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. Figg

    Whoa, for a moment there I thought I was on the National Enquirer's website. Usually they print this kind of garbage there. What is CNN becoming, I wonder...

    May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    Give me a break...she's a beautiful young woman, raised in America, who cares about the rest. Anyone who puts a politcal twist on a beauty pageant is just looking to start something because they are afraid of something. Leave the woman alone and allow her to celebrate winning just as all of the winners in the past have.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brhynn

    Spell and grammar check.They're not just for term papers.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. Meg

    This headline is ridiculous...shame on CNN

    May 20, 2010 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Findley

    I'm getting really tired of this contury and what is on the news.If Rima Fakih wants to put things up and not think about it,thats her problem.This country fouces on stuiped garbege such as this.I the mean time we have a plant going to waste.

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

    tyvm 4 sharing, abdul...would any1 else like to share? gawd

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

    Hezbollah Spy....?? Come on, CNN!!! Are you trying to clone Fox News with headlines like that to create hatred and paranoia?? She is a beatiful young woman, end of story!!! Shame on you, CNN!

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

      God forbid if the truth were ever reported. For the fact that CNN is reporting it and not Fox I would assume you folks would lend it more credibility. Are you the same people that assumed the Times Square Bomber just HAD to be a tea party person...that it COULD NOT actually be a terrorist from another country. Most people on the left wanted that soooo bad. It just had to be a middle clasee white guy with a chip on his shoulder over something Bush did. But guess what, those that love America typically don't harm her. And the TSB was in fact a terrorist no matter how bad you didn't want it to be so. Give Fox a break and check the facts. It is ignorant to get your news from one source...the answer typically are somewhere in the middle. I use Fox News, CNN, and Real Clear Politics. Believe it or not, we can't wreck on either side of the road.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. LULO


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

      true . are you proud of your sleep with every one women?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. mobadthangood

    She's a spy? OMG! Give her my address. If she comes in that 2 pc bathing suit she had on I might tell her something she really wants to hear.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  10. Muhammad


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

      Do I have to draw him in a bear suit?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Redbull

      What does he look like... exactly?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. mcspiffy

    For what it does, she's no better than Queen Latifah or Janet Reno or any of their kind. Let Hezbollah speak, the hammer will fall eventually.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  12. ktlady

    Congratulations to Rima Fakih on being crowned Miss USA! Those who seek to tarnish her win with big drama and false claims should be ashamed. My guess is that these people (media included) are simply green with envy and just wish they could live for just one moment in her shoes.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Hassan

    Imagine irish and european hungry illegal immigrants telling others to leave. lol

    May 20, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  14. Stan Morgan

    Donald Trump is a marketing genius. This whole thing was fixed at the door. PT Barnum, eat your heart out!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Albert Zaza

    WOW CNN? Is this for rating?

    May 20, 2010 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
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