Meet Noor, American Muslim
AN: When and why did you become a Muslim?
Noor: In the late 1980s, I was a professional classical singer, living and performing in New York City. One day I stopped for a cup of coffee in a cafe run by an Egyptian. We got to talking, and he mentioned that he was a Muslim. Knowing nothing about his faith, I was amazed to learn that Islam was part of the same Abrahamic tradition as Judaism and Christianity. I read an English language translation of the Quran, so I would understand the meaning of Islam from its source. In the Quran I found faith and logic combined; a complete manual with which to guide my life. In 1989 I became a Muslim.
AN: How does being a Muslim differ from your previous religious commitment?
Noor: My family and I were not big church goers—not even on Christmas and Easter. My brother and I were raised more on the model of the character of Jesus, rather than the tenets or rituals of the church. Although we were not regular church goers, I found myself very attracted to sacred music in performance. In those days, I found God most often in music and nature, rather than in houses of worship. As a Muslim, however, I am very devout in my practice.
AN: How did your family and friends react when you converted?
Noor: Happily, my mother eventually saw the beauty and similarities between Christianity and Islam, although she did mourn the loss of her “opera star” daughter. My brother, on the other hand, threatened to lock me out of the house, should I so much as don the hijab (head covering worn in public by many Muslim women). And, sadly, I did lose some close friends.
AN: How has being Muslim affected your children?
Noor: When I was 40 I married Ammar, a displaced Palestinian Muslim who had grown up in Kuwait. A year later, I gave birth to my one and only son. He was raised in a devout Muslim home and, as far as I know, has never considered any lifestyle more suitable than Islam. Having grown up with two entrepreneurial parents (we have an online Islamic multi-media, educational company), he is very much a part of the Internet age. He has traveled the world, met many kinds of people, and is comfortable with the human and cultural differences that he has met along the way. Like many people of mixed heritage, he is considered quite handsome and intelligent.
AN: What is the hardest part of living as a Muslim?
Noor: It’s frustrating always being on the defensive—explaining what Islam is NOT, rather than what it is. My passion is to share the beauty of this faith and its wisdom, the joy and peace I find in its practice. Islam has so much to offer, but we rarely get to express this.
AN: What in your religious life gives you the most satisfaction?
Noor: It’s taken me many years, but, through increasing submission to God, I now truly trust more completely that, no matter what happens, it is all part of God’s plan—even in such difficult times as these. I’ve also become a world traveler, an avid historian, an advocate and an activist. Interestingly, I have more renown as a Muslim artist than I could ever have achieved in my singing career, but no longer have any interest in notoriety. Trying to do some good and take care of my little corner in the world is quite enough.
AN: What makes you feel optimistic?
Noor: 9/11 was a disaster for all Americans, and a disaster for Muslims because our faith was hijacked by people who did not represent our religion. But this forced Muslims to leave our comfort zone and share our faith with others so that we could become known and allay fears. Just as we saw such events unfolding then, today we are also experiencing an increase in support and solidarity from many Americans.
AN: If you could, what would you ask of your fellow Americans?
Noor: Don’t be afraid to know and meet us. Open a Quran and read. Visit a local mosque. Take a tour. Observe a Friday prayer service. You will see how very similar we all are. Don’t believe everything you may hear or see in the media, from politicians and, sadly, even from some leaders of other faiths. Let’s give kindness and mutual respect a chance to soften our differences and remind us of the humanity we all share.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
• en.wikipedia.org - General information about Islam: history and characteristics, with links to additional sources
• plaidforwomen.com - TV host Shivaun Palmer interviews Noor Saadeh about her religious conversion and view of Islam
• mosaicofmuslimwomen.com - 2016 article in Mosaic: An organization that recognizes Muslim women of extraordinary accomplishments from all over the world
• noorart.com - Online Islamic multi-media, educational company created and run by Noor Saadeh and her husband Ammar, for educating and inspiring Muslim and Arab youth
• watchislamicvideo.com - Noor sings briefly, and talks about converting to Islam
• muslimobserver.com - Noor Saadeh, a Muslim perspective