Rima Fakih has become an unlikely member of the Islamophobic grab-bag of images. Joining the images of oppressed burqa-wearers and angry men with beards, Miss USA’s victory has become a part of another far-fetched conspiracy. The best part is that we are actually seeing a ridiculous debate about the legitimacy of her victory, and whether or not it is evidence of a secret, home-grown Islamic uprising.
In an article initially entitled “Is Miss USA a trailblazer or Hezbollah spy?” CNN reinforces every possible stereotype in the book while trying to further spark controversy. Fakih is presented as a Muslim woman on trial by conservative criticism because of her sexuality. The article also places East in a battle with West, when Fakih’s victory is not really representative of a “clash of civilizations.”
Furthermore, rather than using her win as an opportunity to show the diversity of beliefs within the Muslim community, CNN uses this as a chance to depict Fakih as a more “open-minded” Muslim woman (read: “good Muslim”), which is utilized to distance her from the faith.
The rhetoric of the Miss USA debate evokes an alarming amount of stereotypes, and it is very troubling how much blatant racism has been involved under the pretence of good old “straight talk”—here’s looking at you, FOX News! Media outlets are painting her win as more evidence that affirmative action is destroying American values. Images of Fakih as the cunning vixen stealing the crown from the doe-eyed blonde Miss Oklahoma made me think of Ursula in The Little Mermaid, dressed as a beautiful brunette, stealing the prince from the sweet and innocent Ariel.