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. Jude

    Does anyone know or even care what the religious affiliation is of all the other Miss USA contestants? Why do we have to make an enormous issue out of this? The entire Muslim community is not out to get the US. Why does this cr@p even make it on this or any other NEWS site?

    May 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Foobisd

    This is by far the dumbest article I have ever read on any news site.

    May 20, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cathy in Kentucky

    WE ARE AT WAR IN A MUSLIM COUNTRY AND WE CROWN AN ARAB MISS USA ?????!!!! I'M SURE THATS A REAL "PICK ME UP " FOR THE UNITED STATES MILITARY!!! I'M SURE HER FOR FATHERS NEVER SHED BLOOD IN THIS COUNTRY SO THAT SHE MAY have THE RIGHTS SHE ENJOYS TODAY. TAKE THE CROWN BACK , WHATS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? THIS IS NOT AN ARAB NATION!!!!!!!! THANK GOD

    May 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Omar

      But, unfortunately, Cathy, we are a nation of idiots, aren't we...

      May 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • azman

      So, if it's not an arab country, which is it then? JEW country? African country? English country? Italian country? Mexican country? German country? Indian country? Chinese country? Pakistani country? I wonder who's the minority now. Hey CATHY IN KENTUCKY, WAKE UP and smell the coffee, or have you been in a coma for so long?

      May 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • 'Nellian

      Are you serious? Are there no Muslims fighting on the American side of the war? Are there not innocent Muslims being killed in this war? Do you believe that all the soldiers are white people from Kentucky? You only help build the ignorance level of people in this country and fit the stereotype of racist redneck. Please, please, please learn to be a little more open-minded and accepting of other views and religions other than your own. Just because someone is Muslim does not mean we should be fearful of them and immediately write them off as a terrorist.

      I fear for our country.

      May 23, 2010 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
  4. Omar

    Just curious CNN: did you remove the initial headline because you "thought (it) was too provocative" or because those of your readers with common sense &, uh, decency objected to the racist headline "'Miss USA: Muslim Trailblazer Or Hezbollah Spy?' ? (Psssst, I already know the answer).

    May 20, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shalimar

    Why change the headline so it no longer accurately reflects the insanity of the actual post? Also, if you're going to pass on crackpot theories from neocons then you need to provide a link to the source. If you don't want to drive traffic to the source, then you shouldn't be passing along the allegation.

    May 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dan

    THIS JUST IN...COWARD AZ SHERIFF LETS K9 LOOSE ON WOMAN STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. DOG RUNS IN OTHER DIRECTION.

    May 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. crispinpierce

    Sadly, this is another example of CNN's poor journalism: posting innuendo without research. Why didn't the author investigate the rumors of "Hezbollah" affiliation? Why wasn't Ms. Fakih asked about the "pole dancing" accusation?

    CNN has a tendency to just repeat "He said, she said" without fact checking. Not a high standard of journalism.

    May 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  8. azman

    Didnt you guys know? EVERY MUSLIM in the US *IS* a SPY. Been in deep cover for over 1,400 years. You all are berks of the first degree for not noticing us.

    May 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lani

    Dear USA,

    We find you hilarious! Keep up the great work!

    Love,
    Canada

    May 20, 2010 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • WorldCitizen

      Hands down, best comment on here!

      May 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ROTW

    Americans are just a bunch of t***s.

    May 21, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jeff

    check out MissArab.Org and see how they select Arab ladies!

    May 21, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  12. Derek

    CNN, you should be ashamed of posting such racist garbage. A spy? REALLY?

    May 21, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dave

    Give her a break, for Christs sake. She's just another Yankee babe from Michigan. That State's crawlin' with fine young American women – she's just another one and we're lucky to have her, to Lebanons loss.

    May 22, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ghazal Omid

    The world Muslim, means surronded its will to the creator, we call Him differently in different languages. God in English. Dieu in French. Dias in Spanish. Allah in Arabic and Khoda in Farsi. The world Islam means directly taking orders from God to which direction to follow through Prophet Mohamd teachings and for Shi’a Muslim we are oblilgated to follow the 12 Immams begins with Ali and end with Mahdi, directly descended from Prophet Blood line.

    It is amazing that people often accept much strickter rules from let say an Army or a college they attend and they are fine with it. But when it comes to religion those who don’t like the religion born to or better say don’t educate themselves to undrstand it, find it fraustrating. However they will use Islam any way possible… compare Islam to an Amry, its codes are similar, both have similar stricktion. One must take orders without question.

    For the last many decades in particular Mulsims so called “Moderate,” those who assume everything about Islam come up with restriction are making efforts to even rewrite Koran ( Qoran). I personaly observed Muslims who drink wine and go home and say they pray. I have seen them fasting during Ramadan. I have observed their friendship and seen they eat food at evrey resturant and they say: Just say “Besmellah” or in the name of God and everything is Hallal, some even eaten pork and it becomes hellal. For the information of Non Muslims… If you see a man or a woman drinking with you and says he or she is a Muslim. That is just figure of speech.

    If you see a woman on the stage with her bikini saying her religin is Islam. That means she was born to it. If she knew what Islam is, she wouldn't be on that stage in the first place. Modesty is a number one rule for women. The same goes for drinking and eating pork. Call it the cardinal rules if you may because these are ...

    I am devoted Shi’a Scholar and an authentic Muslim.

    May 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ghazal Omid

    Everyone please forgive the typos. The world, should word.... typing 120 WPM it has its problems...

    May 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
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