Last night, the Miss USA pageant crowned Miss Michigan Rima Fakih the 2010 Miss USA. Fakih, who hails from the large Arab American community in Dearborn, Michigan, is a Lebanese American and the first Muslim to ever win the crown. (Miss USA 1983 Julie Hayek was reportedly the first Arab American to get the title).
In winning the title, Fakih defeated first runner-up Miss Oklahoma Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, who garnered headlines when she responded to a judge’s question about immigration policy by saying that she was “perfectly fine” with Arizona’s radical new immigration law. Just as they erupted over Carrie Prejean’s loss in the Miss USA contest 2009, the right is again alleging a liberal bias against Woolard. But many more right-wingers are enraged over Fakih’s crowning:
— Conservative radio host Debbie Schlussel blamed Fakih’s win on a supposed “politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate” in America and labeled her a “Lebanese Muslim Hezbollah supporter with relatives who are top terrorists.” [5/16/10]
— Right wing pundit and Fox contributor Michelle Malkin ranted that “Fakih’s cheerleaders are too busy tooting the identity politics horn to care what comes out of her mouth” and that “the Miss USA pageant didn’t want to risk the wrath of the open-borders mob.” [5/16/10]
— Conservative author Daniel Pipes, who was briefly appointed by former President George W. Bush to the U.S. Institute of Peace, opined that “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action.” [5/16/10]
— Fox News’s Gretchen Carlson complained that Woolard’s “informed opinion” may have cost her the crown, and said that Fakih may have won because we live in a “PC society.” [5/17/10]
“This is the real face of Arab Americans, not the stereotypes you hear about,” said Fakih supporter and Arab American Zouheir Alawieh following her win. “We have culture. We have beauty. We have history, and today we made history. … She believed in her dreams.”
In a later interview with Al Jazeera, Fakih said, “I know I’m Muslim, I know I’m Arab — I’m proud of it.” She said she hasn’t discussed her Islamic faith because other contestants aren’t expected to answer similar questions.
,Fakih subsequently told MSNBC on May 19 that she is “not Muslim,” but did not identify belonging to a certain religion.