This past Monday, the first ever Muslim American was crowned Miss USA. Rima Fakih, 24, hails from Dearborn, Michigan and is of Lebanese descent.
Many consider her not only the first Muslim American, but also the first Arab American to win the pageant. Miss USA 1983’s winner, Julie Hayek, technically has Lebanese roots from her father, but Fakih is the first to publically identify.
The sensitivities after 9/11 make Fakih’s win a win for all Muslim and Arab Americans; many feel that it symbolizes a step in the right direction.
“The fear that people had implanted since 9/11, maybe what I did can show people that, you know what, who cares what ethnicity you are,” Fakih states.
Not only did the residents of her hometown celebrate Monday, but Arab Americans nationwide, from pockets of New York City to Little Arabia in Anaheim, CA. They are celebrating national recognition and acceptance of Arab American beauty and culture.
“This sends a signal that we’re part and parcel of this great country … this is a part of being American,” Mohamad Dbouk, a Dearborn restaurant manager said.
The fact that this ethnic group, which is consistently stereotyped and constantly in political talks, finds itself in the commercial spotlight of Miss USA is outstanding and refreshing. It shows that The American Dream still exists; you can be an immigrant of this country and come out successful.
Fakih says it best, “Everyone should be proud of who they are and where they come from because America is a big melting pot of diverse ethnicities. It’s great to be part of this wonderful country.”
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On April 21, 2010, the Arab American Institute (AAI) held its 12th annual Kahlil Gibran “Spirit of Humanity” Awards in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations delivered the key speech for the event. Ambassador Rice recognized the honorees of the evening, among them: Mayor Daley, Judge Barkett, Mr. Zeitoun, Juma al-Majid, and the Corporation for National Community Service for their commitment to advancing the common good initiative.
“This year’s honorees remind us of the importance of some great American ideals: service, responsibility, inclusion, and equality. Citizenship grants us great blessings, and it demands great responsibility. Our limitless diversity and our founding commitment to equality are among our greatest strategic assets,” said Rice.
Ambassador Rice also congratulated AAI on its 25th anniversary celebration. According to Rice, “Arab Americans have been making vital contributions to our country since at least the 1880s, but the establishment of the AAI in 1985 was a true milestone. Since then, AAI has been a key voice in the larger American chorus: speaking up about pressing needs and concerns, championing increased Arab American participation in our nation’s political and civic sphere, and fighting ignorance and intolerance.”
Most notably, Ambassador Rice highlighted the shift in foreign policy, undertaken by the new U.S. administration, toward Arab and Muslim communities throughout the globe. Rice noted the administration’s efforts in “expanding exchanges, deepening our collaboration on science and technology, working together on global health issues such as H1N1, and partnering to expand the reach of economic prosperity.” Following President Obama’s New Beginning speech in Cairo last June, the President will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship next week, where more than 250 entrepreneurs from 50 countries, including many in the Arab world, will gather to advance opportunity in America and abroad.
Ambassador Rice’s full speech can be read found here.
Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award:
Launched in 1999 by the Arab American Institute Foundation, the awards focus attention on acts of leadership and dedication that promote the common good. The Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Awards recognize individuals, corporations, organizations and communities whose work, commitment and support make a difference in promoting co-existence and inclusion in all walks of life.The awards aim to promote the positive forces of diversity and cultural interaction, and to showcase programs that foster democratic and humanitarian values across racial, ethnic and religious lines.The award is named for the author of “The Prophet” whose message of human endurance and triumph was so evident in his life and work. The award further symbolizes Gibran’s pride in his Arab heritage, respect for the freedom he found in the United States and his universal love of humanity. The event is supported annually by a diverse group of corporate and individual donors and is organized by congressional, honorary and steering committees.
Photos courtesy of AAI.
Learning Together from Home, Muslim-Americans are part of a growing population choosing online education over more traditional forms.
Seven year old Faatimah and twelve year old Sakina Musa are back in school. But instead of getting on a bus every morning and traveling to a school building, they simply turn on their computers from home and “log-on” to school. Both girls are enrolled in an online school that allows them to receive a complete education from their home, under the guidance of their mother and with support from “virtual” teachers. It’s a new trend in education that is becoming increasingly popular with families across the country.
Both girls use the education program developed by K12, the largest provider of online school programs for students in kindergarten through high school in the U.S. The K12 program combines innovative web-based lessons delivered through the Internet with offline education materials, such as books, science equipment and even music and art supplies. K12 delivers their program directly to the doorstep of every enrolled student at the beginning of each school year.
Faatimah and Sakina’s mother, Cheryl, works alongside her daughters as they complete their lessons and school work. She also receives support and assistance from K12 teachers who communicate with her and the girls via telephone, email, and even web-based conferencing, or “e-classrooms.” According to Cheryl, learning from home using K12 online learning program is the right solution for her family. “We love to learn together as a family,” said Cheryl. “It pulls us together and brings us close. Our family motto is ‘readers are leaders.’”
While the K12 education program is offered to families in many ways – including purchasing individual courses or through the private K12 International Academy – the Musa’s are enrolled in one of many tuition-free K12 virtual public schools, which are available in 23 states plus the District of Columbia.
“A friend referred me to K12 and I found that I could enroll my daughters in one of their virtual schools for free, because it is a public school program,” said Cheryl. According to Cheryl, what drew her to K12 was quality and rigor of the program.
“I was looking for a program that was more interactive, more challenging for my daughters, especially with reading,” said Cheryl.
The Musa’s work hard to balance three important areas of their lives – family, religion, and education. As a devout Muslim-American family, they cherish their Friday’s together attending religious services. Cheryl says one of the great advantages of learning at home using the K12 program is that it gives her family more flexibility than they would have at a regular school.
“We can take off on Friday’s. We have more freedom for our family lifestyle. It’s more flexible, yet we’re not sacrificing our education.”
Even though her daughters learn from home, Cheryl emphasized that they are not isolated.
“Our kids are involved in so many outside and community activities. With K12, they actually have more time for activities. They’re very active and well-rounded.”
Faatimah and Sakina are part of a growing number of students that are choosing online education over traditional schools. According to the International Association of K-12 Online Learning, well over one million students are enrolled in online learning here in the U.S and it is growing at 30% every year.
Cheryl believes more and more Muslim-American families are turning to learning online because of how providers like K12 can deliver a high quality education right to their home. “Education is a main focus for Muslim-Americans, like us,” said Cheryl. “I have many friends who are choosing to learn from home. It’s been the perfect fit for us.”
For more information on K12′s Public Relations campaign or other ethnic outreach, contact Paul Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) with Allied Media Corp.