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If the Miss USA pageant was simply a beauty contest, some right-wingers would be reaching for their Viagra right about now. Instead, they’re fuming about how Rima Fakih was crowned the 2010 Miss USA — just because she is a Muslim.
Rima Fakih is a Lebanese-American who hails from a large Arab-American community in Dearborn, Michigan. This weekend, she became the first person of Muslim faith to ever win the U.S. title.
Alas, using the words “bombshell” and “explosive” to describe Rima Fakih did not help her reception among critics.
Though immigration didn’t take over the pageant like gay marriage did last year, some conservative commentators are alleging liberal bias against runner-up Miss Oklahoma, Morgan Woolard, who expressed support for Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law.
Meanwhile, there’s no love lost for the new Miss USA. Michelle Malkin, for one, is appalled that no one is making a big deal out of the fact that Fakih wants contraceptives to be covered by insurance — because, says Malkin, Fakih’s supporters are too busy “tooting the identity politics horn,” and no one wants to face the wrath of the “open borders mob.” Conservative radio host Debbie Schlussel called the contest rigged, saying that Fakih was a “Lebanese Muslim Hezbollah supporter with relatives who are top terrorists” (not that she has any concrete evidence to make those claims). Conservative author Daniel Pipes called it an “odd form of affirmative action,” while ignoring the fact that the success of white women who’ve typically won the contest is also an “odd form of racism.”
Unfortunately, this is not just a right-wing matter. A recent study by Chelsea Schafer and Greg Shaw finds that intolerance of Muslims and immigrants has actually increased since the 1990s. While in 1999, just 14% of people admitted to not wanting a Muslim neighbor, that figure went up to 22% in 2006. Of course, the statistics could also mean that people are more willing to share their prejudices against Muslims and immigrants because they now feel justified in doing so — but that’s likewise no small matter.
Whatever one may think about beauty pageants, Rima Fakih’s win does question the conventional stereotypes, which paint Muslims as extremely conservative and repressive of women. And therein lies the real beauty of this spectacle.
Photo Credit: .jennifer donley.