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US presenter says Arab stereotypes need change

Al-Husseini talks to Al Arabiya about misconceptions of Arabs

Misconceptions about Arab and Muslims need to be changed and their achievements have to be highlighted in different fields, including that of beauty pageants, Syrian-American presenter Laila al-Husseini said.

Al-Husseini is one of the most famous Arab anchors in the United States and is known for her two popular shows Radio Baladi (Arabic for My country's radio) and Good Morning Michigan.

Husseini said all Arabs in the United States anxiously followed the 2010 Miss America pageant and were extremely excited when Lebanese-born Rima Fakih was chosen.

“Arabs and Muslims in the United States breathed a sigh of relief when Fakih was crowned Miss America,” she told Al Arabiya. “This is a great honor for all of us since she is the first Arab-American to get this title.”

"Personal freedom"

When asked about the fact that Fakih had to wear a swimming suit in the contest, which is considered by many to be a violation of Muslim codes, Husseini replied that modesty as far as dress code is concerned is found in all religions and not only in Islam.

“Of course wearing a swimming suit is not permissible in Islam and there are so many other ways of showing beauty.”

However, she stressed, it is a matter of personal freedom.

“I am wearing the veil and am comfortable with it; similarly, Fakih also has the right to choose what she wears. No one can tell her what to do.”

Hussieni added that in all cases, beauty pageants have a value of their own.

When asked about the image of Arabs and Muslims in the United States, Husseini said that the best way to change the prevalent stereotypes is through hard work and success as well as raising awareness.

“The result of the beauty contest came as part of this awareness,” she said.

Husseini is planning to host Rima Fakih in her program Radio Baladi where she is going to congratulate her and express how Arabs in Dearborn, Michigan, where Fakih lives, as well as in all the United States are proud of her.

“I will also ask about her opinion on the level of attention paid to her background by the media.”

In the last episode of her radio program, Husseini already discussed the beauty contest issue and wondered why many people focus on Fakih’s religious background instead of looking at her as an American of Arab origins.

In the same episode, Fakih added that committees at beauty contests do not care about religion or how much the contestants are abiding by the rules of their faith.

I am wearing the veil and am comfortable with it; similarly, Fakih also has the right to choose what she wears. No one can tell her what to do

Presenter Laila al-Husseini