THE BLOG
05/18/2010 06:36 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are We Overreacting to Compromising Photos of the New Arab-American Miss USA?

For the first time in its history, an Arab -- a Muslim Arab -- has been crowned Miss USA. Most Arab-Americans reacted with delight to the news of the win. However, Miss USA Rima Fakih's day in the limelight was short-lived; it wasn't long before a deluge of Internet slurs and rumors surfaced tainted her win. Apparently in 2007 Fakih participated in a pole-dancing contest sponsored by a Detroit radio station and several pictures were taken of her in -- get this -- a pair of shorts and t-shirt.

It didn't take long for the right-wing, anti-Islamic elements to post her picture all over the Internet. One anti-Islamic website called her a "slutty pole dancer." Another claimed that "confirmed terrorists" had sponsored the Lebanese beauty's entry into the contest. Many of the comments were mean-spirited and racist at the their core. These attacks weren't just aimed at Fakih -- they were aimed at all Muslims and Arabs who try to achieve something in our society.

It was ironic that the attacks on Fakih occurred during the same week that the French banned the burqa. So if a Muslim woman covers herself, then she is considered against Western values. But when a Muslim woman acts liberal, then she is criticized as being a "slut."

Controversy over the past behaviors of Miss USA winners is nothing new. For example, Carrie Prejean was stripped of her 2009 title as Miss USA runner-up and as Miss California because of her appearance in a sexually explicit videotape.

In Rima's defense, she appeared clothed in a top and shorts pole dancing in a public radio contest once. She was definitely wearing more clothes here than in the pageant photos. But perhaps then she should have thought better about it when she was 21. Now, there are reports Miss Universe representatives had contacted the radio co-host of Mojo show, which held that pole-dancing contest, to inquire about more photos and information.

It would be a shame to make a big deal of that and withdraw her title. Donald Trump wisely decided to go with a completely untraditional and underdog contestant breaking the mold of Miss USA. Rima represents many of us in America, not just Arabs. She is a living proof that the United States is truly multicultural. Therefore, instead of just labeling Rima as the pole dancer beauty queen, perhaps we could envision how she could make a difference in our society.