Jay Leno: Muslim Miss USA hopes to get ‘off the no-fly list’

By admin
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 11:53 EDT
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Ex-Bush official: My ‘affirmative action’ theory wasn’t to imply contest was ‘rigged’

Newly-crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih is the pride of her native village, with residents saying the Lebanese-American not only brought honor to southern Lebanon but also offered a different image of Shiite Muslims often stereotyped as radicals.

Meanwhile, some bloggers who have been accused of anti-Arabic sentiment have been attacking Fakih since her win.

“She is an honor to us, a honor to all of southern Lebanon,” her paternal aunt Afifa Fakih Said told AFP in Srifa, the beauty queen’s hometown.

Residents of the southern village watched 24-year-old Rima compete in three categories — swimsuit, evening gown and interview — before winning the Miss USA title on Sunday.

Proudly showing off her niece’s photograph on the front page of local newspapers, her aunt Afifa offered baklava pastries to wellwishers pouring in to her home.

A supersized framed photograph of Rima, whose family is Shiite Muslim, earlier winning the Miss Michigan crown hangs in Afifa’s living room.

“We are so often described as terrorists and killers, but we Shiites love life and beauty — and mainly the beauty of the soul, which is what is so special about Rima,” said the veiled 62-year-old, who speaks English and French fluently.

“In this family, we are open to all religions,” she said. “We have no political affiliation to anyone.”

Srifa falls in an area largely controlled by Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Washington.

In an interview with Lebanese television on Tuesday morning, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah was asked his opinion on the new Miss USA.

“The criteria through which we evaluate women are different from those of the west,” he said.

Rima Fakih, who may represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant later this year, emigrated from Srifa to the United States when she was seven years old.

She attended a Catholic school in New York until 2003, when her family moved to Michigan.

She went on to earn a college degree in economics from the University of Michigan and was a resident of Dearborn, which is home to a large Arab-American community, prior to her crowning as Miss USA.

Fakih proudly told pageant organizers that her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian holidays.

Her sister Rana, who lives in Lebanon with her husband and children, told AFP the Fakih family was proud of their dual heritage.

“Rima called me from the podium after her win in tears of happiness to tell me she was elected Miss USA,” said the 35-year-old. “Our father, who was there with her, kept saying she was an honor for south Lebanon.

“We are both Lebanese and American. In the United States no one asks us if we are Sunni or Shiite Muslims, we are all under the US law,” she added.

“In our home, there is none of the fanaticism that exists in some Lebanese households.”

Despite her dark, cascading waves and toned body, the new Miss USA has come under fire by right-wing bloggers, who have dubbed her a “terrorist in a bikini.”

“Don?t let her lack of a headscarf and her donning a bikini in public fool you. Miss Michigan USA, Rimah (sic) Fakih is a Muslim activist and propagandist extraordinaire,” wrote conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel in her blog.

“It?s a sad day in America but a very predictable one, given the politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate in which we’re mired,” wrote Schlussel, who slammed Fakih as a “Hezbollah-supporting Shiite Muslim.”

Fakih sparked further controversy on Monday when pictures of her competing in a pole dancing contest surfaced on the Internet, although she apparently did not undress in the all-girls competition.

But others are rallying in support of the young beauty queen.

“It is sad what we have come to in this country when we can’t come together and agree that Rima Fakih is just incredibly hot,” tweeted “Degringolade.”

At Free Press, editor Mark W. Smith notes,

Comedian Jay Leno led his monologue with Fakih’s story Monday night, addressing her achievement as the first Miss USA winner to publicly identify herself as Arab American.

“That goes to show you, in America we don’t care what your faith is, we don’t care what your politics are,” Leno joked. “If you look smoking hot in a bikini, we will embrace you.”

He also joked that Fakih hoped the win would “finally help get her name off the no-fly list.”

Ex-Bush official: My ‘affirmative action’ theory wasn’t to imply contest was ‘rigged’

At the Washington Post, David Weigel reports that Daniel Pipes — “a former State Department staffer, former member of the United States Institute of Peace (holding a recess appointment after being filibustered by Democrats), and former adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign” — believes that the judges tapped Fakih due to “affirmative action.”

I’ve been seeing plenty of links to Daniel Pipes’s blog post on Rima Fakih, the first Muslim to become Miss USA. But I only just decided to click through. Wow. Citing five Muslim victories in beauty pageants over the past five years, Pipes says that “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action,” then offers an update from a reader:

[O]n a more serious level, affirmative action appears to play a role in some of the Nobel Prizes.

