Beauty Pageants and Islam in America
Islam condemns such objectification of women and demands its followers show respect for women on the merit of their intelligence and manners. Instead, many are exhibiting a sense of pride in the fact that “one of our own” won a contest based on how a group of middle aged men scored her evening gown and her performance on a stage.
Muslim Americans have contributed immensely to the United States as doctors, teachers, lawyers, pharmacists, authors, scholars, public servants, and writers. Add to that ever growing list: beauty queens. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the media’s Cinderella story of Miss Michigan Rima Fakih, who is believed to be the first Muslim and Arab-American winner of the Miss USA pageant.
In the age of sensational media reporting coupled with a community severely conflicted with an ever more liberal identity, two sides are emerging in this lamentable prose presented by the media. There are two types of Muslims in the world according to the dichotomy. On one hand we have the supposedly educated Muslims, who are carrying the banner of a more inclusive and welcoming Islam, and on the other, there are the backward conservatives. You know, those same people who still believe in the Hijab and praying five times a day. Last time I checked, these were the basic tenets of Islam, and there is no such thing as “conservative” or “liberal” Muslims. These terms are thrown around by pseudo-intellectuals in who attempt to justify their deviation from Islamic teachings. We must have missed the memo that declared enjoining the good and forbidding the evil made someone a “backward conservative” who refused to assimilate into American society.
The problem is not necessarily Miss USA 2010. It’s very easy to disparage her for taking part in superficialities such as beauty pageants and acting in a manner that eliminates any self-respect and dignity. However, the impetus should be on us to remind our own community that beauty pageants are not an acceptable outlet for any woman to take part in. Islam condemns such objectification of women and demands its followers show respect for women on the merit of their intelligence and manners. Instead, many are exhibiting a sense of pride in the fact that “one of our own” won a contest based on how a group of middle aged men scored her evening gown and her performance on a stage. Why isn’t anyone sounding the alarm at the perverted sense of morality we have coming and the direction our community is going? Where are those voices of Islam to speak out?
For a very long time, many of us in the West have been complacent and have turned a blind eye to such issues. The concept of Amr Bil Maroof and Nahi Anil Munkar (enjoining the good and forbidding the evil) has become political, and many religious leaders and people of conscience seem unwilling to speak up, further allowing the community to digress towards evident moral decay, as has been the case for a number of years. Our community has become notorious for young Muslims attending events such as prom amongst other culturally accepted functions which are Islamically prohibited. Concepts such as gender mixing and its limitation are foreign, and those who attempt to adopt the Islamic perspective on the subject are condemned and labeled as extremists. Our own Islamic centers unfortunately have also fallen prey to this liberalism and have become a breeding ground for inter-gender mixing among the youth. The fact of the matter is, Shia youth today are dating, getting in relationships, and engaging in unmentionably abhorrent behavior. In such a situation, it’s a surprise it took this long to produce a beauty pageant contestant. The community has been in decline for a very long time, and it’s come down to apathy.
Once the shock wears off and the possibility that a self described Muslim would abandon all moral and religious constraints to prance around on national television in the most immodest clothing possible is allowed to gel, we must address the situation in a two-fold approach. First and foremost, we must make it clear to those supporting such degradation of women that they are on the side of injustice and moral decay. The second step is more vital than detracting from the support given to an increasingly warped form of Islam, and that is to ensure this does not occur again. To what extent are we willing to go to protect our young girls from taking on pageant queens as role models? Is our divided community able to educate its youth (both male and female) about embracing the grandeur of Islam’s most graceful female role model – Lady Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her)?
If the past is an indication of our future, we may not go very far. Nonetheless, the Prophet, His Holy Household, and respectable companions (peace be upon them all) have taught us that adhering to true Islam is the key to attaining salvation in this world and the hereafter. Only by doing our utmost to uphold and promote the teachings of the Prophet, the Qur’an, and the Ahlul Bayt will we be serving our purpose as true servants of God and followers of Islam.