By Saif Shahin
So how are you feeling? “Ask me after I had pizza.”
We live in bewildering times. And we must be pardoned for being paranoid when all kinds of bewilderments roll themselves into one pizza-hot bomb that blows right into our face. After all, what can be more bewildering than a Muslim immigrant pole-dancer from Hezbollah country, clad in a barely-there-bikini, winning that crown of the white, Christian, capitalist world – the Miss USA beauty pageant?
The image of Rima Fakih, the first Muslim Miss USA, blowing kisses into the air last Sunday has knocked the wind out of the sails of many an Islamophobe and Islamist alike. Isn’t she supposed to be wearing a burqa? Isn’t she supposed to be blowing bombs? And most importantly, isn’t she supposed to be aching for felafel rather than pizza?
Fakih’s blatant betrayal of the stereotypes, the supposed-to-be’s, has sparked bewilderment on the blogosphere. Islamophobes view it as the clearest evidence yet of the liberal/Islamic conspiracy to take over the US, while Islamists are dismayed by the extent to which Satanic influences have profanated the piety of Muslims, particularly those who have made the West their home.
“Hezbollah is laughing at us, tonight. One of its auxiliary members won the Miss USA title without having to do a thing to denounce them and their bloody murder of hundreds of Americans,” writes Debbie Schlussel, for many the Islamophobe-in-chief of the blogosphere, on www.debbieschlussel.com.
“Dhimmi [a non-Muslim subject of an Islamic state] Donald Trump [billionaire co-owner of the pageant] simply didn’t have the guts to demand that Fakih denounce the Islamic group Hezbollah, whose martyrs and top terrorists are Fakih family members. It doesn’t matter to the Donald that this is the terrorist group that murdered more Americans than any other after Al-Qaeda, and probably more, when you count its joint ventures with Hezbollah,” she adds.
Of course, no more evidence of Fakih and her family being Hezbollah members is required than the telling fact that they belong to southern Lebanon. The other fact – that Hezbollah, an Iran-created Shia militia, and Al-Qaeda, which professes an extremist Sunni ideology and has its roots in Saudi Arabia, are anathema to each other and not known to have had any joint ventures, terrorist or otherwise – is, however, hardly relevant.
As she proudly writes, Schlussel was “on top of this story before anyone”, warning her readers of the mortal dangers of the 24-year-old economics and business management graduate entering the national pageant as Miss Michigan. But she has a particular reason to be incensed – Fakih lives in Dearborn, the Detroit suburb whose Muslim community is the focus of much of Schlussel’s ramblings, which she affectionately and often refers to as ‘Dearbornistan’.
Daniel Pipes, whose blogsite www.danielpipes.org is another popular vent for anti-Muslim prejudices in the US, is alarmed by the “surprising frequency of Muslims winning beauty pageants” in the West, and suspects “an odd form of affirmative action”.
He enumerates a total of five Muslim winners of pageants across the US and Europe in five years – Sarah Mendly (Miss Nottingham, 2005), Hammasa Kohistani (Miss England, 2006), Nora Ali, (Junior Miss America, 2007), Juliette Boubaaya (Miss Picardie, 2009), and finally Rima Fakih – which is a fairly high percentage of wins when you consider that only a few thousand pageants must have taken place in all these countries and across various age groups over all these years.
One collateral damage of the attack on Fakih is Farouk Shami, who sponsors the Miss USA pageant as the owner of Farouk Systems. Schlussel calls him “the racist 9/11 Truther and Palestinian terrorism supporter” and claims he influenced “Trump and the judges to make sure his fellow Muslima won”. The evidence? Fakih had “tweeted gushingly about hanging out with him”.
Another victim is Barack Hussein Obama, the ‘Muslim’ whose now-not-so-recent presidential victory is also supposed to have played a part in a ‘Muslima’ usurping the tiara. And this is too obvious a link for anyone to bother about evidence.
The rant against Fakih betrays the racism that lies at the heart of Islamophobia. Schlussel writes: “I had a bad feeling they’d pick her to try to pander to the Islamic world some more because–ya know–the collective American nose isn’t yet brown enough from ass-kissing Islamic butt all around the world…”
And commenting on Pipes’s suspicion of affirmative action in favour of Muslims at Western beauty pageants, a reader says: “No surprise here. Affirmative action was first applied in beauty contests for black women to win in the 1980s, then it was the turn of Latin, brown skinned women, and now it’s Muslims.”
Fakih, as these reactions show, has hit Islamophobes at two levels. They are sickened by what they perceive as a victory of mediaeval brown Muslims over the modern white Christian West. It turns the West-supremacist world they are used to upside down, and so they naturally throw up, before taking comfort in the palliatives of ‘rigged pageants’ and ‘affirmative action’.
At a deeper level, the Islamophobes are appalled that Fakih belies their broadbrushing of the Muslim world as comprising solely or at least overwhelmingly of fanatics and lunatics who want to blow the West into hell and themselves to heaven – in other words, people with whom the West cannot coexist. They are not ‘normal’, they are after your life and you have to wage wars against them.
That worldview doesn’t sustain when girls like Fakih adopt ‘the American dream’ and live it successfully. After all, what could be more normal than a young girl wishing to be Miss USA. Indeed, she doesn’t have to win it to be normal – for only a few such girls actually win – and that is why Schlussel went after Fakih as soon as she entered the contest.
Where The Twain Shall Meet
Schlussel and Pipes (S&P hereon) are not the only Islamophobes of the world – many readers agree with their views and there are scores of links to their blogsites across the World Wide Web. ‘Rima Fakih Hezbollah’ has even become a suggested search term on Google after her victory. But nor do they make up the world – Fakih’s victory is being vaunted as a trailblazer in Muslim world-West relations by people from different backgrounds, both on the web and off it.
The only non-Islamophobes who are unhappy seem to be the Islamists. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah, when asked about his opinion on the new Miss USA, answered disdainfully, “The criteria through which we evaluate women are different from those of the West.”
But what about Fakih herself? What does she make of all the hoopla? She, too, seems a little bewildered by the change in her profile from small-town pageantry to global telly-talking. “I feel more Arab-American is the more correct name,” she told CNN when asked if she felt she represents Muslim Americans.
With no religion attached? “Religion does not identify me, I would like to say that. My family is more of a spiritual family rather than religious. We’ve never been religious, we’ve been never known to be religious, and on top of everything, we celebrate Christmas, I went to a Christian high school. We are Muslim, however, we appreciate and admire all faiths.”
The self-defeatism of S&P’s Islamophobia was evident across the Atlantic three days after Fakih’s win – at a chic departmental store in France, where a woman and her daughter tried to rip the burqa off a convert to Islam, as they found it “offensive”. France is considering a blanket ban on the burqa.
The victim of the ‘burqa rage’ is a girl around the same age as Fakih. What is she to do, she might wonder, if she trespasses onto S&P’s blogsites: tear off her burqa, as her attackers want, or put it back on, as the writers appear to prefer?
Perhaps she will just tell them: “Ask me after I had pizza.”
Copyright: Saif Shahin