Rima Fakih, an American of Lebanese descent and a Muslim, was just crowned Miss USA. Bloggers and pundits have accused her of ties to Hezbollah, the terrorist group from the Middle East because her last name is identical and she’s a Muslim. So, let’s consider a comparison.
Sean Smith left Ireland years ago for a better life in America. Coming through Ellis Island, he moved to Boston, suffered discrimination in jobs, schools, and neighborhoods. So, he settled in the Irish-Catholic section of Boston to start a new life and family. Like so many other immigrants, he succeeded. By the time his grandchildren grew-up, one of them was crowned Miss USA.
Another man, Mr. Fakih, left Beriut, Lebanon–the Paris of the Middle East–at the same time Sean Smith left Ireland. Fakih was an admirer of everything in America. He arrived in Dearborn, Michigan. For people from the Middle East, it was the equivalent to Ellis Island. Many came through Dearborn because Henry Ford loved Middle Eastern people and thought they made good workers. He offered them jobs by the thousands and even provided housing for them. Mr. Fakih started his new life and family. Like many immigrants, he succeeded. One of his grandchildren, Rima, was crowned Miss USA.
Although I’ve made up these facts, these two stories have been repeated thousands of times over in America.
So why is the present Miss USA accused of ties to terrorist groups? Some bloggers accuse her of being funded by terrorist groups and her support of these groups–without offering any facts to support their accusations.
Could she be accused of these things simply because she’s Muslim rather than Christian or Jewish?
My new novel “Reprisal,” portrays a young American-born woman who’s a moderate and progressive Muslim. She fights against an extremist Muslim terrorist who tries to carry out a plot to introduce a small pox plague in Minnesota. In my research about Islam in America, I found that, like any previous immigrant groups, the majority are similar to most Americans. And of course, a few criminals come from these groups, just as they also come from all areas of the US and from all ethnic groups.
What about the accusation that Islam, as a religion, promotes terrorism, the subjugation of women, and violence? I have read most of the Qur’an and several books written by educated American Muslims, including women. They insist that culture, politics, history, and power struggles cause the problems that dominate the news media–not the religion itself.
To me, the American Muslim situation is similar to most immigrant group’s experience when something about the group is different from the mainstream population. There is misunderstanding, suspicion, and fear of the different group.
Before accusing Miss USA of having terrorist ties, maybe it would be a good idea if the bloggers befriended a Muslim American–even one.