"Ur head will be cut”: The story of the porn star who is getting death threats for performing in hijab

21-year-old Mia Khalifa has skyrocketed to X-rated fame -- and become the target of religious extremists

Published January 7, 2015 11:59PM (EST)

Mia Khalifa
Mia Khalifa

After only a couple of months in the adult industry, 21-year-old Lebanese-American Mia Khalifa took the crown for most-searched-for star on PornHub from the legendary Lisa Ann of "Nailin' Paylin" fame. It was a surprise win for the newcomer, who took to Instagram to humbly celebrate with a blushing emoji and caption reading, "nothing but respect for the almighty queen, though!"

Then came the death threats. Twitter user @UsainAnnan posted a still from an ISIS video with Khalifa's face replacing that of a hostage.

She received messages like, "pornstars should fucking commit suicide. hope this bitch gets stoned alive" and "ur head will be cut soon inshallah" (to which she responded, "long as it's not my tits. They were expensive"). There were many more tweets that fell short of threatening violence but expressed disapproval with a political or religious bent -- for example, "am a Palestinian patriot and what you are doing is shameful," "This will be so funny when you die and find out there is a God hahahahahaha" and "You do realize that you'll be the first person in Hellfire right?” (which prompted her to tweet, "I've been meaning to get a little tan recently").

It isn't just that she was born in Beirut and now happens to do porn. She has tattoos of verses from the Lebanese national anthem in Arabic and the conservative Lebanese Forces cross. Oh also? She starred in a porno while wearing a hijab. That clip has inspired tweets along the lines of, "Bitch wonders why arabs bash on her. Maybe because you fucking degraded Muslims in a porno you 5 cent hoe." (Her critics might want to consider that she is far from alone in fetishizing the headscarf: a search for "hijab" on Pornhub turned up 19 pages of results. "Muslim" returned 26 pages, with titles like, "Arab Muslim With Nice Tits Gets Fucked" and "Muslim Niqab Blowjob." Nothing is sacred in porn.)

The hijab video was published to PornHub on November 18th and kicked off a rise in searches for her name. By December 19, she was the third most-searched-for name on PornHub. Two days later she hit No. 2, and on December 27 she took the No. 1 spot. In partnership with Salon, PornHub crunched some numbers and found that the country with the highest percentage of searches for the newcomer is, you guessed it, Lebanon. Over the last couple days, "a little over 1 in 4 searches in Lebanon on Pornhub were for 'Mia Khalifa.'" Close behind were Syria and Jordan. Even in the U.S., where Khalifa comprises only a small percentage of searches, she's been sought out 1.2 million times over the course of the past three days.

Much as her fame is a product of scandal, she is hardly without her supporters. Lebanese blogger Gino Raidy wrote, “I think it’s pretty great that at a time when the Lebanese government and authorities are following in the footsteps of our ultra-conservative Arab counterparts and banning porn sites in Lebanon, one of our own topped the charts of the biggest names in online porn.” (Indeed, Lebanon's Ministry of Telecommunications recently requested that six porn sites -- including www.smallteenpussy.com -- be blocked.) Under the hashtag #LebanesePride, supporters are offering up comments like, "The major part of Lebanon has got your back! Let them talk!," "You're the best thing that ever came out of my country!," "Proud of you keep it up and dont reply to haters" and "I say give that girl a break, she's good at what she's doing!"

Khalifa doesn't seem interested in shying away from the controversy. She recently tweeted:

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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