Sajed Bhandari

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Thoughts on Rima Fakih

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“ Thoughts on Rima Fakih ”

Sajed Bhandari

Watching a breaking news piece on TV, I automatically say to myself, oh God don’t let him be Muslim.  I was on Yahoo News the other day and saw a picture of Rima Fakih.  For some reason, I had a similar reaction.  After realizing she didn’t blow anything up and instead, she had won Miss USA, I was relieved and happy for her.   I also however felt bad for her.  Not only was she going to get the garbage that Islamophobes give to any Muslim in the public eye, but she would not be supported by a great portion of the Muslim-American community.  I would like to present three of my thoughts on Rima Fakih’s win in the Miss USA Pageant.  The thoughts are on Rima Fakih’s contribution to Muslim-American soft power, Islamophobic attacks on Rima and Rima being a symbol for an alternative image of the Muslim-American woman.

I have spent a lot of my conscious life watching stand up comedians.  Stand up comedians that come from a minority group tend to make a lot of jokes about both external and internal stereotype of said group.  This allows members of that group to address certain social issues that arise in their groups as well as neutralizing any perceived threats the greater society may have about that specific group.  This was the beginning of my understanding of soft power.  Rima has contributed greatly to Muslim-American soft power with her win in the Miss USA pageant.  I do not know much about beauty pageants, but I know that the winners are expected to travel and give speeches on empowering girls and achieving your dreams.  It is important to have a Muslim-American woman contributing to such virtuous discourses and being in the public eye while providing this service.  In providing an empowering message to girls around the country, Rima will become a role model for many.   The benefits that the Muslim-American community as a whole will receive by a Muslim-American woman providing such a service to so many of the youth are self evident.

Secondly, I was not shocked, but nonetheless saddened to see the reaction of a lot of the conservative media personalities.  As mentioned, the reactions were not surprising.  Some accused her of having ties to Hezbollah while others said that it was conspiracy theories that lead to her winning.  I will not dwell on these issues because as a general rule, I try to think of conservatives as little as possible and secondly, I do not wish to taint this positive event.  I will say however, that this linking of public Muslim figures to terrorism needs to be addressed for what it is, racism and Islamophobia.  But that is for another article.

Thirdly, Rima offers an alternative image of what a Muslim woman is.  I know many of us delude ourselves into thinking Muslim women are all chaste individuals covered in colorful or solid black bed sheets.  That is a very nice delusion to have, but the reality is there are also many Muslim women who do not wear hijab nor subscribe to traditional understandings of modesty in dress.  Rima is an example of a woman who can embrace her Muslim heritage, but not have to wrap herself in the hijab in the process.  It is a much more telling image of many Muslim women in America than the deluded idea that all Muslim women wear the veil and lower their gaze as they walk by.

In conclusion, I am happy for Rima.  She has achieved a dream of hers that I am sure she has had since she was a child.  I only wish success for her.  I am proud that America will be represented by a Muslim woman in the international scene.  I hope that she has a bright future.  She can only bring benefit to the Muslim-American community and my only hope is that as she continues to succeed, she publicly embraces her heritage.

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Written by sajedbhandari

May 19, 2010 at 1:54 am