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

    i Agree with you Damian America Belong to Every Ethnicity but how about the people that will try to kill you??? what ahout them will you let them live with you ok lets say your Neighbor was a muslim and was a boomer at time Square ware your kids went for school trip how will you feel???

    May 22, 2010 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tomasz

    Some of the remarks here are racist; would we have the same discussion if miss america would be an ortodox jew, mexican, black? Lighten up and stop writing about things and cultures you don't know or don't understand.

    May 22, 2010 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bubba Abdullah

    Everyone criticizing Rima is an ugly or jealous hag. All the men like her, because she is smoking hot baby. Except gay ones may not like her so much, nothing against gay men but they may prefer someone like Jesse James. Not sure where good looking lesbians come out on this.

    May 22, 2010 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. RaiyaA

    To even have this conversation proves you all have some built up prejudices...who gives a "Bleep"! Who cares if a goat won the contest...I thought people in this country was over such things as a "Beauty Contest"?! BTW I am muslim before anything and I love this country. Would gladly defend it and its principles.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. Musa

    She says that she is Muslim, but she also says that she is not religious and that she celebrates Christmas. This is just one more proof that there are Muslims who can be American first, but only if they are not religious Muslims. There are many Muslims like that. We should always distinguish the non-religious Muslims from the religious ones because only the religious ones are causing the problems. The more religious, the more problematic they are because they do not assimilate and do not share our values. Their Islamic values are not compatible with our values. The fact that Fakih was chosed as Miss USA is, in fact, a slap in the face to religious Muslims. For readers who are not familiar with Islamic values, here are just a few passages from the Koran which religious Muslims take seriously (but which non-religious Muslims do not!):
    –“ the (only) religion (acceptable) before God is Islam." (3:19)
    - " If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him." (3: 85)
    - “You are the noblest community ever raised up for mankind.” (3:110)
    - The unbelievers among the people of the book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98.6).
    - Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve. (8.55)
    –The unbelievers are your inveterate enemy. (4:101)
    - Mohammed is God's apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another. (48:29).
    - It is unlawful for a believer to kill another believer, accidents excepted. (4:92)
    - Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
    - Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme. (8:40)
    - Fight against them until idolatry is no more and God's religion reigns supreme. (2:193)
    - The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the devil. (4:76)
    - We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. (3:151)
    - I shall cast terror into the hearts of the infidels. Strike off their heads, strike off the very tips of their fingers.

    May 22, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • shak

      You know all this and you still dont believe?

      May 22, 2010 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
    • white

      The verses from the quran have many many books translating the definitions.Closed minds will beleive what thay want the way they want.

      May 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      Thanks for sharing the great teaching of Islam. Appreciate you taking the time to enlighten us..

      May 22, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • In The Name of Jesus

      Everything you or the koran just states SPELLS OUT HATE!!!! TO HELL WITH YOUR......YOU NO WHAT

      May 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bozman

    I'd hit it.. don't care where she's from 🙂

    May 22, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • onur

      same here bro!

      May 22, 2010 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      That's what I'm talking about!!!

      All these people getting all work up..."oh, she's a terrorist"..."oh, you're a racist"...He's a graceful, beautiful, exotic, hot woman. Can't we all agree on that? Can't we all just get along????

      May 22, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      ooops..i meant "She" she WAS a THAT I'd have a problem with in my Miss USA 🙂

      May 22, 2010 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. Yar

    Dayum, she's hot. We need immigration reform. Import more hot chicks.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:05 am | Report abuse |
    • jzigbe

      Well said. MORE HOT CHICKS PLEASE!

      May 22, 2010 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. BR

    What does her religion have anything to do with it? Would you be asking a spelling bee winner if he/she was muslim? If not, why do so to a beauty pageant winner?

    Get over the religion thing already.

    May 22, 2010 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kim Kardashian

    She looks like Jordan Sparks – a bit skinnier

    May 22, 2010 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
  10. basicx27

    SHe is a great person, i went to high school with her, she dated my older brother...her family is a class act!

    May 22, 2010 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. white boy

    Yea I went to high school with her. She gives a pretty good head job. I realy gotta hand it to her! Congrats!

    May 22, 2010 at 4:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. white boy

    I forgot to mention she realy likes it in the butt! Hm hm...

    May 22, 2010 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. nfkdfnsdkfsfknsfkndsf

    i'd bang her soo hard she wish she wasn't taht hot lol rolf

    May 22, 2010 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
  14. white boy

    Rolf rolf rolf im so like rolfing right now!!

    May 22, 2010 at 5:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. exposo

    If this is one of the 72 virgins you get for a martyrdom operation, pass me the explosicves!

    May 22, 2010 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
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