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. Cnn is turning into a tabloid

    These kind of headlines have been going on for a while at CNN, they are very close to being a full fledged tabloid. This kind of reporting is ridiculous, not to mention the consistent errors in reporting and grammar that have presented themselves on this website. They need to fix themselves before then decline any further.

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

    5TT

    That's a STUPID statement about the Tea Pary since a Tea Party candidate just beat a DUMBACRAT in a LANDSLIDE!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. hahahahahah

    okay this is just ridiculous~ a spy? really? Shouldnt a spy be able to do more than pole dance or walk around & answer 6th grade political questions? Shouldnt a spy have some true motive for espionage? You know like nuclear secrets, missile tech, black classified docs?

    I mean a spy that is meant to woo the hearts of miss america sheep? Who cares. Do people really think that these muslim/arab people are resorting to sending spies into beauty pageants?

    Get a grip America. This is why all the students in math.science majors are foreign b/c Americans are freakin stupid. Every day i go into class as an Engineering Science major with sadness b/c of the willful ignorance of you people!

    Instead of worrying about the catastrophic oil spill, illegal invasions of Iraq/Afghanistan, trillion dollar deficit, we are worried about a potential Hezbollah spy in the Miss America pageant. Or the fake gold being kept in America, a pageant Miss Congeniality plot is what you idiots are talking about

    God what have we done to deserve this ignorance
    OH yeah we got this land on 100 million african holocaust, native american extinction, have killed millions of vietnamese, iraqis, and since WW2 we have bombed 26 countries...

    Karma. Willful ignorance is still ignorance no wonder we are a joke to the rest of the world...Take my advice, learn chinese and leave this country before it implodes

    May 20, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. Laurence

    What a stupid and unprofessional/unnecessary article! The mere thought of suggesting that Miss USA is a spy (WITHOUT evidence or merit) is not very good journalism CNN. This is absolutely ridiculous and feeds into the neo-conservative's plot to exploit unsubstantiated claims. When does it all stop?!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. TexasJim

    As long as we continue to hold the entire religion of Islam responsible for 9-11, we are on a collision course with ourselves. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the country whether we like it or not.
    It takes a little work to not accept an obvious conclusion, to see nuance. I'm afraid there are too few people here willing to do that. Spend five minutes reading about the Crusades. Get to know a muslim.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      I don't have a problem with the Muslim religion – just the Muslim extremist terrorist that come to our country and kill 3000 innocent people.

      May 20, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. John Timberlake

    She's a SPY and should be strip searched immediately. I will take on for the team and volunteer.
    A Spy...really...has this country become this stupid. Jeez.

    I am eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse so this failed experiment will be over.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
    • haroun eikram

      hell yeah zombie apocalypse go down fighting

      May 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Concept

    These conservatives are just straight out JEALOUS.

    With no other dirt against her (except the "racy" pole dancing), they resort to using her ethnicity and background as a tool to make her "less American". This is absolutely pathetic, middle school arguments and they should be ashamed of themselves for even bringing it up.

    Labeling her "Muslim American" just goes to show you the majority of Christians having a sly "hatred" against the Muslim population. Racism and now religious discrimination is simmering. What happened to our principles of equal opportunity for all? If you havent noticed or havent paid attention in school, our country is a land made up of ENTIRELY of IMMIGRANTS. No single one of us can call ourselves NATIVES. Only NATIVE AMERICANS are true NATIVES. Everyone else, no matter how long "my ancestors have lived here" , are descendants of immigrants. So unless you are a Native American, you have no right to say "get out of my country" because technically its not.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  8. rev_cletus

    Only in Idiot America could a grossly *stupid* hed like that be allowed to (dis)grace a story; proof positive CNN and the other major media are complicit in the complete dumbing-down of our entire civilization – and Idiot American sheep are content to graze in front of their teevees and let it happen...

    May 20, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. sassy13

    Yes, I'm sure sure she had to prove her citizenship before she could compete in either the state or national pagent. You can only become PRESIDENT without proof of citizenship in the US!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mo

      good comment!

      May 20, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. CNNisaloser

    I bet she was part of 9-11.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      Really? Then I guess you were a part of it as well. If you pay for gasoline and drive your vehicle, where does that fuel originate from? If you said, "Saudi Arabia," you would be correct. Now, how many of the hijackers on 9-11 were Lebanese? 1. How many were Saudi nationals? 15. So think about this, if that money you spend on gas goes to Saudi Arabia, and 15 of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis, could you assume that you indirectly helped fund the 9-11 attacks?

      May 20, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • oathkeeper

      this is no threat this is a solemn oath on every god ever conceived if i ever meet you on the street the next thing you'll see is my fist in your face just because she is not a white big chested bimbo doesn't mean she was part of 9/11 you racist bigot you had better avoid me like the plague and common sense cause you seem to be doing pretty well at that

      May 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Johnny Biscuits

    Is Miss America actually an android sent back from the future to prevent the rebellion against the machines?
    Wow. That's much more fun than actual journalism.
    But CNN, you have a choice here. Either:
    1. Review the validity of the blog's claims, or
    2. Start calling your stories info-tainment and NOT news.

    All over Manhattan, I hear disaffected people spewing insane ideas.
    But there's a reason they don't make headlines...
    I have an opinion blog (google me), but still would want to be called out if I skimped on the factual research.
    (I still love you, CNN, but let's do better.)

    May 20, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. less impressed

    A couple of things. Is it just me, or has the quality and objectivity of CNN's journalism been been on a serious downhill slide of late. I know it always had a rep of having a slant, but I think it used to be just more balanced than the conservative news. This headline is INTENTIONALLY ridiculous so it will grab the attention of more suggestible liberal, as well as seeming sarcastic to the more sensible, and most importantly inciting a flamefest among excitable people. Either way you look at it, it is really cheap, sloppy, unethical journalism. The blatant Facebook and Apple sponsorships got so bad that they had to attack them in a few articles to stifle the blowback, and now headlines like this – why don't you change the color of your banner to yellow. CNN, I miss the old you. Also, she is damn hot.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kelly

    5TT

    Your an idiot. The more of your responses I read the dumber you sound. We do not have a BLACK president we have a MIXED RACE president. Never trust a man who denies his mother. Just because you check the black box does'nt make you black. Also, the only reason he has passed anything is because of all the other idiots in the white house with him. Hmmm come to think of it maybe you should be in the white house. Talk to me in November LOSER!!!

    May 20, 2010 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. Engineer

    Spy around here!

    May 20, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mekhong Kurt

    Why don't all you jumping all over everyone's a$$es at CNN *go back and read the FIRST PARAGRAPH* again, where it says a NEO-CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER started the crap about her being a spy. In other words, CNN reported part of the news story. Imagine that. A news organization reporting news. CNN doesn't accuse her of one damned thing. Nor should they.

    This hoopla reminds Black Miss America in 1984. Some of my White acquaintances - I'm White myself - went bonkers. They thought it not only was a national disgrace but an offense to God, and no, I'm not kidding. Some moaned, "Those little nigras ought to have their OWN pageant and stay out of OURS!" Made me want to puke. (Still does, come to think of it.)

    Again, however - it isn't the reporter making the stupid allegation; it's some dumba$$ blogger.

    Put the blame where it goes.

    May 20, 2010 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • AmWoman

      Your right CNN didn't write but they took it, ran with and sensationalized it! Thats as bad as having written it themselves. Oh and before you slam me too, I'm as white as you! I'm just tired of sensationalized journalism, to get a decent, unbiased report in this country you have to go to the BBC and thats sad!

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