A few days ago under the banner of the Women's Initiative of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a leading civil rights organization, a special night celebrating Arabic fashion, music and traditional dance took place at the historic Lincoln Theater in the heart of Washington DC. The lineup of the evening included a special comment by Miss USA 2010 Rima Fakih. Attending the event were more than 1,000 members of the local community, foreign dignitaries, journalists, students and diplomats. The White House also sent a representative.
During her speech on the issues she faced as a young Arab American in post 9/11
America, Fakih talked about the negative comments and attitudes people would have toward her faith. One student in her class mentioned Islam as a negative thing and started misquoting the Koran in one of her classes. Being a New Yorker, Fakih felt the urge to respond to those ignorant remarks when her faith was being slandered. She quoted the Koran in saying that one must do all in his or her power to defend one's country if attacked. Fakih's country is America of course. I found her quote from the Koran to be natural and unforced.
Now, there is more than one way to look at this, namely at the loons who hate cheerleaders, who have called Rima names and condemned her for pursing her American dream, making some laughable associations with Islamic militants. Upon hearing about Rima's quote from the Koran, those talking heads (who shall remain nameless) will freak out and start drafting conspiracy theories about how Sharia law is taking over our beloved country.
To those mostly overgrown juveniles, the idea of Arab music, fashion and dance in our nation's capital is creepy because it goes against all things they have labeled Islam to be. Clearly, culture indicates you are civilized and people with racist beliefs have always thought they and they alone are the civil ones. Naturally, terrorists are not winning awards for being patrons of the arts. So in practice, both the terrorists and prophets of hate need each other. The violent Muslims will keep the haters on the payroll of some think tank, and the terrorists appreciate the insults progressive Muslims get from the right wing extremists.
Luckily for many of us, those voices are the minority, a dying breed. One of the things that I think stands out is the rhetoric Rima's detractors use. They have labeled Rima a "bimbo" which is funny, because if Al Qaeda was watching, they would use the same word to describe this young lady. So if you have a problem with this title, then you may have more in common with terrorists than you like to admit. And such talking heads point fingers at Muslims for mistreating women, but they don't always practice what they preach when it comes to Muslim women wanting to break free.
The other way to look at this is to celebrate this testament to American diversity with those who see Rima as evidence of America's exceptionalism, not weakness. Upon finishing her remarks, I have seen men and women, young and old, Muslim and Christian, give Rima a standing ovation for her role in shattering stereotypes at least about Arabs and Muslims in America. Her remarks were less about religion and more about "world peace" and being part of this country.
I do not personally think Miss USA has to be a role model for American girls. However, I am coming to embrace Rima now that I have seen her effect on the people who express so much hate. The idea of Rima and her existence reveals the lies of these two. She drives both terrorists and right-wing loons crazy. I say, "give them hell, Rima."
Follow Hani Almadhoun on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@hotarabicmusic