And more reader insight:

No surprise here. Affirmative action was first applied in beauty contests for black women to win in the 1980s, then it was the turn of Latin, brown skinned women, and now it’s Muslims. That’s why most people ignore these rigged “events.” They are money losers and require controversy.

At the Guardian, Khaled Diab writes,

At another level, this challenges the easy and lazy stereotypes that anti-Muslim bigots depend on for their demonisation. And Fakih’s victory has left the influential outer fringes of the conservative right in something of a pickle: they don’t like it that an Arab and Muslim has won but are having trouble forming a coherent case against her, so instead they have resorted to bizarre conspiracy theories.

Daniel Pipes, a neocon intellectual closely linked to the former Bush administration, compiled a list of five other Muslim winners of beauty contests on both sides of the Atlantic (mostly minor ones, including Miss Nottingham 2005) asked whether this was “an odd form of affirmative action”.

Wonkette mocked,

American Taliban/Miss USA Rima Fakih was just another gal who did stripper-pole dances at local bars until she was chosen as the new Queen of TeeVee Underwear Contests last night. And then, within hours, the 24-year-old bikini model had become the new Obama/Osama of the Wingnut Internet World, because she was born in Lebanon and just might be “half-muslin” for real. Why are these Arabs getting to win beauty contests? Is it suddenly illegal to find a white person to finally win one of these T&A programs?

Pipes responded at his blog on Tuesday,

This little blog has set off a thunderstorm on the left, with dozens of surly and hostile comments attacking me for raising the question posed about affirmative action in beauty pageants. Somebody doth protest too much.

From the day’s rich panoply of nastiness, I’ll focus on one response in particular, by Benjamin Sarlin in the unfortunately-named Daily Beast website. On the one hand, Sarlin typifies the extravagance of my critics:

A number of conservative bloggers, including Daniel Pipes, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Institute of Peace and adviser to Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, are slamming the Miss USA organization for rigging the contest in the name of political correctness.

USIP? Giuliani? Slamming? Rigging? Dear Reader: Review my sparse commentary above and show me, please, what justifies this barrage. Why can’t my critics disagree without exaggerating to the point of distortion? And Sarlin is hardly the most egregious of today’s hurrumphers and hystericals.

Pipes complains that despite writing “this surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants makes me suspect an odd form of affirmative action,” it’s unfair to write that he suggested anything untoward happened, except bias within the minds of the judges, one assumes.

Pipes adds that “it amuses me that [Miss USA spokeswoman] Lark-Marie Anton seems to accuse me of “ignorance surrounding her multicultural heritage.”

“What have been doing these past 41 years but studying that ‘multicultural heritage’?” Pipes rhetorically writes, without noting that his work has been widely condemned over the last two decades as a ”long record of xenophobic, racist and sexist” screeds written by an “Islamophobe” and “anti-Arab propagandist.”

The New York Times reported in 2003,

When President Bush travels to Dearborn, Mich., on Monday to speak to Iraqi exiles and other Arab-Americans, he will trail behind him considerable uncertainty about his administration’s intentions toward Islam.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr. Bush has consistently said that Islam is a religion of peace and warned against anti-Muslim prejudice. Yet he also recently nominated to a government institute a scholar, Daniel Pipes, who has enraged many American Muslims by suggesting that mosques are breeding grounds for militants and that Muslims in government and military positions should be given special attention as security risks.


Mr. Bush has consistently ”set a tone for the country and the party” by emphasizing his respect for Islam and urging other political figures to speak out against anti-Muslim prejudice, said Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman. ”This is something near to his heart,” Mr. Fleischer said. ”As a man of faith, he has a profound respect for other people’s faiths. He says it in public. He says it in private.”

Those Republicans who disagree with the president ”are a few lonely souls, out on the wings, singing out of tune,” he said.

Mr. Bush disagrees with Mr. Pipes about whether Islam is a peaceful religion, Mr. Fleischer said, adding that Mr. Pipes’s nomination to the United States Institute of Peace, a government-sponsored foreign policy research center, was justified by his research on the Soviet Union and other foreign policy issues.

Pipes doesn’t explain why he feels the Nobel committees are guilty of affirmative action, either, since only a paltry amount of winners in any category haven’t been white and male. If it’s not a reference to Obama, then perhaps Pipes is making an argument similar to Pat Buchanan, and complaining that there have been too many Jewish Nobelists through the years.

The following video was from NBC’s The Tonight Show:

(with AFP report)

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