Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih
Since Sunday night's Miss USA crowning of 24-year old Rima
Fakih, an Arab-American Muslim of Lebanese origin, the controversy over her
cultural heritage and possible terrorist links is surging as the
national talk of the town. The Atlantic has posted summaries of leading opinions on the "Outrage by Miss Arab USA" and several of the magazine's own columnists have also weighed in.
I'm not Arab-American (I'm Afghan born) but as a Muslim
immigrant myself, I am excited about the 2010 Miss USA. While I may not
go out and aspire to compete for Mister USA or Mister Universe -- if one exists -- Miss Fakih gives people originally from my part of the
world a desperately needed make-over from all the ugly clichés.
the sensational hype and visual stimulation of seeing a pretty Muslim
woman in a bikini, Miss USA just might also be a boon for the economy.
It's no secret that during the Bush Administration, the US failed
miserably to rebrand America especially in the eyes of the 1.3 billion
Muslims worldwide, many who still perceive the U.S. as fighting a War
against Islam. While anti-Americanism is still fixated on the U.S.'s foreign
policy mishaps in the Middle East, the rise of "rock-star" President
Barack Obama -- who hails the "Hussein" middle name, lived in the most
populous Muslim country, and comes from a patrilineal Muslim ancestry --
has softened the widespread dislike of America that existed during the Bush
Perhaps when Advertising Age announced Obama in October 2008 as
their "national brand" choice of the marketer of the year they were on
to something. It turns out the in first year as president, Barack Obama
boosted the value of "Brand America" (the value of U.S. goods, services,
and people, and even the country's landscape) by just over $2 trillion,
according to the Nation Branding Index.
If perception becomes reality, then it doesn't take a
rocket scientist or billionaire entrepreneur to estimate the unique
selling power and novelty of having a very beautiful Muslim immigrant
crowned Miss USA. What an enticing PR campaign to entice "brand America" on
the global market! It's hard to know if this is exactly what Donald
Trump and other judges had in mind when they made their selections. But
what is certain is that choosing the native "Phoenician" cosmopolite,
over the nativist Oklahoma contestant, Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, who
represents American isolationism with her endorsement of Arizona's
insular immigration laws, definitely was a triumph for globalization.
Miss Fakih is an example of why America should also be judged for
its best and not always for its worst. Fakih, a resident of Michigan,
which has the worst U.S. unemployment rate, may just be the best
spokesperson to publicize her home state on the international stage.
Michigan, coincidentally also has the largest concentration of
Arab-Americans, with approximately half a million people, according to
Zogby International polls.
Beyond what Miss USA will do for American capital investments,
Miss USA's win is also symbolically meaningful for the millions of
Muslim Americans who have seen their community denigrated in post-9/11 "fear mongering" headlines or used as scapegoats of "smear" during
After nearly a decade of relentless Muslim bashing, I'm excited
that the national media spotlight recognizes Muslim Americans not with
suspicion or a dangerous threat to national security but as an appealing
and attractive icon -- even being depicted as chic objects of sexual
desire -- is positive step in the right direction. In the eyes of the
larger American population, Muslims maybe for once viewed through a
glamorous kaleidoscope, one that eventually paves the way for greater
acceptance of Muslims into all aspect of public life. That's certainly a
win-win deal for American interests and its evolving Muslim community.
Now if we can just do something about Donald Trump...