'SRIFA, Lebanon — Newly-crowned Miss USA Rima Fakih is the pride of her native village, with residents saying the Lebanese-American not only brought honour to southern Lebanon but also offered a different image of Shiite Muslims often stereotyped as radicals.
"She is an honour to us, a honour to all of southern Lebanon," her paternal aunt Afifa Fakih Said told AFP in Srifa, the beauty queen's hometown.
Residents of the southern village watched 24-year-old Rima compete in three categories -- swimsuit, evening gown and interview -- before winning the Miss USA title on Sunday.
Proudly showing off her niece's photograph on the front page of local newspapers, her aunt Afifa offered baklava pastries to wellwishers pouring in to her home.
A supersized framed photograph of Rima, whose family is Shiite Muslim, earlier winning the Miss Michigan crown hangs in Afifa's living room.
"We are so often described as terrorists and killers, but we Shiites love life and beauty -- and mainly the beauty of the soul, which is what is so special about Rima," said the veiled 62-year-old, who speaks English and French fluently.
"In this family, we are open to all religions," she said. "We have no political affiliation to anyone."
...Despite her dark, cascading waves and toned body, the new Miss USA has come under fire by right-wing bloggers, who have dubbed her a "terrorist in a bikini."
"Don't let her lack of a headscarf and her donning a bikini in public fool you. Miss Michigan USA, Rimah (sic) Fakih is a Muslim activist and propagandist extraordinaire," wrote conservative political commentator Debbie Schlussel in her blog.
"It's a sad day in America but a very predictable one, given the politically correct, Islamo-pandering climate in which we?re mired," wrote Schlussel, who slammed Fakih as a "Hezbollah-supporting Shiite Muslim." '