In First, Playboy Features Journalist Noor Tagouri in a Hijab - Stirring Up an Islamic Storm

American reporter Noor Tagouri splits Islamic opinion over stigma-breaking photo shoot and interview.

Ruth Perl Baharir
Ruth Perl Baharir
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One of the photos of Noor Tagouri to appear in Playboy.
One of the photos of Noor Tagouri to appear in Playboy.Credit: Noor Tagouri's Instagram page
Ruth Perl Baharir
Ruth Perl Baharir

Muslim American journalist Noor Tagouri is the first woman to be featured in Playboy wearing a hijab headcovering. She will be appearing in the upcoming October issue as part of the magazine’s 2016 Renegades series, which celebrates those who bend the rules of their professions.

All the pictures released so far show Tagouri, 22, wearing black jeans, a white T-shirt and a leather jacket. Appearing alongside Tagouri are a feminist activist, a comedienne and an author. Last year the magazine announced that it would stop publishing photos of nude women.

Tagouri, a journalist with the Newsy website, was born in West Virginia to Libyan immigrants. In 2012 she circulated a picture of herself at an ABC newsdesk with a caption declaring herself the first American TV broadcaster to appear in a hijab, which made waves on the web and made her the center of a feminist campaign accompanied by the hashtag #LetNoorShine.

Now the young journalist is stirring up a new, even greater storm. Twitter users hastened to dub her “hoejabi” after the article was published online last week, while mainstream media outlets have also run opinion pieces for her and against her move.

Thus, for example, the Muslim Vibe website ran a piece entitled, “Why as Muslims we can’t support Noor Tagouri’s decision to feature in Playboy.” Among other things, the article says, “Noor’s actions are not a one-off instance. This is a result of Muslims attempting to integrate into the wider modern society at the expense of their Islamic principles.”

Tagouri has also been attacked by feminists. Journalist Nishaat Ismail, for example, wondered in Britain’s Independent newspaper whether there’s a need to collaborate with an institution that built itself on the backs of women’s objectification to celebrate female empowerment.

“Are the voices of women – and in particular Muslim women – buried so deep under the cries of those who claim to speak on our behalf that our only available response is involve ourselves with Playboy, a magazine that has solely existed for the past 63 years for men to gawp at the bodies of half-naked women?” Ismail wrote. “Is this really how we reclaim our own narrative?”

In contrast, journalist Aymann Ismail wrote in Slate that the media tumult over Tagouri’s appearance in Playboy diverts attention from the really important thing – the interview with her that appears in the magazine.

“Criticizing Playboy magazine’s role in controlling women’s lives seems very hypocritical when debating a Muslim woman’s right to share her story with a journalist working with that publication,” he wrote. “Sadly, it’s just another example of a Muslim woman being told how to live her life. We need more representatives like Noor, and I, for one, support her.”

Tagouri herself has yet to respond to these reactions, but in the Playboy interview she said that she tends to ignore critics. “I don’t read or pay attention to any of it. It’s just negative energy and unhealthy. I make sure to keep a great circle of people around me who keep me grounded Besides that, I just do the best I can to not worry about people who get upset because they don’t like something that I wear or say.”

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