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. manny

    humm a muslim miss America wonder how the terrorist feel about it lmfao a muslim showing off her body what happened to muslims covering them selves lame that's what i think ware is her hijab???

    May 22, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |


      May 22, 2010 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  2. manny

    this one is for americanmuslim hey listen how about you leave our country and try to be Miss American tell me how they beat the crap out of you go back to ware ever you came from you terrorist.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • sssimon

      wow manny, what a sickening ignorant bigot you are. Good think you hardle very waddle your fat a$$ out of your trailer park. You are a dinosaur. Enjoy your last few years before the diabetes and cigarettes and booze kill you. Your kind is finished. Too bad you won't be around to enjoy the new exciting multi ethnic America that is coming in to being. In the future people will just shake their heads in disbelief that such as you ever existed. You never saw how wonderful diversity is. Your loss.

      May 22, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • sssimon

      Man, I ought to proof read before hitting that POST button. Second sentence should read:

      Good thing you hardly ever waddle your fat a$$ out of your trailer park.


      May 22, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • LOSER


      May 22, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
    • levelheaded

      sssimon, I wish I were your friend.

      May 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. manny

    hey fatima explain why a muslim try to kill people in new york??? Bush was rite not every Muslim is terrorist but every terrorist is Muslim....

    May 22, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
    • right

      really? how many of the IRA are musilm? And Timothy McVeigh was muslim too? The FLQ too? Basque Separtists? 99% of white people aren't racist but 99% of racists are white!! Moron!!

      May 22, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric Bishop

      IRA "terrorists" were playing around in their own redcoat-sandbox, but funamentalist-Islamic terrorists have gone global. They are the military wing of a well dispersed element of Middle Eastern politics. While I'm sure that Central African groups would develop the same inclinations if they had the same proximity and funding, it hasn't happened yet, and Middle Eastern muslims are unique within the socio-political landscape. So, they get the press.

      May 22, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |


      May 22, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • dontgetmuchattention

      wow... and i thought i had heard it all... u definitely r a sorry bum. and u DARED to use bush as an example??? WOOOW... seriously u r conflicted! i see no more terrorist than bush and cheeney... they KILLED this great nation of ours... they KILLED the economy... they KILLED our future... no more terrorists than them! we r paying the consequenses of their stupid agenda. it'll take obama many more years to clean this mess up.

      May 22, 2010 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
    • eve

      sadly misinformed and representative of the far right wing nuts

      May 22, 2010 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • white

      Bush is the biggest terrorist and he's not muslim.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • FXG

      You do realize a statement like this could be made :
      99% of whites aren't terrorist but 99% of STATE Terrorism Perpetrators are white ie Iraq(based on a lie) Vietnam(based on a lie false flag gulf of tonkin now admitted to be a lie), Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Bush, Dick Cheney, Hitler, Stalin.

      May 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • usa2345

      that was a huge tragedy and two wrongs dont make a right, a group of fanatics committed that crime,explain to me why we invaded iraq unlawfully killing all those innocent people i guess they dont count cause thier not american

      May 23, 2010 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sue

    At last, someone who identifies themselves as an American. Regardless of our religion or ethnicity we are all American, first and foremost.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    I think the worst part about this is that it shows the "you're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't" mentality that a lot of people here have. We attack the muslims in our country that support al quaida and refuse to integrate into our society, but when a muslim like her does integrate and embraces america, we still attack her. There's no way to be an american muslim, which is contrary to what this country was founded upon.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • dontgetmuchattention

      AMEN to that brother! well said. =)

      May 22, 2010 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. Michael Jones

    I dont care how hot she is, she is still a terrorist

    May 22, 2010 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • right

      you dumb or something? Where's your proof you idiot?

      May 22, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |


      May 22, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba Abdullah

      Michael you are so stupid, so so so stupid. You might be the stupidest man in the world. I love Rima. Hezbollah is a part of Lebanon not from Mars you ignorant foolish dummy. They are defending their country, you incompetent fool. You are terrorizing me with your witless ignorant statements. God bless American, God Bless Lebanon, God Bless Rima.

