The Not-So-Radical Roots of Miss USA

The recent uproar among some conservative American bloggers over Rima Fakih, the Lebanese-American woman who was crowned Miss USA on Sunday, has been unique: Not many people -- let along beauty pageant winners -- have been accused of being both a pole dancer and a Hezbollah operative.

Among less-hysterical commentators in the United States, the victory of an Arab-American in the contest has produced a very, well, American debate. Fakih's detractors have leveled accusations of affirmative action. Others have cast the new Miss USA as a lesson in the value of assimilation and a poster girl for religious and ethnic diversity.

Here in Lebanon, however, the reaction to Fakih's coronation was somewhat less complicated: It was pure ebullience. In an official statement on Tuesday, President Michel Suleiman said, "Congratulations to Rima Fakih for showing the beautiful image of Lebanon in the world." Having been  runner-up for Miss Lebanon Emigrant in 2008, Fakih is already a national icon. Now she will enter history as a Lebanese hero, many commentators wrote.

Claims of Fakih's Hezbollah connection -- which originated with a single American blogger and haven't been substantiated -- generally have been viewed as slander in Lebanon. (The pole-dancing allegations are another matter, though mostly because people here fear she might lose her title.)

Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of NOW Lebanon.

The above article was published in foreignpolicy.com on May 21st, 2010.

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