Monday, May 24, 2010

Muslim Miss USA: Progress Or Immodesty?

Europe's burqa debate and a steady stream of media images showing veiled women have led to a widespread impression that all Muslims are obsessed with covering the female body.

It might be a surprise, then, that many Muslim Americans are toasting Rima Fakih, who made history on Sunday (May 16) by becoming the first Muslim crowned Miss USA.

Fakih, who donned a gold bikini and a strapless white dress for the pageant, will return to Las Vegas in August when she represents America in the Miss Universe contest.

"There's recognition among Muslims that this is not a traditionally Islamic way for a woman to dress," said Shahed Amanullah, editor at, a news and commentary website. "But in its own weird way, its progress."

Many Muslims are critical of beauty pageants as lewd and degrading to women. At the same time, Fakih, 24, is being hailed as a symbol of Muslim-American integration who shatters the stereotype of the cloaked and dour Muslim woman.

Fakih's family, which she said celebrates Muslim and Christian holidays, is from Lebanon. After living in Queens, N.Y., where Fakih attended a Catholic high school, the family settled in Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the largest Arab-American communities in America.

Now, Fakih is developing a fan base that includes not only Muslims who are less strict about religious dress-codes, but also those who don headscarves and watch what they wear.

"The crowning of Rima Fakih as Miss USA demonstrates the diversity of Muslims, not just in terms of ethnic diversity, but diversity of opinion and religiosity," said Tayyibah Taylor, editor and chief of Aziza, a magazine that caters to Muslim women, and always features cover models in headscarves.

"So often, people see Muslims as a monolithic group, and this shows that we're not all in one camp."

Laila Al-Marayati, of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Women's League, also said Fakih reflects the diversity in the Muslim- and Arab-American communities.

"It's true that many of us would not dress in a similar manner but, at least here in the U.S., it is a personal choice."

Other Muslims saw additional benefits to Fakih's coronation.

"People are so happy that the headlines about an Arab-American have nothing to do with terrorism," said Ginan Rauf, a progressive Muslim activist from New Jersey. "As a community, we're often targets of ridicule and hostility, so it's nice to see an Arab-American be the object of adoration."

But Fakih's victory wasn't welcomed by all Muslims.

Kiran Ansari, communications director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said beauty pageants degrade women, are un-Islamic and that Fakih does not represent Muslims well.

"The route she took to get this fame is not in line with Islam. A Muslim woman can be beautiful, but walking around in front of millions of viewers in a swimsuit, is not in sync with Islamic values," said Ansari.

The Quran speaks of beauty and demureness, saying that Muslim women should "lower their gaze and guard their modesty," and should not "display their beauty and ornaments." It also cautions women to "draw their veils over their bosoms." Read the rest of this article here.

By Omar Sacirbey
Religion News Service

So... what do you think about this? Do you feel as though this is helping out the way people view Muslimahs? Do you think this is progression? Do you think it is making Muslimahs look bad? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think.

Najwa & Nadira


  1. Actually I dont care what progress it does between muslims and non muslims. They already know that there are muslimah women who dont wear the headscarf. I feel sad for her because her in reality shes a misguided muslim sister who needs guidance. Maybe she is smiling now but later on when her looks fade she wont be. I pray that she finds the true path and leaves that pageant garbage behind.

  2. i think she is a very bad example..what about the muslim girls who now think that its okay to walk around half naked..she can do what she wants but she should not in any way represent the muslim cmmunity

  3. As a Muslim convert from Christianity, I see it as progress from a media/apologetics standpoint, but as immodesty from the religious standpoint.

    Christianity also calls for modesty, yet we've become so "liberated" over the years, that now what is considered "modest" varies among Christian denominations from plain, modest dresses and bonnets, to completely secular tube tops, shorts, and bikinis at the beach. (my denomination was the latter)

    The anon that posted above about the bad example she is setting is right. There could be a whole generation of American muslimahs looking up to her as some Muslim ideal. I'd hate to see people scoff at the idea of a modest Muslim as I've seen them do in regards to Christianity. I truly fear it's only a matter of time.

