Last week, Rima Fakih became the first Miss USA to be Muslim, and felt all the scrutiny that came with that achievement. But is she a sign of Muslim progress or a warning about immodesty? Omar Sacirbey writes for RNS:
‘‘There’s recognition among Muslims that this is not a traditionally Islamic way for a woman to dress,” said Shahed Amanullah, editor at AltMuslim.com, 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.”
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.