Facing criticism at home, an Iraqi beauty queen on Wednesday defended her decision to pose for a photo with her Israeli counterpart and to post the joint selfie online, saying it was an expression of a desire for peace and not a show of support for the government of Israel.

Idan explained that Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, initiated the photo, saying she hoped there would be peace between Jews and Muslims and that neither side would have to send their children to the military.

“I want to stress that the purpose of the picture was only to express hope and desire for peace between the two countries,” wrote Miss Iraq Sarah Idan (in Arabic) in her latest Instagram post.

She added that the photo of the two Miss Universe contestants, which she did not remove from her Instagram account, “does not signal support for the government of Israel and does not mean I agree or accept its policies in the Arab homeland.”

Idan, whose website indicates she now lives in the US, went on to apologize “to all those who consider [the picture] harmful to the Palestinian cause.”

Idan said she faced “a lot of criticism” over the photo.

Read more at Times of Israel