Miss Michigan Under Fire For Free Speech or Hate Speech?

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The former Miss Michigan Kathy Zhu (Photo: Video screenshot)
The former Miss Michigan Kathy Zhu (Photo: Video screenshot)

Miss Michigan Kathy Zhu caught headlines over the weekend after being stripped of her title allegedly for her statements against hijabs. While free speech and women’s rights activists were immediately sympathetic to her case, additional information soon surfaced, pointing to a much more nuanced story.

Here’s what happened:

When the story first broke, Zhu’s assumption regarding her “de-crowning” was that she had refused to try on a hijab at a campus World Hijab Day event. At the time, Zhu tweeted,

“There’s a ‘try a hijab on’ booth at my college campus. So you’re telling me that it’s now just a fashion accessory and not a religious thing? Or are you just trying to get women used to being oppressed under Islam?”

But at the time, there was no mention of coercion or even contact with the people manning the booth.

Yet, after she was de-crowned,  Zhu tweeted a different story about the event: “a Muslim woman tried to forcibly put a hijab on my head without my permission.”

As Twitter chatter broke over the controversy, conservative activists (to their credit) brought to light that there was no effort at the event to forcibly get Miss Michigan to wear a hijab.

Next brought to light was Zhu’s history of tweeting racist remarks, which is possibly why the pageant decided to distance itself from the beauty queen.

Twitter personality Steeve Strange, CEO of The Scoop, called out the now-former Miss Michigan for a series of racist comments. He also singled out the fact that she deleted over 2,700 tweets in the last two weeks.

Strange published screenshots of disturbing tweets by Miss Michigan and called on conservative activists to stop defending Zhu. One of them read, “Hitler was very smart and a good public speaker.” Another knocked black people, saying “Sucks to have a lower IQ” after posting a study showing blacks have lower IQs than whites.

That might have been the reason why Miss World America state director Laurie DeJack told Zhu that her social media accounts contain “offensive, insensitive and inappropriate content” in violation of pageant rules that state that contestants be “of good character” with backgrounds “not likely to bring disrepute” to Miss World America or anyone associated with the organization.

Turning Point USA staff member and conservative activist, Richard Armande Mills, also distanced himself from supporting  the decrowned Miss Michigan.

In our lightening-fast social media environment where fake news travels quickly, we don’t suspect that we need to question what comes from people we consider allies. The Miss Michigan story is a sound reminder that some stories are not what they seem and deserve being looked into more closely before we lend our good names and support to them.



Debating the Hijab

Solidarity Hijabs — Not the Right Symbol

Why I’m Sick of Talking About Hijab


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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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