Noor Tagouri: Actively changing perceptions of Muslim women

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By Noor Salahuddin

“This has been my dream ever since I was a kid.”

Noor Tagouri, a 19-year-old college student, wants to become the first Muslim hijabi anchorwoman in America. Two weeks ago, she was a relatively unknown entity on Facebook who posted a picture of herself sitting at the presenter’s desk at ABC News. Since then, Tagouri has become somewhat of a celebrity, with nearly 7,000 subscribers to her official Facebook page.

Her picture has accumulated more than 25,000 likes and more than 1,500 shares in a matter of days. The YouTube video in which she talks passionately about her dream and her goal of shadowing journalists like Christiane Amanpour, Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, and Wolf Blitzer has almost 50,000 views and has inspired countless individuals. Muslims and non-Muslims alike have connected on a personal level with her childhood memories of watching Oprah and aspiring to become like her one day.

But somewhere between watching and emulating Oprah, Tagouri began to question why women like herself, who are Muslim and wear the hijab, never made it onscreen in the first place. Why were they not allowed a chance at their dreams? Why was it that there was a lack of Muslims in the media?

The answer requires us to take a short detour from Tagouri’s inspirational story. Besides being underrepresented in the media, Muslim men and women are misrepresented so often so that even their mention on a television show or film brings about feelings of suspicion and deception. Representations of Muslims in media have been predominantly negative and have adversely affected both American Muslims’ lives and their image in non-Muslim Americans’ minds.

Even Hollywood films that date back to the 1920s like The Son of the Sheik and The Song of Love depict Muslim men as murderers, thieves, and degenerates whose lust for monetary gain was unparalleled. Muslim women are generally represented as meek, submissive creatures whose futures were decided by their fathers, brothers, or husbands and who needed to be rescued by white men. Such depictions mirrored the Orientalist fantasies of white male filmmakers who never bothered to go beyond the surface or challenge negative stereotypes.

Unfortunately, even today, television shows like 24, Homeland, and Sleeper Cell reinforce negative stereotypes by portraying Muslim men as terrorists and Muslim women as their unenthusiastic yet loyal supporters. At best, the Muslim woman plays a shallow distraction for men in the story, as a belly dancer in the 1920s, and as a terrorist supporter today. In this environment of misrepresentation and misunderstanding, how can Muslim women be allowed to engage with millions of Americans in a dignified, respectable manner? How can Americans be bombarded with negative imagery about Muslim women for decades on the one hand, and simultaneously, be expected to trust a Muslim hijabi woman to tell them what is going on in the world? And does Tagouri have a chance?

Watching Tagouri and following her story, I asked myself what makes her special and why so many people have responded. I believe it is because her excitement for and dedication to her dream are infectious. Watching her interact with Anderson Cooper during his live show with confidence and intelligence inspired me, along with hundreds of others, to support her dream.

Tagouri is the answer to all cynics and critics who claim loudly and often that Muslim women are not confident enough, not proud enough, not empowered enough, and not strong enough. Her dream and its eventual fulfillment challenge those Muslims and non-Muslims who treat women as inferior to men. She has the courage to do what hundreds of thousands of Muslim women never before were given the chance to do: to dream and work hard towards change.

When Tagouri’s dream of becoming the first Muslim hijabi anchorwoman comes true, television and film producers will realize that their one-dimensional characterizations of Muslim women need to change. A Muslim woman can be an anchorwoman, a radio show host, an activist, or an author. She need not only be a foil or sounding board for a male character. Millions of Muslim women like me see themselves in Tagouri’s struggle for acceptance, for gaining respect and taking back their identities from the men behind television shows like Homeland. With her zeal and confidence, she has inspired me to find my inner voice and follow my own dreams and I believe she will do so for countless other Muslim women as well.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Chicago Monitor’s editorial policy.

 

14 Responses to Noor Tagouri: Actively changing perceptions of Muslim women

  1. True Beauty Comes From Within Not a Picture says:

    First of all, I don’t get where you believe that she is changing the perceptions of Muslim women in this country. She posts a picture, gets a few likes and suddenly she’s taking charge of representing the change in anti-islamic attitude towards Muslim women, all because she has a dream to be on TV? Reality check, Networks will not be crawling over themselves to put her on TV and this country is not emotionally ready because we have all failed to educate them.

    I just checked out her page and it can only be described as nothing more than self promotion to get her somewhere in life. She even used that CNN Muslim Icon from Tennessee, ‘Lema Sbenaty’ to get her a shadow job with Soledad O’Brien. She even encourages others to share her picture so that she can gain popularity. So basically everyone is supporting this beauty queen who is happily gloating about her conquest of popularity. What ever happened to being humble?

