Haters Gonna Hate: the Backlash Against Miss USA

Rima Fakih, an Arab Muslim immigrant, won the Miss USA Pageant Sunday night:

She beat out four blondes and set off a whirlwind of media coverage stemming from her “stripper” past to her Shi’a background.

On the positive side, one idealist commenter compared her to Barack Obama. Another went so far as to say her win shows the “real face of Arab Americans, not the stereotypes you hear about.” Ah, yes, not the burqa–the bikini! Trading one stereotype for another is not progressive, but whatever.

Many in Arab-American community, as well as many American Muslims, supported Fakih’s win. While some Muslims voiced their concern over the message it sends, ironically, it’s the American Christian right who’s angriest.

Conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel calls her Miss Hezbollah and says terrorists financed Fakih’s win. She spun this incredible story while calling Donald Trump a “dhimmi,” whining that Miss Oklahoma was unfairly set up by liberals who don’t know what’s right for America.

On Fox’s morning show, Gretchen Carlson — a former beauty pageant winner — also took issue with the Arizona immigration question directed at Miss Oklahoma, saying her loss was reflection of the discrimination against conservatives and that Fakih’s win was a result of our “PC society.”

And as this Miami Herald article points out, The Jewish Internet Defense Force proclaimed Fakih’s win “a dark day for America.” Their headline: “New Miss USA: Islamic Fundamentalism in a Bikini?” Of course! Islamic fundamentalism and bikinis go incredibly well together.
And Daniel Pipes did not disappoint with his typical Islamophobic commentary, accusing Fakih (and other Middle Eastern and Muslim beauty queens) of being part of an affirmative action Muslim conspiracy:

“They are all attractive, but this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.”

Ahmed Rehab, the Executive Director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, asks a better question: why must a Muslim person’s faith come up the moment that person breaks through the mainstream in any conceivable way, regardless of relevance or context? Comedian Dean Obeidallah offers a sober explanation over at The Huffington Post: some on the far right love to hate us more than they love the ideals of this country.

As so many in our community have pointed out, Fakih’s win is complicated because it’s not just Arab but Muslim—the political backlash of that identity is something even beauty queens can’t escape. The argument at Altmuslimah sheds light on the ambivalence many Muslims feel about her win, which provides a nice segue to Richard Adams’ post at The Guardian.  Adams says Fakih’s win manages to be “both a step forward and a step backwards at the same time, depending what you think of beauty pageants.”

I think that’s something we can all agree on.

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  • Melinda

    Ugh, people are ridiculous.

  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist

    I hate beauty contests, but I am standing behind her 100%. I am glad she won. Finally the true face of racism, hatred and bigotry have been shown. Even a beautiful Arab/Muslim woman in a bikini can’t get a friggin break.

    I deleted some douche-bags off Facebook ysterday after they posted dumb articles saying that she’s Miss Hezbollah. I want to thank them for showing me how much they hate me and the rest of the Muslim American community.

  • MW09

    I knew backlash like this would happen as soon as they put that crown on her head. I also knew you guys would post on her sooner or late…hehe.

    However, I love this girl. She’s beautiful and has personality for days.

  • Orson

    It’s terrible that there is so much filth out there for you to research and link to. I barely skimmed Schlussel’s article because it has obnoxious pictures and isn’t journalism. Haters just wanna hate.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-28727-Woodside-Family-Examiner RCHOUDH

    Sorry if you guys already mentioned this but Daniel Pipes, that hater of haters, just posted that Rima’s (and similar Muslim contestants in past pageants) win was due to “political correctness”. Yeah you can tell people’s opinions are polarized in this day and age.

    I just have to say though that I don’t appreciate other MSM depictions of her win as showing how “progressive” she is being. I mean really winning a beauty contest is something all women should aspire to??? Usually they dismiss “normal” beauty contestants (who are white Western women) as being ” shallow airheaded bimbos” (just look at their coverage of past contestants like Ms. California last year and the girl who spoke about “the Iraq” before that) but when a Muslim woman wins suddenly beauty contests are paragons of virtue and ways for Muslim women to “break free” of their supposed oppression!

