Dalia Mogahed: I was born in Cairo, Egypt.
I think that where I was born has helped me to straddle two cultures. I am both western as well as Middle Eastern. I understand the points of view of two cultures. And more importantly they co-exist in perfect harmony within me, which has really inspired me to be a bridge between these two cultures in today’s world.
Question: What was your primary influence as a child?
Dalia Mogahed: I think several things. I would say my parents first and foremost were huge influences for me. They taught me my core values, my ethics, my sense of responsibility, my sense of a need to help bring about social justice and never compromising ethics for expediency. That’s really the gift my parents gave me.
Aside from that, I would say my peer group and then books. I think there are some specific books that really helped shape who I am, one of them actually being the autobiography of Malcolm X which I read as a teenager. And what that taught me was that a person can really evolve and grow from something very narrow to something very universal. And that growth is possible only through introspection.
Question: What did you think you would be doing professionally when you grew up?
Dalia Mogahed: I thought that I would be working in hard sciences. My undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering, and I thought that that was what I would be doing for the rest of my life. And I always believed that I could apply science for the benefit of humanity. So that was always my goal.
As my career evolved, I took that scientific rigor and brought it to the social sciences. And I think it’s been a real asset to what I’m doing now.
Recorded on: July 3, 2007.