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Rima Fakih:"...I am Muslim-American."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

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After tonight, the next Miss USA will likely face more questions about her beauty secrets than whether she's tied to a terrorist organization.

That's because the reign of Rima Fakih, the current title holder and first Muslim-American to wear the crown, will end when a panel of judges selects her successor at the 2011 Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas.

During her tenure, Rima Fakih, 25, who was born in Lebanon, repeatedly faced questions about her ethnic and religious identity. That included responding to unfounded rumors circulating over the Internet that she had family connections to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite group that the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization.

Fakih flatly denied the allegation, calling it the product of a blogger who had made it up "out of her prejudiced mind."

"I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American," Rima Fakih said. "I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American."

Fakih not only stood up for herself, she lent moral and vocal support to another Muslim beauty contestant, Great Britain's Shanna Bukhari who received a death threat because of her stated goal to represent her country at the Miss Universe pageant.

"Be fearless, be proud of who you are and no matter what anyone tells you by using religion as a tool against you, don't let that affect you," said Fakih, who sent Bukhari a charm bracelet to show her support.

Not all of the pesky questions posed to Rima Fakih were about religion, however. There were those pictures of her standing next to a stripper's pole circulating around the Internet that Fakih had to explain.

Those were taken during a radio station competition in which no clothes were removed, Rima Fakih said.
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