      May 22, 2010 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • dontgetmuchattention

      u r an ignorant dumb donkey.

      May 22, 2010 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Michael Jones, STFU. She's a beautiful, sharp woman. I'm proud of our new Miss USA. I got something she can terrorize, any time she wants!!!

      May 22, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. manny

    Jim all i am saying is that ya a Muslim can be American but don"t try to kill us if you are one of us,, the guy who try to kill people at time Square was a naturalize Citizan which means he pledge to be an American. How can we trust them???

    May 22, 2010 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Eric Bishop,
      How can you trust anyone? The guy who flew his plane into the IRS office in Texas was a white guy like me and maybe you. (Timothy McVeigh anyone?) With a population of 300 million there will always be anomalies. You're an example of a person who fears the most unlikely scenarios, but walks into the likely ones never thinking about them. There are 10,000 murders a year in this country (that's twice 9/11 every year). You're more likely to be killed in a robbery or drive by shooting than a terrorist attack, but do you still walk around at night? It's up to you what you want to be afraid of, but avoiding people because of the color of their skin, won't make you safe

      May 22, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Bubba Abdullah

      How about the guy who shot police officers today in some southern godforsaken state. Was he Muslim you genius? Oh, no he wasn't. If he was you'd be all over it like a falafel sandwich. Kind of blows a hoe in your theory smarty pants. God bless the cops who put their lives on the line for each one of us.

      May 22, 2010 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • dontgetmuchattention

      The Unabomber? Dr. Kevorkian? Hittler? The guy that flew into the IRS building? KKK? Columbine Colorado Massacre? Deer Creek Middle School? Timothy McVeigh, the oklahome city bomber? Bush and Cheeney? and many many more we have living in our backyard...they r all non-muslims but yet they r terrorists.

      May 22, 2010 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. sevilla

    Not to be trusted.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. manny

    Thank You Michael Jones i can be beautiful but terrorist i am still Scared i think she may blow up things hare is USA

    May 22, 2010 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Dude, if she's driving a car bomb, I'm riding shotgun to get ten minutes wit DAT, you know what I'm sayin...

      May 22, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  10. Eric Bishop

    Done and done. She claims the "American" label and she's ok in my book. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that she is seizure-inducingly hot.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ethics

    No oil in Lebanon anyway.

    May 22, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • David


      May 22, 2010 at 5:19 am | Report abuse |
    • James Geriman

      Finally, someone gets down to the real business!

      May 22, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Damian Latino

    Chill out dudes! She won and that's it. America belongs to every ethnicity despite their nationalities. The ugly ones are the one creating this news. Yes, ugly like you. Chill out pigs!

    May 22, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bill constantine

    So Muslem women are built like christian can one tell them apart? Danny Thomas and Paul Anka are from Beruit.....Remember that Saudia Arabia sends money into the United States to build Mosques but we are not allowed one church in Saudia Arabia...If she was in a moslem country dressed in a bikini she would be stoned to I correct..II agree with some of the young moslems posting here right now..but an other young moslem reading the Koran will missinterpert the book and want to kill all the infiels...Let us pray that the moslems do not awake the John Wayne in us american of all faiths, then we would take things in our own hands...and we have been around for thousands of years..

    May 22, 2010 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • white

      We are all one people,the difference between us is religion.We can't say a certain people are no good because of their beleifs.You have yours and I have mine.Other than that let's just all get along and be kind,we do share this planet.(No Im not white)

      May 22, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • In The Name of Jesus

      Muslims are hypocrites!!! Likewise of some other people with different religions. But Muslims are the Biggest becuase they're like sheep. lost sheep

      May 22, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    sorry, wrong name. I meant manny.

    May 22, 2010 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kolajayieso

    . Is n't she Lucky to be a Lebanese and an American living in a different world that makes the difference!?
    In some Muslim Countries, such a feat is unattainable, for it is an abomination for any woman to partake of Beauty Pageant for strictly religious reasons that more often put the Life of family members at risk on the insistence of religious zealots.

    May 22, 2010 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
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