  4. I also think this isnt the best example, not only was she parading around in a bikini but her weight alone looked unhealthy and thats a whole other issue in itself. She was in a beauty pageant, where they were saying her body and judging off of good example in that.

  5. Salaam.

    The article stated that she attended a catholic school and celebrates Christian holidays as well... is that permissible in Islam?

  6. She seems very confused to me...

    I just pray that if I am blessed with daughters one day that they do not look up to her as their role model.

  7. I believe muslim or not beauty pageants are degrading to all women regardless of the religion. Especially when parents get there young girls involved in them before the can barley speak. It teaches girls/women that your only good for one thing and that's your body. That is sad!!

  8. gucci shoes and coach shoes
    chanel handbag

  9. There is nothing good of what she did. In addition to the impermissibilty in Islam, naked Muslimahs are a negative representation of the rest of us.

  10. Progress is made when Muslimahs who have proper hijab and adab are profiled for the good that Allah SWT has allowed them to achieve. All that non-Muslims think when they see Muslimahs uncovered and participating in Haraam activities is "She looks like us and acts like us. Why can't the rest of you?"

  11. And to Anonymous: It is absolutely haraam to attend non-Islamic religious schools or celebrate non-Islamic religious holidays. Doing these things is an act of endorsement of those beliefs, and this is an act of major shirk.

  12. Is it really haram to attend non-Islamic religious schools? Where in the Quran does it say that?

  13. sliding down a stripper pole, being judged on your body and looks wearing a bikini--sure, every muslim girl's role model...... : P

  14. all i can say is that she is not a role model for anybody, what she is doing wrong and not alright. But she will have to talk to Allah about that. If she wants to displease him then go ahead that is on here. but to sharia she will be in really big trouble.

  15. People, stop being so judgmental.
    Honestly, it's her life there's no need for all of these 'holier than thou' attitudes.
    For me, it's a neutral feeling as I don't believe we should judge her due to her 'lack of hijab' or supposed 'immoral'-ness. Only Allah swt can judge her not the muslim community.
    So let's not make such vicious comments about her.

  16. shame on her! she's misguided and if she doesn't repent in time she'll regret it!! she'll also be responsible for the people whom she also misguided by her behaviour

    btw celebrating christian holidays is haraam so what she has to boast around???!!

  17. Salam--
    I believe that she is really projecting a bad image of what Islam is about. Yes, she can do what she wills, but in doing what she has proves she is not a true Muslim. We submit to Allah's will, which she isn't...even if she didn't wear hijab, revealing your body & letting it be judged isn't okay in the least. Islam is not about doing what you want to pick & choose & I don't think she realizes this (then again, only Allah knows what is in her heart). As for the whole attending non-Islamic religious schools...if you are attending the school only to receive education, then I don't think it is forbidden. Being around people of other faiths can teach us a great amount about what is right & wrong as well as give us more reasons to be thankful Allah had mercy upon us to guide us.

  18. While it is true that no one can know what is in Ms. Fakih's heart except Allah, the fact is...quite honestly it appears obvious. She may say that she loves Allah, she may cherish Islam, but as the old saying goes, Actions speak louder than words.

    Ms. Fakih has done NOTHING to improve the reputation and impression that the Western media has about Muslim women. She has done little to ease or road. True acceptance is acceptance regardless of your differences, not because you managed to do a good job imitating the non believers.

    Recall the Hadith that says that those who imitate the unbelievers will be raised among them on the day of resurrection.

    For Anonymous, who thinks that everyone is being to hard on Fakih remember that Allah has set the laws and that we must follow them. Her actions speak the volumes we never could about her state of faith.

  19. I don't see it as progress. I see it as compromise. By having this muslim sister in pageants where she is wearing swimsuits and exposing herself. she is not giving what islam truly is and she is only compromising her faith with western culture, which is a step in regression within the muslim faith. Also i feel that by this muslim sister going on such pageants only negatively influences other muslim girls that hijab is only a choice and not compulsory. You dont have to show off ur figure to be beautiful... Theres a difference between being beautiful and selling urself.

  20. The Catholic Church is The ONE true Church and Religion! Hail Mary! Jesus I trust in You!


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