(CNN)Few parents are delighted to learn that their daughter is a porn star, even a highly successful one. But for 21-year-old Mia Khalifa of Florida, a family dispute has taken on international dimensions.
Khalifa is PornHub’s highest-ranked adult star. But she is also Lebanese-born — and her chosen line of work has not only disappointed her parents but generated huge controversy in her native country.
The debate has gained such a head of steam that some Arab news outlets published a family statement this week condemning Khalifa’s actions and expressing the family’s regret about her fame as a porn star.
She is also criticized for her tattoo, in Arabic, of the opening lines of the Lebanese National Anthem.
We are probably paying the price of living away from our homeland; our kids had to adapt to societies that don’t resemble our culture, traditions and values, the family statement said.
Hence, we emphasize that we disassociate ourselves from her actions which do not reflect her family beliefs, her upbringing or her true Lebanese roots. We hope that she comes back to her senses as her image does not honor her family or her homeland — Lebanon.
According to the statement, Khalifa, born in 1993, moved with her family to the United States in 2000. They left behind them one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East but one where religion plays a central, sometimes divisive, role in daily life and many are deeply socially conservative.
Having turned 18, Khalifa left home, the statement says, “as is common in the West. She married an American guy in February 2011 and is currently living with him in Florida. Mia has since lost contact with her family.”
Despite the family rift, Khalifa has been doing well for herself.
And she’s been fighting back against the criticism on her Twitter feed, which has more than 100,000 followers (and contains some slightly NSFW content).
She writes: @borenstein_alex: @miakhalifa how do we achieve peace in the Middle East?” Stop talking about pornstars that aren’t living in your country
But many critics continue to voice their disgust on Twitter.
I am a Palestinian patriot and what you are doing is shameful, one person wrote. Another says her head should be cut off for what she’s doing.
And that’s far from the only death threat she’s received.
She posted a doctored photo that appeared to show her as a prisoner of ISIS.
At the same time, she has many online supporters.
British-Lebanese author and publisher Nasri Atallah posted at length in her defense on his Facebook page.
The moral indignation about Mia Khalifa, presumably the first Lebanese pornstar, is wrong for two reasons. First and foremost, as a woman, she is free to do as she pleases with her body, he wrote.
Secondly, as a sentient human being with agency, who lives halfway across the world she is in charge of her own life and owes absolutely nothing to the country where she happened to be born. There is this odd perception that being Lebanese is a vocation and a duty first and that your personal life comes second.
And like Khalifah, Atallah believes the fevered interest her actions have stirred back home is unwarranted.
For the record, I don’t think we should be particularly proud of Mia Khalifa, we should just be indifferent. She’s doing a job she chose, in a regulated industry, no different to banking. Actually, it’s probably more regulated than banking.
I certainly don’t think she’s our last frontier against ISIS as some have suggested. She is a 21-year old in Florida who has made a decision for herself, with absolutely no wider implications.
Another boost came from American duo Timeflies, who recorded a song about her this week, posted to their Twitter feed.
It’s already proven pretty popular with her fans, with several posting that, together, she and the band broke the internet.
And Khalifa herself remains defiant in the face of the trolls.
How does it feel to be the most hated arab at the moment?” she wrote. “Pretty good since @Timeflies wrote a song about me.
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