She was the first Muslim to be crowned Miss America in 2010, but the Lebanese-American beauty queen Rima Fakih officially converted to Christianity in April 2016, ahead of tying the knot to her Christian fiancee music producer Wassim Salibi.
According to the Middle Eastern news site Albawaba, Lebanese-American model Rima Fakih, who is believed to be the first Muslim woman to win the honor of Miss USA when she was crowned in 2010, gave her life to Christ a month ahead of her wedding.
Fakih, who is a former Miss Michigan and also once trained to be a WWE women’s wrestler, was born into a Shiite Muslim sect.
Fakih has said in interviews that her family was nominally Muslim growing up and that she attended Catholic schools. However, she says she started to take her Muslim faith more seriously in college.
She’s also not the first in her family to convert. “My brother-in-law is Christian,” she told the Huffington Post in 2010, “and he (and my sister) baptised their two sons. I have an uncle who converted to Christianity, and he’s a priest now.”
On March 30, Fakih tweeted a picture of herself from the night in 2010 when she won the Miss USA pageant. Her tweet also included a quote from Philippians.
“Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” Fakih wrote.
Later that same day, Fakih tweeted a picture of inspirational an message about God.
“Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, a victim into a victory,” the message states.
A large majority of Muslim social media users were infuriated by Rima’s decision to follow Jesus, and assured her that this will “send her straight to Hell.” However, at least a lesser percentage of Muslims were respectful of the starlet’s decision to convert, wishing her luck in whatever she decides to do.
Although Fakih comes from a Shiite Muslim family, she told the Huffington Post in a 2010 interview that religion really doesn’t “define” her or her family.
“We’re more of a spiritual family. Religion really doesn’t define me or my family,” Fakih explained. “My family’s been very liberal, and we appreciate all different kinds of religions.”
Fakih is also no stranger to Christian traditions and beliefs, as she and her family often celebrate Christian holidays.
“We’d go to church on Easter. We always had a Christmas tree and every year we go the Radio City Christmas Show, and watch ‘The Miracle on 34th Street,'” she said. “But we celebrate some of the Islamic holidays as well. 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.”
She added in the 2010 interview that although her family identifies as Muslim, there are members of her family who are openly Christian.
“I consider myself to be blessed. I have a family that is a mix of different religions and different ethnicities. 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 said. “My family is Muslim. But none of this ever came up in our family. We don’t look at religion as something that defines us, we look at religion as something that we respect, and something that teaches us about ethics.”
She concluded the interview by saying that as Miss USA, she can be a “Muslim ambassador” for the country.
“I feel like I can be a great representative. America is the land of opportunity, and people can live in America and be who they want to be,” Fakih stated. “Don’t deny your faith. Don’t deny your ethnicity.”