Slma Shelbayah is a Broadcast Journalist and Communications Consultant. She is a Producer/Assignment Editor for CNN and also a Writer for CNN.com. Her career includes breaking news coverage with CNN International, spanning the regions of the Middle East, Asia and Africa and varying across national and international topics including stories covering Arab and Muslim Diasporas. [Taken from slmashelbayah.com]
Sakeena Abdulraheem is one of the Founding Members of Falling Walls Initiative. Falling Walls Initiative was founded by Darakshan Raja, Maha Hilal, and Mawish Raza.
“Falling Walls was born out of a research project led by one of the founders on the state of responses to crime victimization in the American Muslim community. As one of the first research studies in the field, the study found that the number one challenge identified within the American Muslim community on addressing abuse and victimization was denial from within the community. With rates of abuse in the Muslim community of one in two persons, a team of skilled professionals from fields such as criminal justice, psychology, counseling, human rights, journalism and media, initiated Falling Walls with the express purpose of breaking the barriers to addressing victimization within the Muslim community. Our work is based on direct services, applied research and the dissemination of research and practice through social media.”
Sakeena holds an BA in Spanish and International Studies from Meredith College, and an MA in Islamic Studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her MA in counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma and crisis intervention. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant. Sakeena currently counsels victims of domestic violence as an interning therapist at the House of Ruth MD. She also consults as an online counselor for OnIslam English. Her expertise and interests include cultural competency, post traumatic stress disorder, working with bicultural and multicultural families in transition, refugees, and orphans, survivors of violent crimes, women’s issues, gender based violence, sexual, and domestic violence. Sakeena has an assertive and directive therapeutic approach and believes in addressing conditions in a holistic manner. Sakeena is currently a founding member of Falling Walls.
Noor Tagouri is a 19-year-old college student wanting to become the first Muslim hijabi anchorwoman in America. She was the youngest commencement student speaker at Prince George’s Community College in 2012 at the age of 18 and spoke at the 53rd Commencement Exercises of Prince George’s Community College. Noor is currently attending the University of Maryland and is majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in International Development and Conflict Management.
MH: You recently became the youngest commencement speaker at Prince George’s Community College at the age of 18 years old. Most students are graduating high school at that age. How did you get to become the youngest student speaker at Prince George’s Community College?
During my junior year of high school, I was taking a college course in the evening and had tested into the honors program at the community college. I decided to homeschool my senior year of high school that summer and start in the program that fall. I took summer and winter classes as well in order to graduate within a year and a half, and finished at 18, alhamdulilah.
Tell us more about your experience being one of the younger students in your school. What challenges did you face? What was your experience like?
I’ve always been one of the youngest in my classes because of my late birthday, but being the youngest in my crowd of college friends was never a challenge, it was a blessing. I had a plethora of mentors, advisors, and “older school siblings,” that were constantly looking out for me. The Honors Program at Prince George’s Community College really is like a school family. I loved being the “baby” of the group. There was never any animosity or negativity in our friendship circle, and I was even nicknamed “Little NoNo.” Man, I miss them!
MH: You’re attending the University of Maryland College Park. How do you feel about changing universities? What are your expectations of the university and of yourself?
I’m glad I can finally taking only courses that are towards my major and minor. I’m excited to learn more and gain the skills I need for my field! UMD has one of the country’s top journalism schools and has an incredible international development conflict management program (my minor.) So, I’m really learning a lot and am just trying to soak in as much as possible.
MH: Recently, you’ve begun a campaign to become the first Muslim American hijabi news anchor on television and have inspired a lot of Muslim American hijabis. What drives you to become a journalist?
I’ve always wanted to be a broadcast journalist or tv personality. I’ve always loved asking questions and telling stories. It was the only career I wanted since I was 8. I think it’s important for people to have their voices heard to the masses. But, when going through national television stations, you don’t see too much diversity. I’m going to change that, inshallah.
Honestly, that’s a tough question. What first comes to mind is something like GMA on ABC, or a show on CNN. Possibly my own show on the OWN Network, since Oprah is one of my biggest inspirations and Lisa Ling kept telling me how amazing it is to work for Oprah! And when I’m older, possibly something like The View? We’ll just have to see what God has in His plans for me.
MH: Have you spoken to other Muslim American hijabis or Muslims who work in media? What advice have they given you?
I’ve spoken to few. They tell me it’ll be tough for me to make it, the field isn’t too friendly for hijabis. The Muslim women who know me personally that have advised me throughout my life and work in the media are my mentors. And have constantly encouraged me and helped me get to where I am. They tell me it’ll be hard, but they’re certain I can do it.
MH: What challenges do you feel women who wear the hijab in media-related jobs and entertainment? How can we as Muslim Americans overcome them?
I think the challenges vary amongst the women. Some challenges would include the limitations between the opposite gender and others would be obviously be maintaining modest dress.
MH: You’ve met a lot of famous celebrities and high level celebrities. How did you get to meet them? Who have you met that made the biggest impact on you? What advice did they give you?
A lot of the prominent journalists I’ve met and talked to were as a result of attending the right events, networking, and being persistent…Anderson Cooper, Lisa Ling, Ted Koppel, Wolf Blitzer, Martha Raddatz. The artists I have met were as a result of working at one of DC’s biggest radio stations WPGC….Lupe Fiasco, Alicia Keys, Nelly Furtado, Big Sean, Trey Songz, OAR, Ashanti etc etc. I’d have to say the best encounter was with Lisa Ling because I met her on my 19th birthday for my birthday dinner and we talked a lot! She gave me a lot of advice and insight on her career. We still keep in touch.
MH: You’re still early on in your career, but what advice would you give those Muslim American hijabis seeking to pursue your career path?
We are a professional networking group for journalists. Our goal is to encourage Muslim Americans to enter the ranks of journalism and improve standards of journalistic coverage of Muslims.
The purpose of MAJA is to provide a forum for Muslim journalists to network and share ideas, experiences and advice. It will serve as a resource and mouthpiece for Muslim American journalists as we struggle to develop our unique professional identities.
MAJA is a nonpartisan organization that is open to individuals of any race or ethnic background with a strong interest in promoting fair and accurate coverage of Muslims in the media, and those involved in fields of communications, including journalism, freelance writing, television, radio, newspapers, newsletters, public relations, advertising, marketing, IT communications, public affairs, poetry, fiction writing and non-fiction writing.
elanthemag.com is a daily, online publication on global Muslim youth culture. Formerly known in print form as elan Magazine, elan offers witty, engaging, thought-provoking and sometimes sarcastic takes on the issues that matter to our fellow young, hip Muslims. In addition to daily commentary from our bloggers on topics ranging from entertainment to politics, elan includes feature articles from prominent voices within our community, roundtable discussions by young Muslim leaders on hot topics, photo-essays, videos, profiles, special sections like “WTFatwa” and “Policy Shift,” and much more.