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. DD

    She sounds like a typical, giddy American girl to me, regardless of her country of origin and religion. Just a pretty girl who wants to enjoy life based upon her looks and energy and sense of fun. Nothing deep, nothing scary, and we can all be thankful for a little bit of that these days.

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

      Well said DD

      May 20, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      May 20, 2010 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  2. Prismo

    I would tell her everything!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. 5TT

    Eric Man don't worry this idiots come out every time the Economy is down. It's an American tradition, well and the fact we have a Black President is not helping at all, specially seeing how Obama is fixing the Economy and passing Reforms that no other white president could, it's driving them even crazier lol And another thing like some have mention the net alouds this nuts to come out but in reality there no many of them, at list in NY 🙂 I love NY

    May 20, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Me

    A spy? Mmmkay.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • lol

      A spy in a beauty pageant? K. Last time i checked, government and military secrets weren't revealed to beauty queens.
      Why would we care if she was a spy, exactly?

      May 21, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. flyinhorse

    Please, don't call her a Muslim, she is a disgrace. Religion is about submitting to God's will, not of man. These beauty contest are all for people's pleasure, please keep religion out of it. Calling such people religious is a disgrace. She (and people like her) are tainting Islam's image just like those terrorist, because both groups don't represent what the religion preaches.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      Well, yay for Islam! Where women who reveal themselves (meaning not dressing like robed ninjas) are disgraceful. What a positive way to spread its message: submit to Allah or die! I'll take... death, thank you.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • flyinhorse

      this show how much you know about Islam or any religion in general. dieing sooner might be a better idea for you, as you wont have alot of time to commit sin.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. wrex

    Faux (Fox) News! Spreading ignorance and hate coast to coast! This kind of crap is EXACTLY why I am glad I am NOT American.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      What an ignorant post. Just because you don't like what Fox reports doesn't mean it's not true. Go check their accuracy ratings...they are accurate no matter how much you don't like it. Also, if you're here legally then NO MATTER how much you don't like ARE an American! And you should be thankful for the opportunity. If you no longer like being an American then you need to look for another place to live. And if you're here illegally you are breaking the LAW (this little things Americans live by) and you need to leave and come back LEGALLY!

      May 20, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bill

    Since when does some idiot conservative posting unfounded rumors and innuendo prove legitimate enough to be CNN newsworthy? This is why the lunatic birthers are still out touting their nonsense, because credible news sources like CNN allow them to. Shame on you, CNN, you can do better.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. khan

    pitiful yes pitiful , my miss America is the one who teaches everyday to kids and making good,

    May 20, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. lindita

    The truth, she is from Palestine.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. R.Lord

    Yes, Islam requires that women be modest in the extreme and that men wear a beard and cover their heads, and that all profess their dedication to Islam and its requirements, but there is an exception in Muslim law for spies. It is clearly written that a muslim should conceal their faith in order to wage jihad against the kufir, and this woman is a suspect and so is Barrack Hussein Obama. We live in treacherous times.

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

      Is the inside of your home lined with aluminum foil so all the xray's, radio waves, and other information seeking devices can't penetrate your home and brain? How do you get up everyday and live your life in fear of things that have no basis in fact? There are medications available for your disorder – check with your doctor.

      May 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. plainsman

    Yes she is a spy. Soon her handlers will know all of Donald Trumps secrets and sell them to the public at large. Spoiler alert, that isn't his real hair he just coats his dome in peanut butter until he attracts enough flickertails to create the right illusion.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. For America

    'In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language.. And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.'
    Theodore Roosevelt 1907

    May 20, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      Excellent comment!!!! Thanks for sharing..

      May 20, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • cory


      May 20, 2010 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Stan

    This is the most horrible racist article I've ever read, and CNN is supposed to be a responsible news organization, writing an entire article on how some right-wing nuts are calling an America woman a terrorist SPY, trying to analyze it and giving more credibility to the paranoid racists who would question the success of anyone who isn't white, blonde and blue-eyed. Maybe they can also write serious articles on how Obama could be a terrorist spy – because David Duke says so.

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

      I take offense to your words, sir. Just because someone doesn't think the way you do doesn't mean they're extemist. If her ties to terrorist organizations are true then this is a big deal. You're beloved CNN reported maybe...hmmm, just maybe there is something to it. I swear that you all defend non Americans before you defend Americans. Your comments are weak and feable.

      May 20, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. thijo

    the girl win the crown, so if she is part of terrorist organisation, let the great FBI and orther intern sevice take care of the rest. AND TO HELL ANYONE WITH THE TAUGH OF USA NOT BEEN A BAST PLACE TO BE, B/C YOU HAVEN'T SEE WORSE YET.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. stupidnewschannels

    Thanks to all the internet news channels for running stories like this only continues to make us pick sides and call each other names. Ignore it people. I'm sure she is. Cursing each other out doesn't help. Just because you disagree with someone.....when you stoop to profanity it only makes you look stupid.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
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