May 21st, 2010
09:19 PM ET

Miss USA says 'American' is her preferred label

"Religion does not identify me," Miss USA Rima Fakih tells CNN.

Rima Fakih's beauty pageant sash declares that she is Miss USA, but journalists want to find other labels for her.

Questions about Fakih's ethnic and religious identity have been nearly as frequent as questions about photos of her dancing against a stripper's pole.

"I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American," Fakih said. "I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American."

Fakih, 24, was born in Lebanon, but her family moved to New York when she was 7 years old. She later moved to Michigan, where she went to college.

The rarity of a woman born in the Middle East representing the United States in the Miss Universe pageant spurred internet buzz. One rumor was that Fakih had family connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group that the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization.

"Absolutely not," Fakih told CNN's Octavia Nasr. "That is a stereotype and a prejudiced statement made by only one reporter who had made that title before I was crowned Miss USA."

The blogger's accusation "was completely made up out of her own prejudiced mind," she said.

Contrary to some reports, she said, her family did not live in Southern Lebanon, the hub of Hezbollah.

"We lived in the mountain area of Lebanon, which is predominantly Christian-based," she said. "The majority of my family is diverse. It's Muslim and Christian."

Fakih said religion should not be a question for Miss USA winners.

"Religion does not identify me, I would like to say that," she said. "My family is more of a spiritual family rather than religious. We've never been religious, we've been never known to be religious, and on top of everything, we celebrate Christmas."

Fakih attended a Catholic high school in New York, she said.

"We are Muslim," she said. "However, we appreciate and admire all faiths."

The reaction to Fakih's selection was cause for celebration for many in Lebanon, a country she visited just a few months ago.

"I want them to know that the United States is not what they see on TV," she said. "It is still a country of freedom and opportunity."

Fakih said she has been invited to visit Lebanon and meet with leaders there, including President Michel Suleiman.

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Filed under: Lebanon • Showbiz • U.S.
soundoff (450 Responses)
  1. Suck n Blow

    uhm this is a statement out of honesty: shes actually not that beautiful. She shouldn't have one anyways.

    May 24, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. loveamerica

    I'm not an american, alas, but LOVE the USA. Just seeing how the country chose Obama and how the "American" judges chose this beauty Arabic queen makes me really admire American and what it stands for.

    May 24, 2010 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. nyccsky01

    She wants everyone to like her, lets not forget that beauty pageants are popularity contests and have nothing to do with depth of any kind. Its sad she is ashamed of her culture and of God. In the bible it says if you deny me I will also deny you before my father. People like this ought to fear the one who can send thier soul to hell rather than Men & the world. So sad that she is actually a representation of USA. Shallow, vain and arrogant. Be not ashamed of the Gospel! lukewarm people will be ejected from the body of christ

    May 24, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Lourdes

      She is beautiful and graceful and comfortable with herself and others. Maybe you can learn something from her.

      May 24, 2010 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |

    All Muslims leave her alone she can say and do whatever she wants GOD will not ask you for her actions, as for non Muslims you guys needs to understand Islam by the authenticate source (QURAN) not by Muslims Burka is not in Islam its traditional thing burka was exist even before Quran reveled no where in Quran GOD said to wear burka do not let your media fool you,

    May 24, 2010 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rae SA

    Every sinlge American (bar the Indians) is of an ethnicity other than 'American' originally.
    Rima has proven that you can assimilate into a society while maintaining your roots (albeit elsewhere).
    A beauty pageant is nothing other than to select a pretty girl with a bit of personality, and Rima sure is one of those – her intelligence has obviously given her an edge.
    The thought of linking a beauty queen to Hezbollah, or any terrorist is outrageous, unfounded and frankly ridiculous.
    I think that Islamophobia is being propogated widely (which is evidenced by comments in this thread) in every sphere of society to distract attention from the other attrocities being committed by the West.
    This girl has dared to be bold, give her some credit...
    Get your head out of the sand and see American politics for what it is, see Islam for what it is and make and informed decision. Oh and check out external (i.e non-American) media – then you will realise that Terrorism is not the biggest threat the world faces... But you may live in fear because of what you have been made to believe...

    May 24, 2010 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lourdes

    She has chosen "American" as her label of choice. Good for her. I only wish ALL people would be at peace with that.

    May 24, 2010 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Deployed Decoy

      No she chose ARAB-American, as in American 2nd billed. Read her exact quote and my comments way above. I stand by my demand to see her USA Passport not a resident alien Green Card. As in proof she is a card carrying American, not a visitor because she would be executed in her home nation for stuff she has done under the American flag. And part of being American to me would me she renounced allegiance to Lebanon when she became American. I do not feel someone can bear true faith and allegiance to America if they still owe the same to any other nation (or region as the terrorist case may be).

      May 24, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  7. a'uthu billah

    a'uthu billah rima cover yourself minfadlik save urself from jahanammah this is haram . the muslims commenting are ridiculous subhanAllah christmas is not part of the deen get it right and also have gheera for ur people and not be pleased to see your "sister" go out naked like that and display herself like that. what she did is forbidden haram aleik

    subhanAllah get it together this is not a good thing for islam or muslims. islam does not need reform we are pleased with what ar-rasul sala'Allahu 'alayhi wa salam was sent with. its something righteous to be like khadija r.a. not any of these people wal iyathu billah. this is definitely something no muslim should be proud of. i know there are a lot of moderates who will attack me here but its fine im sayin the haqq. and its embarrassing to see the ikhwan commenting about her looks have gheerah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! subhan Allah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 24, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Your narrow and self-doctored interpretation of your faith is fine for you, as long as you live by it and don't impose it on others.

      May 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      And BTW, please don't bring your brand of beliefs to America.

      May 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blackstone

      Man... I'm Muslim and you just embarrassed the heck out of me with that rant.

      August 25, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. troy

    Who cares what she is ? Her stance on immigration is anti-American ... perhaps an immigration nazi ?

    May 24, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. James

    personnaly I hate this crap of asian american,,african american,lebanese american etc.etc...If you are American then you are Just an American,period,I get so disgusted when I here statements like that,If we are to get along no matter what the race,religion etc,we must be AMERICANS first,last and always.This way it puts us all on the same playing field,why does it even matter what your religion,your race?Just another way to seperate or,segregate..United we Stand,Divided we fall..while i believe we all descend from a vast aray of cultures,races,and religions as Americans we also have our own culture.One of acceptance,freedom and respect!!!! C`mon AMERICA...wake up,almost 50 years since the civil rights movement and we still have yet to learn,i guess with political correctness we forget such things?white black,brown,yellow..WE ARE ALL Americans,grow up!!!!

    May 24, 2010 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. sam

    she looks just like the puerto rican roselyn sanchez!

    May 24, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. arabian queen

    jews are jealous
    thats it they comment under different names but their guts are boiling from jealousy
    i say eat your heart so you want feel you guts pain hahahahahahah

    May 24, 2010 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Al

      It's time to stop barking up this tree. Move on.

      May 25, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jj

    they must douse the american water supply with something strong, this page is as if neanderthals suddenly became semi literate and had access to the internet.

    May 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Eating Disorder Treatment :

    Sarah Jessice Parker is very pretty but she does not have a flawless skin complexion'

    October 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Electric Cement Mixer :

    i like computer games that are first person shooting and strategy games .

    October 31, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wet Saw

    i really like to color my hair and i would love to try different hair colors specially auburn :`,

    November 17, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
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