for the wonderful things she offers, yet willing to recognize and fix the bad things that plague us.

      We need more Erics, and less Joes...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Adele

      It's not the entire country that thinks this; it's one "neo-conservative" blog. Leave it to the media to get your panties knotted up. Just ignore them. Everyone has opinions – get use to it.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • matth

      Shame on CNN for the headline and giving any credence to this at all. Shame on them and any news service that sews the seeds of hate and ignorance using meaningless stories like this. Honestly, giving a louder voice to the hatemongers who might say that this young lady is a "Hezbollah spy" is about as low as you can get. With all the things that go on in the world...this is front-page news? How do you guys sleep at night?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • adam

      Adele: There is a difference between "opinions" and a willful lie about someone being a spy. That sounds like something Glenn Beck would say.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • FaresF

      Well said Eric!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. Robert

    Far too many opinions. Far too many people with hatred in their hearts and on their tongues. Is it so hard to just be happy for her achievement and let her be?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Haller99

      Well said. The ugly side of the Information Age...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Hooten

      Amen, is it so unreasonable that the people in this country appreciate each other for where they come from, because we all know that we all migrated here.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Filagust

      Well said, Robert. I'm Nigerian and I know what ethnic & religious bigotry have done to my country. I pray this doesn't happen to American. For many people in a country founded by immigrants to be so hysterical about later immigrants is just plain hypocrisy.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
    • amused

      Well said!! at last someone with some intelligence on this board

      May 20, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. J DOG

    Who ever wrote this should be strapped to a gurney and beaten with rubber hoses in the moonlight.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • wrex


      May 20, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
    • T$

      Agreed. What an idiot. Media propaganda. Its like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger is a spy.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
    • interested

      ummm, your place or mine?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • MissT

      J Dog, sounds like a plan.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael, Chapel HIll

    I wish well for her and hope that she will survive the onslaught of ill will from various corners.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Brett

    Isn't calling somebody Muslim-American like calling somebody Catholic-American?

    May 20, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      Or I guess it would be Christian-American

      May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Haller99

      I'm sorry if this offends some, but face it–she does deserve a label:


      There. I said it.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • a-nonny-mouse

      yeah, your right. what ever happen to people just being a G0D D@MN AMERICAN?

      Like the article said, the west calls her eastern and the east calls her western. Do you think there are americans naturalized in other countries calling themselves american-brazillian, or american-african? No. everyone else see's you as an american.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Melonie

    THIS STORY HEADLINE IS RACIST AND BENEATH i thought CNN! CMON ! Please raise your level of awareness. The headline alone is OFFENSIVE to all Americans!

    May 20, 2010 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Jose

      Agreed. When I first saw the headline I had to double-check my web browser because I thought I was on the Fox News website. To even mention the spy claim is ridiculous and only helps spread the ignorance of people making those statements.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  7. JusticeIsGone

    Definately hot spy babe...

    May 20, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Redbull

      It's the pole dancing that gives it away. All Hot Babe Spies pole dance, remember Jamie Lee in True Lies!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. Manny HM

    She was judged for her beauty, poise, and answer to a random question. Let's just leave it at that. Not for her religion and her beliefs.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Brayden

      It has nothing to do with her religion, as must people are assuming she is Muslim. Those who follow this faith know that women are to be clad with clothing, head to foot, as it says in the Qu'ran. No Muslim woman would ever prance around in a bikini, so the animosity towards the religious aspect of this story is irrelevant.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. JW in Texas

    Congrats to her, she is a beatiful woman and deserves her honors and not all the lies and inuendo being spread. Spy? Grow up and get educated and join the real world.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jen

    I think she is beautiful and her racy photos do not offend me. They are merely reminders that this is a digital world and everyone is watching. As a Jew I am proud to have her help bridge the gap between religions and nations. The stereotypes and labels only hurt us.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • i with you

      hi five amen to that im tired of redneck fu*kers saying that every muslim is a spy or terrorist suck it texas
      (their are a lot of racist texans at my school)

      May 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • abdo

      I'm glad that as a jew you have no problem with Rima being the first Arab American Muslim to ever win Miss USA. We arabs are really proud of her. But what do you think of someone like Debbie Schlussel, also a jew, making up the lie that Rima's a hezbollah spy? Do you condemn this type of hate mongering?

      May 22, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. saradode

    Amen, Robert P. and Eric! I was almost afraid to look at some of the comments that are bound to show up here, but your comments made me take heart!

    May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kageha

    She won, she now attracts so much hate. Sorry gal, thats gonna be your new life.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Susan

    I'm disappointed that CNN would use the spy comment in a headline – even if it was meant to be sarcastic, it perpetuates stereotypes and mistrust. Sad.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  14. JES

    Oh for goodness sake! Just leave her alone! I don't particularly "agree" with beauty pageants – but she's beautiful, she's succeeded – the pole dancing was a joke – just let people pursue their happiness! Is that so hard?!

    May 20, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. 1happycamper

    I cannot believe somebody went down the spy route. Really? Even more so, I cannot believe it's an actual article on cnn. Stay classy CNN, leave the newsertainmet to Fox. I actually thought I had opened foxnews up by mistake when I read this.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Maggie

      Why do you assume that if it is a conservative news show or not for obama then they are racist and underneath you?? YOur comments alone and other who have the same thing are pretty much the biggots here and should really watch what they throw out about other people.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      I get my news from multiple sites. I actually find that Fox at least reports articles that are interesting and have national impact. I usually go to Fox and see whats up, then I come over to CNN so I can see what they're reporting. I end by going to to see what they have. CNN never keeps pace with Fox imo. They report some of the main things going on, and then they report about what cat got stuck in what tree (ok, that's a little extreme but close). They just don't seem report enough on what is going on.

      I would challenge everyone here to read a healthy balance of news from multiple sources. As a conservative it was hard for me to do that, but it has made me much more informed and has allowed me to find the truth most of the time.

      The shock of all shocks was when CNN featured a report of Hispanic Americans (came her the legal) spoke out against illegals and supported SB 1070. That was a shock to me, but it helped me get a better picture of the true pulse of the issue.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
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