Former Miss Universe Iraq Sarah Idan reflects on the photo that led her to flee her own country.
The beauty pageant contestant represented Iraq in 2017 when she took a selfie with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, and posted it on social media. She captioned the shot “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel”.
Idan quickly received death threats for the photo as it was interpreted by some as an endorsement of Israel and a betrayal of the Palestinian Arabs, the BBC reported. According to media outlet, Idan and his family moved to the United States
“I was at Miss Universe and took a selfie with Miss Israel, which prompted the Iraqi government to take away my Iraqi citizenship,” Idan said in an interview recently uploaded to YouTube. “Basically my family ended up leaving Iraq. I had to leave Iraq just to take a selfie with Miss Israel.”
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When asked if she felt the source of the hatred against Israel was a more religious or political issue, Idan replied “definitely, number one is religious.”
“There are many things that [radical Islamists teach] Muslim and Arab lands, but I believe the reason they teach them to hate Jews, at the end of the day, is political, ”she explained. “How can you get the Jews out of the Middle East? How to take ownership of the whole area? The only way for them to do this is to convince them that Jews hate Muslims, Jews seek to destroy the world. They [is a] a very radical Islamist ideology which also teaches them that Jews are not even human beings. They are satanic creatures in human form. “
“The amount of anti-Semitism that exists in radical Islam is crazy,” she shared. “It is exactly like the Nazi movement and that is why many Islamists joined their movement with the neo-Nazis – in order to defeat Jews all over the world.”
Idan noted that Israel and the Jews were not the only targets of hatred.
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“[Radical Islamists] believe that Israel is a big supporter of the United States and the Middle East and that they must do away with this, ”she said. “If they can remove American influence and democracy in the Middle East, the next target would not be just Britain and all of Europe.
“Radical Islamists believe that every non-Muslim is kafir or unfaithful and that they do not even deserve to live,” she added.
Idan also claimed that there are more radical Islamists than you might think.
“What people don’t understand is that if there are so many peaceful Muslims and they represent about two billion of the world’s population, the number of radical Islamists within Islam is about 25, or 300 million – that’s the size of the United States, “she said.
“Imagine all these people wanting to eradicate not only the State of Israel but the United States and the West… this is a serious concern that should worry everyone, not just Jews, but all Americans, who ‘they are religious or non-religious, “she added.
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In 2018, Idan visited Israel, a trip that enraged people in his homeland. At the time, she reunited with Gandelsman, 23, during a visit organized by the American Jewish Committee to “talk about peace.”
Despite the criticism, Idan said she was not afraid and had gone to Israel “because I want peace for everyone, for the Israelis, for the Palestinians.”
Idan is the founder of Humanity Forward, an organization that “is committed to building bridges between Muslims and Jews in order to cross borders and promote reconciliation, tolerance, mutual understanding and peace”.
According to his website, Idan is still afraid to go home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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