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Image: Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010, poses for the
DARREN DECKER  /  AFP - Getty Images
Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010, poses during the 2010 Miss Universe Presentation Show on Aug. 19. The first Arab-American to win the title, Fakih says, “We should be more concerned with tragedy than religion.”
TODAY contributor
updated 8/24/2010 7:25:36 AM ET 2010-08-24T11:25:36

One of the United States’ most visible Muslim-Americans has taken sides in the debate on whether to build a 13-story community center and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. Lebanese-born, New York-raised Miss USA Rima Fakih said she is against the plan.

Following President Obama’s comment in favor of the proposed mosque project last week, Fakih was asked her thoughts on the hot national debate by a reporter for “Inside Edition.”

“I totally agree with President Obama with the statement on constitutional rights of freedom of religion,” Fakih, 24, said from Las Vegas, where she represented the USA at the Miss Universe pageant Monday night. But she added: “I also agree that it shouldn’t be so close to the World Trade Center. We should be more concerned with the tragedy than religion.”

Image: 2010 Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas
Paul Buck  /  EPA
Miss Mexico, Jimena Navarrete competes during the evening gown competition at the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant Monday night. Navarette went on to be crowned Miss Universe 2010.

Donald Trump, owner of both the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, agreed. “It's very insensitive, and it shouldn’t be there,” he told TV series “Extra” on Monday from Las Vegas. “I'm a big believer in freedom of religion, but I think the mosque being in that location is absolutely wrong.”

In New York City, sides have been divided — with tempers occasionally flaring — over the proposed mosque and community center, which would be located just two blocks north of the site of the worst domestic terror attack in the nation’s history.

While New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and a variety of religious organizations have backed the mosque plan, President Obama weighing in on the issue has stirred the debate nationally.

A recent Time magazine poll showed 61 percent of those polled were against a mosque being erected near ground zero. The poll also famously had 24 percent of respondents believing the president himself is Muslim.

While Miss USA Fakih disagrees with the president on the issue, she’s made it clear she is nonetheless a big Obama fan. She showed off a gold lame costume depicting the golden eagle on the presidential seal that she plans to wear at the Miss Universe competition tonight.

“The symbolism of this costume is a tribute to your work to bring peace to the world,” Fakih said in a promotional video for the Miss Universe pageant.

Fakih is believed to be the first Muslim to be crowned Miss USA after winning the pageant in May. She was born in Lebanon and migrated with her family to New York City when she was 8. When she turned 18, the family relocated to the large Arab-American community in Dearborn, Mich.

Within days of winning Miss USA, Fakih lit a controversy of her own when footage showing her claiming first place at a “Stripper 101” pole dancing competition in a Michigan nightclub in 2007 surfaced. Pageant officials took no disciplinary action against Fakih, however, and she continues to represent the U.S. as Miss USA.

Related: Miss USA says photos are not of ‘stripper-pole contest’

Fakih has said in interviews she’s proud of all parts of her identity.

“I'd like to say I'm American first, and I am an Arab-American, I am Lebanese-American, and I am Muslim-American.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe

  1. Closed captioning of: Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe

    >>> camera.

    >>> and miss mexico , 22-year-old jimena navarrete is the new miss universe crowned in las vegas with our own natalie morales hosting. it is now 7:17. congratulations to her. now back to matt, ann and al. beautiful.

    >> probably going to make her way to the plaza in the next couple of days i would imagine.

    >> tamron hall was a judge.

    >> and she's here this morning so we can get the low down there.

    >> the red eye .

    >> whatever the low down is.

Photos: Miss Universe 2010

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  1. Queen of the universe

    Eighty-three contestants from six continents traveled to Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to compete for the title of Miss Universe. The winner had one of the shortest commutes.

    Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete, 22, took home the crown after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview portions of the competition. Here she walks to center stage minutes after being crowned 2010 Miss Universe. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Crowning achievement

    Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete, left, is crowned by Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez of Venezuela. Navarrete is Mexico's second Miss Universe. Lupita Jones won the title in 1991. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Señora de rojo

    Miss Mexico Jimena Navarrete is pictured during the evening gown competition. Later, during the interview round, she was asked by Olympic gold-medal figure skater Evan Lysacek how she felt about unsupervised Internet use. Navarrete said the Web is important but parents need to be careful and watch over their kids. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. The evening's emcees

    The Miss Universe pageant was hosted by rocker Bret Michaels and TODAY's Natalie Morales. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Beach bombshell

    Miss Jamaica Yendi Phillips competes during the swimsuit portion of the 2010 Miss Universe Pageant. Phillips ended as the first runner-up. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Small gaffe?

    Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj walks during the evening gown competition. Before the pageant, Raj was rated among the top contestants in an online poll on the pageant's website. She finished in fifth place after what some are calling a small gaffe. After being asked about her biggest life mistake, she answered she hadn't had a "major one." (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Aussie attitude

    Miss Australia Jesinta Campbell strikes a pose during the swimwear competition. She finished as the second runner-up and won the Miss Congeniality Universe award. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Decorated, but no crown

    Miss Thailand Fonthip Watcharatrakul, center, holds flowers after being named Miss Photogenic Universe and a second award for having the best national costume. (Steve Marcus / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Irish exit

    Miss Ireland Rozanna Pucell walks the runway during the swimsuit competition. Pucell advanced past this round, but was cut after the evening gown round. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Striking a pose

    Miss Puerto Rico Mariana Vicente, center, made it to the final five.

    California clothing company Pacific Mills founded the contest 1952 and was acquired by Donald Trump in 1996. (Paul Buck / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: 2010 Miss Universe Pageant
    Ethan Miller / Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (10) Crowning Miss Universe
  2. Image: Stefania Fernandez, Dayana Mendoza, Ada Aimee De la Cruz
    Andres Leighton / AP
    Slideshow (20) Miss Universe 2009
  3. Image: Rima Fakih
    Isaac Brekken / AP
    Slideshow (13) Crowning Miss USA


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