20 years after 9/11, journalist Noor Tagouri deconstructs American Muslim history

Noor Tagouri it’s many things: an award-winning journalist and producer; a woman of faith; a fashion icon. But on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, she spoke to me as herself, without any labels: a 27-year-old Muslim woman grieving for her community, turned against herself by a hostile society, interpreted as a monolith in a way that robs its individual members of their sense of personality. She offered some raw thoughts on why she decided not to post about 9/11 on Instagram; the pressure to be, in quotation marks, a “good Muslim” rather than a “bad” one; and her own sense of cloudiness, of difficulty analyzing who she really is versus who she feels compelled to be for others.

Over the next few months, Tagouri, who has amassed a large following through his work as a journalist and activist, will seek out that same vulnerability in others, collecting and editing submissions for his yet-to-be-released series of documentaries and podcasts. title that should be launched. Next spring. It will feature stories of people who have been affected by inaccurate portrayals of Muslim and Arab communities – people who are Muslim themselves or those who look outward. Its purpose is to interrogate the constraints, misunderstandings, joys, fears and outlets that perpetuate, hinder and inform this intersection of faith and identity.

It is a pivotal project for Tagouri. “I deliberately avoided telling stories about Muslims for so long because I didn’t want to be typecast or typecast,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve told a story about Muslims, because I’m ready.” Here, she offers a glimpse of her head after a week defined by emotional gravity.

Vanity Lounge: I recognize that we are talking about 9/11. How are you?

Noor Tagouri: I have a lot of feelings today. I’m just realizing now, and it hits me so hard, that… our whole childhood up until now has been kind of shaped by this moment in time. [I was] on FaceTime with my 10 year old brother – he’s been on that intense 9/11 kick, watching all the documentaries and TV shows. It started from his curiosity [around] why he had to take his shoes off at the airport; why he had to [dump] water at the airport, especially because wasting food and drink in our faith is such a big thing. It wasn’t like we all talked about it at home all the time. There was no difference, at least in my recollection, between the way we spoke in our household before and after. [9/11]- except for the fact that there was always this nervousness that you were being watched and watched. And you never wanted people to see you the wrong way. One of the things [my brother] said was, “I just want people to know that we’re not all like that.” It hurts my heart that he has to think about it. It’s really, really, really hard.

How do you think you must have navigated the world after 9/11?

I got a text message from my friend saying, “I was thinking of you when I was writing an Instagram post. I thought to myself, Wow, this could be seen as bad Muslim behavior. So I deleted it.” We’ve lived our lives constantly trying to control how we’re perceived because that’s the only way to feel safe. And it’s a scary place.

There’s this amazing documentary called The feeling of being watched. This woman is essentially documenting the surveillance that takes place within her own community. There’s one thing she mentioned that really stuck with me: A lot of American Muslim communities were under surveillance – undercover feds were coming into the mosque and building trust and relationships. But the state no longer has to watch anyone because we are already acting as if it is happening. We hurt each other, we control each other; we don’t support each other. We have this hostility because of this thing that happened that led us to failure. We are always asked, “How has this huge global event impacted your life?” And I’m like, you’re thinking too big. The most monumental part of this experience is that we are still discovering who we are.

Noor Tagouri as a child in his family home in 1995.Courtesy of Noor Tagouri.

You didn’t have the space to do it.