Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, took a picture with Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, during a pre-pageant photo shoot in Las Vegas. She said the photo does not signal support for the Israeli government and apologized if the photo was harmful to the Palestinian cause.
The aspiring singer, who also has USA citizenship and lives in Los Angeles, told CNN that the Iraqi organization that sent her to the pageant had threatened to strip her crown if she did not take the photo down.
Currently, Idan said she is anxious about traveling back to Iraq during the aftermath of the controversy.
Not only was the picture considered controversial, but Idan was also shunned for modeling in a bikini, which is customary for a beauty pageant, but Islam is the majority religion in Iraq, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Gandelsman said that Idan shared the photo so that people can understand that it is possible to live together without wars and bloodshed. "The government has been scary quiet", she said.
Miss Idan, who now lives in the United States, was born and raised in Baghdad. "I said, 'let's take a picture so our people can see we don't have a problem and we're actually ambassadors for peace, '" Idan told CNN.
As for the Miss Iraq Organization, it claims it didn't threaten Idan.
Another commentator Samah al-Meshhadani said: "Maybe she will succeed in improving our relations with Israel so we become friends, who knows?"
Anti-semitism runs deep in the Arab world, and Iraq, like most other West Asian nations, holds Israel responsible for atrocities on Palestine. "However, due to Privacy Act considerations, it is Department of State policy to not comment on or confirm any individual's citizenship". Idan maintains that the Miss Iraq Organization was "trying to scare" her and her family, however.
There doesn't seem to be any photo of Idan in a bikini on her Instagram, though she did participate in such a photoshoot for the pageant. "And when they're this quiet, you don't know what waits for you at home".