The first Muslim woman to win the Miss USA contest has made a bold and controversial decision regarding her faith.
Rima Fakih was raised in a Shia Muslim family, but she attended a Catholic school. Although her family was Shia Muslim, she described her family as more spiritual than devout practitioners of any faith, similar to a large number of American families.
When she won the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas in 2010, Fakih said “I’d like to say I’m American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American.” She was criticized for participating in the contest by Muslim scholars.
After being crowned, she told Huffington Post, “We’re more of a spiritual family. Religion really doesn’t define me or my family. My family’s been very liberal, and we appreciate all different kinds of religions.”
“My brother-in-law is Christian, and he (and my sister) baptized their two sons. I have an uncle who converted to Christianity, and he’s a priest now.”
She continued, “We’d go to church on Easter. We always had a Christmas tree and every year we go to the Radio City Christmas Show, and watch “Miracle on 34th Street.” But we celebrate some of the Islamic holidays as well.”
She said she became more aware of her Muslim faith later in life. “When I went to the University of Michigan, because there’s more of a Muslim community, my dad wanted me to learn more about Islam. I didn’t know much about Ramadan and other holidays, and my dad wanted me to take that opportunity and learn.”
Fakih has recently converted to Christianity in order to marry a wealthy music producer who is a Maronite Christian, Wassim Salibi, in Lebanon. She will say her “I do” in Lebanon on May 15th.
She has received more criticism from Muslim scholars for converting from Islam.
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