Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Blog
Sunday night Rima Fakih, a Muslim immigrant from Lebanon who now calls Dearborn, Michigan her home, was crowned Miss USA.
Fakih’s win became a source of great pride for many in the Arab American community. And without any commentary on the role of beauty pageants and their depiction of women, as a beauty queen, Ms. Fakih is now as all-American as apple pie and baseball.
That could be the end of this nice story, but no. Because of Ms. Fakih’s ethnicity or faith, it is unfortunately just the beginning.
Talking heads from the right and neocons alike are crying fowl. The same individuals who spend endless hours defending any and all Israeli provocations in the Middle East peace process have found time to weigh in on beauty pageants. The reason? Arab Americans or American Muslims must be the “other.” They cannot be allowed to be depicted as they truly are: real people as varied as any other Americans – Muslim and Christian, secular and religious, doctors and football players, and even Miss USA.
So how do they respond? Easy, claim terrorism or conspiracy. Yes, one notoriously ignorant blogger who doesn’t warrant any attention claimed Ms. Fakih is an “auxiliary member” of Hezbollah who has “extremist and deadly ties.” This would be laughable except that by yesterday a Google search of this young woman’s name was displaying “fakih hezbolla” as an auto-fill generated by the search engine.
From the marginalized absurd, we move to the more mainstream absurd when a self-proclaimed Middle East expert found time to analyze beauty pageant winners in various Western societies. In his blog post, Daniel Pipes talked of an “odd form of affirmative action.” Why and how an “expert” took the time to maintain data on beauty pageants – with photos – should sound alarm bells, but not if you already know the narrow agenda of Mr. Pipes and his colleagues. They cannot allow for any positive depiction of Arab Americans or American Muslims in their zero-sum approach to the cultural and political war they wage regularly. And when Mr. Pipes was challenged by the many reasonable people who have weighed in, his response was perhaps more interesting than his original post. Defending his “scholarly” work on our community, Mr. Pipes spoke of the judges favoring an “Arab-Muslim candidate.” He just can’t do it. He cannot acknowledge how quintessentially American Rima Fakih is even while he claims he has spent the past 41 years “studying her ‘multicultural heritage’.” For him and his agenda, Ms. Fakih is “Arab-Muslim.” Period.
All these attacks have prompted the Miss USA pageant to officially comment. Spokeswoman Lark-Marie Anton stated the following to the Daily Beast: “I don’t believe this has anything to do with affirmative action and I am saddened by the ignorance surrounding her multicultural heritage. The United States is the land of opportunity and she is the epitome of what it means to be American. We are a melting pot of cultures and her family has the entrepreneurial spirit that defines coming as an immigrant to this country to make a better life."
So to keep all this straight, you can go to Daniel Pipes for beauty pageant news and to the Miss USA competition for thoughtful commentary on America as a nation of immigrants. Again, laughable were it not for the seriousness of this hateful campaign against Arab Americans.
The narrative Pipes and the others require for their political agenda is that Arab Americans and American Muslims are not just like us and therefore they cannot be as mainstream as Miss USA. Ms. Fakih -- and the Miss USA competition, in its support of her under these attacks, have demonstrated just how absurd and ignorant the neocon's worldview is.
We congratulate Ms. Fakih on her pageant win, and we praise the countless Americans who have been blogging their support for her in response to these ludicrous attacks. They get it. It is simply unfortunate for the rest of us that Daniel Pipes, Michelle Malkin, Fox News and others don’t – and probably never will.