I could not have dreamed up Rima Fakih if I had tried.
When I imagine stereotype-busting Muslim women, they’re not usually being crowned the first Muslim, and possibly first Arab, Miss USA.
I have long fought to dislodge that media darling “covered in black Muslim woman” from her throne of cliché and to give voice to the diversity of Muslim women out there.
Fakih, complete with a bikini that had even me struggling to concentrate, effortlessly embodied all of that.
When the 24-year-old Lebanese-born, New York City-raised resident of Dearborn, Mich., told judges that U.S. health insurance should cover the birth control pill, she had already won this feminist’s heart.
Dearborn is proud of its queen, media in her country of birth have gushed, and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman publicly congratulated Fakih amid reports the two would meet soon.
And not one of her relatives has tried to honour kill her?
In fact, Fakih thanked her mother — how American is that — for encouraging her Miss USA title bid. Fakih’s aunt in Lebanon — who wears a headscarf — said her Miss USA niece was “an honour for all of southern Lebanon” where her family hails from.
Who allowed the silent and invisible women an opinion — and sexy legs — dammit!
Fakih almost tripped over her ball gown during the pageant, but that was nothing compared to how she wrongfooted quite a few Muslims who didn’t know whether to celebrate or condemn a Muslim beauty queen. I am allergic to pageants, but I am relieved to see a different type of Muslim woman in the news.
I had barely recovered from news of Rima the Beauty Queen when I was dumbstruck by news that Aziz Ansari — an American-Muslim comedian — was going to host the MTV Movie Awards Sunday.
As emcee of the awards he will effectively become Mr. Pop USA, following in the footsteps of Mike Myers, Sarah Silverman and Ben Stiller.
Muslims are sexy AND cool now?
Ever since the 9/11 attacks, Muslims have been cornered into apologizing and explaining, endlessly, “Why do they hate us? Is it our freedoms?”
Well, surely Fakih and Ansari are being hailed as the embodiment of American freedom?
According to the zany paranoia of the right wing, Fakih’s victory was the latest “proof” that Muslims are on the receiving end of “affirmative action” and of a “politically correct Islamopandering climate.”
I’ll believe that when there’s a Muslim in the White House.
Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning Egyptian-born commentator and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues. She reported on the Middle East for 10 years before moving to the U.S.