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. Julie

    Wow...I am so embarrassed of my country right now, way to go America. We should pick up the law that every other single European country has; any extremists against another race should go to jail. Freedom of speech does not apply to those morons.

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

      If you are so embarrased then leave! You and the Dixie Chicks can find a new home.

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

      how about you leave Joe Mo. if thats the solution then YOU GET OUT

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

      Who are you to say who freedom of speech applies to? I'm sure you are on the front lines fighting for our freedoms julie. David you leave. Me and Joe Mo will stay and make sure all is well.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      Ha ha ha...I'm not going anywhere. Talk about freedom of speech – why can't I have my freedom of speech??? Why does my views have to match yours??? I don't think so..

      May 20, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • TheGoodNews

      Joe Moe....your definition of feedom of speech is to tell someone who's opinion you disagree with to 'leave the country with the Dixie Chicks. I think you need to learn to 'walk the talk'.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Redbull

      I think Joe and Mo are simply trying to help Julie find her happy place.

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

      Joe Mo can dish it but cant take it – typical ignorant hypocritical conservative. Just calling it as I see it – gotta love free speech!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Blow

      Joe Mo,

      You need to understand Patriotism versus. Nationalism. Patriotism is good, while Nationalism is not good. 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 imperfection. Do no blindly follow like a sheep.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Lydia

      I hate hate HATE the "If you don't like America, then LEAVE!" argument. Do you idiots realize what this country would be if everyone had taken your advice? First of all, we never would have revolted against the British and become America in the first place. We never would have achieved equal rights for women or civil rights for all races. Expressing discontent with the current way of things is the first step to making America better, to improving things that need to be fixed, and if you think that living in this country means you have to be happy with the way it is RIGHT NOW, then maybe YOU should leave and go to a country where that's the way things work, like North Korea for example.

      Part of our RESPONSIBILITY as US citizens is to speak out when we don't like the way our nation or society is going. That's right–responsibility! If you just sit back and say, "it's all good because this is America, and we can do no wrong!" Then you're a detriment to this nation, not an asset. If you think anyone who doesn't blindly love America as much as you do is a traitor and needs to leave, you're a detriment. Grow up. Use your brain for something other than blind patriotism. You can love this country and still strive to make it better.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • nemo1976

      One, why can't we see the "spy" accusation for what it was, FUNNY! She not exactly clandestine now being all over the media now, not really good for spy work! To both sides, you have extremist spouting their views neither of you is innocent in this debate!
      Two, if you start to limit free speech to those who agree with your take then there is no free speech. Not exactly living up to liberal, rational defense of individual liberties...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • haroun eikram

      oy joe mo david shut up you racist pigs its ignorant fools like you that makes us muslims in think america sucks yes i have a home in Pakistan and all of them think me and everyone else is a warmonger you know i give you a challenge go their you diss my country and its people if your so fu*king amazing go there and see for yourself what they say if you don't believe me

      May 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Abdul

    she could entertain our troops!! I m sure they are feelinig quite orny down in I-raq watching all those local moslem women, who the menfolk there keep under wraps and like far far away from our lovely boys. Now, they can atleast get their hands around an exact local looking knock-off albeit with yankee morals or lack off thereoff.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. Alex

    she can spy on me anytime.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Archie Q

      I second that!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. shaun

    some people in this country are real morons

    May 20, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Think Big

      Yeah, CNN is screwed. They need to apologize for this crap.

      May 20, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tiffanie

    Good God.. how racist are we now?

    This woman has been here most of her life! While we all know that there are those out there who would do such things, it is wrong to condemn every single person from that region of the world. That is like saying all American's are War mongers because George Bush pushed for us to invade Iraq..

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


      May 20, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      Oh here we go...someone just had to throw in Pres. Bush's name...

      May 20, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • waveman215

      Hey Joe, she's saying people shouldn't condemn you. Way to bring the logic.

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

      Ahhhh...David support our National Day of Prayer!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kim Hartshorn

    The Arab-American community in Dearborn MI, is the larges community of Arab descent in the world outside of the Middle East. It is a broad cosmopolitan community of Muslims and Christians from virtually every country in the mid-east, from liberal to ultra-conservative. The community started generations ago with Ford's $5 day which represented the turning point for working class Americans of all backgrounds to finally have true access to their piece of the American Pie. The community is a mix of recent immigrants from Iraq to 4th generation Americans from Lebanon and 3rd generation Americans from Palestine. People who claim to be Americans really need to get out more and learn more about the country they so fervently claim for themselves.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Buddhadev

      Fabulous response. Thank you.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. citygrl

    Looking past the fact that this is nothing more than a racist statement, does someone out there think that being Miss USA means that she gets high level security clearance with access to state secrets?

    May 20, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dean

    ARE U FREAKING KIDDING ME??!?!? A SPY??? lmao wow america wow. you see even 9 years after 9/11, muslims and arab americans are still so racist and ignorant. If your against isreal your a anti-semitic if your against america then your a terrorist if your against the rest of the world you are a patriot.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. David

    CNN needs to pull this article immediately

    May 20, 2010 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Redbull

      David also is in favor of censorship.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. keystone

    I agree with just about every comment here today. leave her alone, she is not here illegally she is an American Citizen, It is sad that as American Citizens we are so racist still. that is all this is, RACISM! I am almost ashamed to say I am American and proud of my country! I am so disappointed in America as whole. Get a life people!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Blah

    Definatly a spy. Yep.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. The Real God

    The writer of this 'article' proves: Religion = Blind Ignorance

    Why not celebrate a beauty like hers? Sheesh. Next thing I know CNN will have articles on UFO's sighted over the Elvis Presley mansion... LOL

    May 20, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. TheGoodNews

    This is a pathetic article and only reconfirms how scared Americans are. My god, we shut down blocks in NYC when a cooler is left on the sidewalk! Terrorists don't need to fly planes into bulidings, they just need to leave their lunch box on the steps of a court house and we'd shut our cities down. I think if Europeans were acting the same way, and reporting it as if these were major news events, we'd all be laughing hysterically at them. I'm also sick of (fill in the blank – Americans) be it Itallian-American, African-American, Arab-American, Jewish-American, or whatever-Americans (if you were in Italy, would you say you were an Italian-American, in Africa an African-American, in Isreal Jewish-American?!).....if you want to be treated equally, quit telling your fellow Americans that you're different and somehow not proud to be just a plain-ole American!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tony

    I though a Spy was suppsed to stay out of the limelight. I guess, if she is a spy, she is a realy poor one.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. Flip

    bring all the babes to America!

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

      +1 agree

      May 20, 2010 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
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