Growing up as a Muslim woman of color, I rarely saw women who spoke like me, looked like me, and dressed like me in the mainstream media. Every once in a while, I’d see a Muslim female character on a Netflix TV series but the representation was far from reality. It wasn’t until a few years ago I saw more Muslim women get the recognition that they deserve in mainstream media and I saw more women with skin like mine on broadcast television.
In this article, I’ve listed a total of six inspiring Muslim women of color who have attained tremendous achievements and made a name for themselves in the field of film direction, media production, journalism, and reporting and have inspired me to pursue a media-related career.
Nour Taggouri – Libyan-American Journalist, Activist, and Producer
If you have been keeping up with the world of media production and journalism, you are not unaware of this Libyan-American journalist who has done extensive work in the field of journalism and reporting. She started her career in the field of broadcast journalism in June 2012 at CBS Radio as an intern. Nour Taggouri has produced many documentary series, including a series called “The Trouble They’ve Seen: The Forest Haven Story,” which depicts the mistreatment faced by individuals with disabilities. Taggouri also produced a podcast series named “Sold in America: Inside Our Nation’s Sex Trade,” which was based on sex trafficking in the USA. This podcast series provided the audience with a window into the industry of sex trade in America. Sold in America podcast was downloaded more than 1.5 million times and was released on Hulu, Facebook Watch, and Amazon. And in 2020, Taggouri launched her very own podcast series titled “Podcast Noor,” where she covered a range of different subjects.
Dena Takruri – Palestinian – American Journalist & Producer
Dena Takruri is a charismatic on-air presenter, and journalist. She is currently a producer with AJ+, which is a news network for Al Jazeera Media in San Francisco. Dena Takruri is of Palestinian descent but was born in San Fransico, and believes that the power of journalism lies in the ability to provide a voice for the voiceless. In September 2015, Dena Takruri covered Europe’s refugee crises by using Facebook Live as a tool and she was one of the first journalists to do so. In an interview with Nieman Storyboard, she said, “As a minority in America, you see how people are reported on and how they’re often dehumanized and not given their fair shake. Seeing the really negative portrayal of Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians, which I also am, I wanted to correct that.” She was also featured in the Emmy nominated series titled “The Secret Life of Muslims.” Dena Takruri reported on a variety of topics ranging from domestic politics, to foreign affairs, and even fashion and lifestyle while working as a producer and host for HuffPost Live in New York City. Majority of the stories she reported revolved around the Muslim-American and Arab-American communities.
Eman Idil Bare – Somali- Ethiopian-Canadian Designer, Journalist & Advocate
Eman Idil Bare is a journalist, modest fashion designer, and an advocate for ethical manufacturing. She was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, but her ethnicity is from Somalia and Ethiopia. Eman has written for numerous publications such as the Muslim Girl, The Demureist, CBC News, Huffington Post, and Teen Vogue. Eman Idil Bare is a graduate of the University of Regina School of Journalism, where upon graduation she was awarded the CTV Investigative Journalism scholarship. After college, Eman was among 23 women to be selected across Canada to speak at the Bold Vision Conference in Prince Edward Island. Eman recently launched a fashion label of her own name, “Eman Idil Designs.” Her fashion line focuses on providing equal employment opportunities to Muslim women from marginalized communities, and the women who come to Saskatchewan, Canada as refugees, work for Eman Idil Designs to create handcrafted fabrics and attires.
Yunalis Binti Mat Zara’ai – Malaysian Singer
Yuna is a Malaysian singer and songwriter. Her original name is Yunalis binti Mat Zara’ai. Yuna has been writing songs since the age of fourteen. However, she gained success when her very first song went viral on Myspace and it received more than one million plays. Yuna’s online success led her to bag a record deal with Fader Label. Yuna’s breakthrough song titled “Deeper Conversations” led her to win the Best Song at the Malaysian equivalent of the Grammys in 2008. In 2012, Yuna attained international success when she toured with Lollapalooza and recorded a song with Pharrell Williams titled “Live Your Life.” In 2016, Yuna’s single featuring Usher titled “Crush” topped the singles chart in Malaysia and reached the R&B chart in the U.S.
Najwa Zebian Lebanese-Canadian Self Published Poetess
Those who love reading poetry from Instagram are not unaware of Najwa Zebian and her heart-warmingly magical words. With almost a following of 1.1 Million followers on Instagram, she has written and self-published four collections of books titled “Mind Platter,” “The Nectar of Pain,” “Welcome Home,” and “Sparks of Phoenix.” One of the most inspiring things about Zebian is how she shattered the stereotype surrounding the low success rate of self-published authors. I mean, what CAN’T be accomplished if an individual remains consistent and works towards his goals? Zebian moved to Canada when she was sixteen and was originally born in Lebanon. She is currently a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and is also a secondary school teacher for children with refugee backgrounds. Najwa Zebian’s tremendous writing style led her to be featured in many major publications such as the Time of India, BBC, Glamour, and CBS News. Some of the topics Zebian writes about are trauma, politics, emotional and sexual harassment, discrimination, and displacement.
Annemarie Jacir – Palestinian Filmmaking Activist and Storyteller
Annemarie Jacir is a versatile filmmaker, producer, and writer with a career of more than thirty years and has produced, written, and directed sixteen films. In her movies, Annemarie Jacir explores the topics of diaspora and belonging in Palestine and uses her movies as a form of activism against the Israeli occupation of Palestine through the art of storytelling. In 2003, Jacir’s short movie “Like Twenty Possible” gained international praise and it was also the very first Arab film featured in the Official Selection of the Cannes International Film Festival. In 2008, Annemarie Jacir directed a feature film titled, “Salt of This Sea,” which made her the very first female Palestinian to direct a film. And the “Salt of This Sea,” earned her nominations for the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard and Golden Camera awards. Some of the other movies where she used the art of storytelling to convey to celebrate the endurance, audacity, and hope of the Palestinian identity were “When I Saw You (2012)” and “Wajib (2017).” She is currently based in Palestine and has established an artist-run space in Bethlehem called “Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research.”
Oftentimes, Muslim women’s accomplishments are pushed under the rug. However, despite the lack of representation of Muslim women in media, many female Muslims are doing tremendous works in the areas of mainstream media that have further inspired the younger generation of Muslim women to pursue different careers in the media field.
Isn’t it about time we start appreciating Muslim women for who they are instead of judging them based on what they wear, how they speak, and what religion they practice and start to see them for what positive changes they aspire to bring, not only in their respective communities, but to minority communities worldwide through their hard work, persistence, dedication, commitment, and zeal?