    • Noor Tagouri says:

      Lema Sbenaty is one of my closest friends, and had NOTHING to do with me getting the shadowing opprotunity with Soledad. Someone working with Soledad contacted me after seeing my video. And it wasn’t me posting the picture that got me where I am today. You should do a little more research on me before you start to jump to conclusions and spew out negativity. Peace be with you.

      • Nesreen says:

        Why does everything have to be about being recognized as a Muslim? Why can’t you be recognized for your actual talent and love of sharing news with this great country. I hope you fulfills Gods will whatever it may be, but please do remember that this is America-not the Middle East. This country doesn’t owe anyone anything …we all have to work for what we want and should not be granted specific entitlements simply because there has never been a “Muslim women wearing the hijab on the news”. I pray God will continue to bless you on your journey. I also pray that our Muslim brothers and sisters who find themselves in the public eye will always have respect for this country and the foundations it was built on. God bless.

      • Caesar Ali says:

        I completely agree with True Beauty Comes From Within Not a Picture. She is a perfect example of a house negro as brother Malcom X said trying to stay close and beloved by his master. I know this woman from the PGCC the community college and didn’t really spot any talent, knowledge based or otherwise. Noor has done a perfect job in using religion and the current perception of Muslim community in the US for her personal cheap fame. Well with this drama, you can probably secure a reporter job (pays around 50k) but not getting anywhere with perception changing. Now the real question; how many books or articles have you written to get 80k likes on facebook? None. So we can see where that pretty face is strategically used to become famous and sell cheap dreams to the Muslim community which is actually doing better than the rest of America currently.
        One last work, you are nothing but a fame thirsty twat and btw don’t accuse me of being a red-neck. I’m a Muslim myself and totally understand the stereotypical American that we are living in. People like you are so called the reps of Islam in American with hypocrisy seeping thought your pores. Good luck with your ambitions young lady.

    • Alice says:

      What you don’t understand is that self promotion (which is not a bad thing, btw) is being empowered for a person who’s been oppressed. Recognizing and shouting out loud that you have worth is inspiring. I HATE that successful women are always viewed as conceited. According to people like you, we should let stigmas make us afraid to challenge what is “normal”. Why shouldn’t she post pictures of herself? Because she’s pretty? We should be happy for our fellow women and spend less time judging them.

    • lilla m says:

      I agree! Its not about the looks. Noor is fake, and it “shines” through. Total self promotion to get somewhere in life! Couldn’t have said it better. Narcissistic girl, who hasn’t seen much in life, and preaches??? Its ridiculous. She has nothing to say really… Banality after banality coming out of her mouth. Sad.

  2. Gulzar Ahmed says:

    I congratulate Noot Tagouri for her persistence, fortitude, and strength of character. She along with millions of Muslim women are trying to fight the stereotype and are being successful. She has proven you may overcome despite the odds.

    Women have been treated poorly throughout history, irrespective of which culture or religion. To see them achieve success, to get recognition for their potential, and to get their well deserved respect, make me happy. And especially for Muslim women, who have been mistreated by Muslims as well as non Muslims, Noor Tagouri makes me proud.

    Gulzar Ahmed

  3. Abulkasim Zwary says:

    The power of positive thinking is a key factor and she certainly has got it in place. Keep going Noor. You are a model for so many young girls an in particular those of the same culture.

  4. zahra says:

    I am inspired and encouraged by this story! Noor is a beautiful and smart woman that IS definitely changing perceptions of Muslim women just by putting herself out there. ‘True Beauty Comes From Within Not a Picture’ seems a tad bit jealous and angry that Noor is getting attention. I don’t agree that the country is not “emotionally ready” for a Muslim Anchorwoman- I think a Muslim Anchorwoman would certainly make the country emotionally ready for more Muslims in the media.

    I agree with Abulkasim above – Keep going Noor!

  5. bluesky says:

    would be delightful to see a woman with hijab as a news anchor. will it mean perceptions of muslim women will magically change? certainly not. but it will certainly contribute to normalizing hijab and boosting women’s confidence to don the garb, if they so desire. there will be many critics Noor. Just keep your intentions pure, and don’t get carried away when you reach your goals inshallah. look forward to seeing your face more often. and i guess remember, that you are your own person. wearing the hijab will inspire many, but does not make you the representative of muslim women, just as Barbara Walters isn’t a representation of white american women. I think that thought would lessen the burden on me if I were in your position :) power to you noor!

  6. Now I am going to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming again to read
    additional news.

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  8. A stranger says:

    I find your humilty in your work , challenging a stereotype can leave you feeling alone and surrounded , yet its the best place for change , you will inspire a stranger , someone you might never meet , all in your hard work and dedication , change is already happening , Thank you .

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