    Also I don’t understand why the beauty pageant was looking into Rima participating in a strip competition. Do they really think they’re above the stripping profession? Last I checked pageants and stripping both relied on parading around women in the flesh for the sake of easy money.

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra

    yeah,,another reason why her win is notable as a reflection of the times. However, in my humble opinion I think it would be a bigger statement if she wasn’t Lebanese. If she were an immigrant from The Gulf or Palestine or Libya this would be muuuuuch more controversial. Most Arabs didn’t blink an eye when they found out she was Lebanese. I think this is a testament to the will of the Lebanese people-it’s incredible. Around the world they’ve emigrated, integrated, and created their own rules to abide by. <<not saying I agree or disagree, just noting that she couldn't have done this without the support of her community-and without that precedent that already exists in Lebanon and amongst a Large portion of the Lebanese community: that it's okay for Lebanese women to enter beauty pageants or pose in lingerie, without a stigma, or at least without as much of a stigma as in other Arab countries. This is evident in on the streets of Beirut and in the diaspora..and in the fact that The Lebanese community was for the most part Incredibly supportive of her.

  • Person

    Seriously. KIng of Haters Pipe’s assertion is not only ridicolous on the surface, but looking at the list of Muslim winners, his argument becomes just plain pathetic. Too much so to even be regarded as a conspiracy theorist. I mean, it is seriously along the lines of “Miss State College”, etc.
    And the “controversy” is sad too. It reinforces the idea that all women are suppose to present themselves for judgement and male pleasure, but only in appropriate ways. For instance, the pageant has a swimsuit segment and the contestants did a lingerie shoot, and that is “acceptable” behavior. The outfit she is shown dancing in is far more covering than a swimsuit and the high heels serve a purpose in pole dancing (more manuervability). Why is a contest that requires her to stand on stage in a swimsuit, hig heels, and make-up complaining?
    And once more sensationalism rears its ugly head with headlines like “Sex and the Shite.”

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-28727-Woodside-Family-Examiner RCHOUDH

    Another thing I’ve been thinking about is that if Ms. Fakih had won the pageant just a few years ago during the George Bush era and during the height of the War on Terror, I bet you would’ve seen these same right wing fascists endlessly praising the fact that she’s been “liberated from the shackles of Islam thanks to living in the West and embracing its freedoms”.

    In this day and age these same right wingers are pissed at everything and everyone it seems. The War on Terror is going badly, the economy is in shambles, a black man is president, yadda yadda…instead of constantly praising American values of freedom and democracy they’re whining about there being a “Socialist” takeover. And they’re pissed at everyone who’s not a “real” American meaning blacks (especially Obama), Latinos, Muslims, Chinese, etc. Ms. Fakih won’t be getting much press time from right wingers I’m afraid!

  • winr4r

    My head is about to explode from reading some of those anti-Fakih links. Seriously, boom, bits of head flying everywhere because I really can’t handle stupidity that intense. Well, she has darker-than-white skin! And comes from Lebanon! And some family member of unspecified distance is involved with Hezbollah! Worse yet, it’s an ARAB who hasn’t specifically denounced every single terrorist organization!

    Oh my, she must be a a turrrrrrrst! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! She’s probably hiding a block of C4 under that bikini! And if she doesn’t blow this room to smithereens, well, she’s going to use her newfound status of Miss USA as a soapbox for radical Islam, because you know, Osama HIMSELF would parade around in a bikini if that’s what it took to “taqiyyah” America into seeing the errors of its infidel ways. Yup, you just *know* that hundreds of millions of Americans (or at least the six people who actually care about “Miss USA”) were compelled to recite the shahadah the very moment they saw someone vaguely Arab-looking winning a beauty contest, about thirty seconds before they placed an order for box-cutters and/or suspiciously large amounts of fertilizer. And wow, since a *gasp* darker-than-pale-white-skinned woman won a beauty contest that MUST mean that there’s some huge liberal/PC/Islamic fundamentalist conspiracy going on here because, y’know, there’s no way that a *darkie* could be good-looking enough to win such a thing on her own merits.

    BOOM, that kind of logic is so *awesome* that even the little bits of head left over from the earlier BOOM just went and exploded all over again.

    Haters gonna hate.

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