Dozens of students gathered in the Pegasus ballroom Tuesday afternoon to listen to journalist and motivational speaker, Noor Tagouri. The speaking event was hosted by UCF’s Multicultural Student Center for as part of the Month of the Women speaking event; which celebrated the influential women in today’s society.
Tagouri, a Libyan-American who graduated from the University of Maryland at the age of 20, has made international headlines for becoming America’s first Hijabi broadcast journalist. Besides traveling both nationally and internationally to cover events from the expansion of the mosque in Mecca to the Pope’s first mass in the Vatican, she has gained a following of support and admiration due to her quest of breaking Muslim stereotypes while empowering the community.
Maryam Arshad, a junior majoring in international & global studies, who has followed Tagouri’s journey through her vlogs and social media, says that she is inspired by the drive and motivation that Tagouri is always emphasizing and that she is a great role model for young Muslim girls.
“I think she [Tagouri] is really interesting in terms of women’s empowerment. especially in Muslim women maintaining their identity,” Arshad said. “She is a brilliant person in terms of what she does and how she goes about things.”
Tagouri started off her presentation by addressing the unfortunate terrorist attack that occurred in Belgium early Tuesday morning and how the nature of these types of attacks have such an effect on the Muslim community especially.
“It’s always hard to have to mourn the loss of so many innocent people and at the same time having to deal with the backlash,” Tagouri said, referring to how she has already gotten messages from Muslims across the country who are scared of the repercussions from this attack.
“How many times do we have to say that this has nothing to do with our religion and how we condemn these attacks,” Tagouri continues. “It’s always a challenge. And it’s something that we always have to address and challenge.”
Tagouri expanded on her motivational speech by reminding those in the room about the significant nature of wearing a hijab and how it is not a form of oppression but in fact, a form of empowerment.
“When a woman decides to wear a hijab, she wears it for her own personal reasons. You can never compare a person who wears a hijab and a person who doesn’t,” Tagouri explained. “ A hijab, the essence of it, comes down to your character. It comes down to who you are as a person. It’s not just a scarf that you throw on to your head. It’s about more on how that you carry yourself.”
Sarah Addelhameed, a junior biology major, came to hear what Tagouri had to say in regards to the rise in violence around the world and especially how this impacts youths of the Islamic faith.
“There have been a lot of recent events of increasing violence in the world,” Addelhameed said. “I follow her on instagram and I think she has a lot good things to say on how to address these type of things.”
While Tagouri kept her talk light-hearted; speaking of memories of her childhood and a love for Oprah and Chick-fil-a, she also spoke of more serious matters facing the community, like the rise in racism and xenophobia.
“People are filled with hate. People make stereotypes, make assumptions, because there is so much hurt, chaos, and turmoil in the world,” Tagouri said, referring to the backlash that often occurs after broadcasted terrorist attacks. “You can’t flat out blame people for thinking the way they do because not everyone is knowledgeable about the [Muslim] religion and its people.”
Tagouri stressed to the room of enthusiastic students about how, despite all the negativity and obstacles they may face, to never give up on a dream that they aspire to accomplish.
“Everything you want is right outside your comfort zone,” Tagouri said, “No one owes you. You have to work for what you want.”
Tagouri, who is the founder of both #LetNoorShine campaign and the Noor Effect, which is a movement to combat human trafficking, continues to break cultural stereotypes through motivating others and reporting on issues that affect the vulnerable people of the community.
Most recently, Tagouri created an investigative documentary called, ‘The Trouble They’ve Seen: The Forest Haven Story’, which was released November of 2015. The short film told the stories of the top ten worst cases of medical abuse in American history.
Tagouri is expected to continue her travels across the country to attend more some more speaking events which will include Memphis and Boston later this week.