UCI Welcomes Queen Noor

Peter Huynh/New University

Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan offered words of inspiration at a sold-out event Wednesday night, speaking about her humanitarian work and the work that can be done to create a more tolerant and peaceful world.


She was the fifth guest in the “Living Peace Series” presented by the Center for Living Peace in partnership with UC Irvine. Located across the UCI campus, the Center for Living Peace, run by Kelly Thornton Smith, highlights teaching children the fundamentals of tolerance and peace. Chancellor Michael Drake opened the event and welcomed both Smith and Queen Noor to the Pacific Ballroom for the evening. Drake expressed his delight to be partnered with the Center for Living Peace. He also mentioned how these inspiring installments fulfill “the four pillars of excellence.” “Peace begins right here,” Smith said, pointing to her heart before introducing Her Majesty.


Queen Noor has dedicated her reign to advocating for several organizations that promote peace, nuclear disarmament, education and environmental sustainability. She is the founding member of Global Zero, which aims to eliminate nuclear weaponry around the world. Her Majesty is also an active member of Ocean Elders, an independent organization utilizing the global influence of its members to promote ocean conservation.


Much of her work, however, is done through the King Hussein Foundation, which she started after her husband died of lymphatic cancer in 1999. The King Hussein Foundation’s mission is to bring peace and cross-cultural understanding to Jordan, the Middle East and across the globe. Throughout the interview, Queen Noor spoke of her husband’s admirable lifelong efforts.


His dedication and legacy to human security and social equality is what drives Queen Noor to continue on her husband’s humanitarian path. Armaan Rowther, the 2011-2012 XIV Dalai Lama Scholar and founder of the club Leap of Faith, was selected by Queen Noor herself to conduct the evening’s hour-long interview. Rowther received his Dalai Lama Scholar title because of his community service and work with his club. Leap of Faith is a UCI-based club that promotes students to express differing inner faiths in a welcoming environment.


“Leap of Faith UCI [provides] an opportunity for students to engage with each other across lines of difference [and] engage with each other across different faith traditions,” Rowther said in a video prior to the interview. Various members from Rowther’s club supplied the questions that touched on the Queen’s personal “leaps of faith” and attempts to promote peace around the world. Her marriage, Queen Noor said, was her greatest leap of faith. Her Majesty and King Hussein were “from two different worlds.” Her Majesty Noor was born in Southern California and spent her life in the United States until she received her bachelor’s degree in architecture and urban planning from Princeton University in 1973. She was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby from Syrian and Swedish decent. Her marriage to King Hussein was a life-altering event, but she explained how she never lost faith with herself. “Having faith in the possibility [of] your efforts,” Her Majesty said, “is the most important faith of all.”


Being such a powerful figure as well as a Muslim woman, she received questions such as,“In your eyes, what are the values of Islam that need to be appreciated?” Her Majesty mentioned the deep history and powerful faith that Islam is permeated by. She is a firm believer in the tolerance of other religions around the world and that through education, true understanding be built.“It is important for all of us to reach out and try to understand the belief systems and traditions of other cultures in our world,” Queen Noor said. Questions dealing with Middle Eastern stability and thoughts on the role of social networking in such a revolutionary time prompted long answers by Her Majesty. She repeatedly touched on her belief that education is key in the development of inner faith and global peace. To her, social networking is merely an outlet for a revolution that has been in the making for years. The Queen reprimanded the leaders of the world for their priorities. “When over $1 trillion are spent on the military and $1 billion on aid, something is not right with our world,” Her Majesty said. When speaking on how UCI students could be influential, Her Majesty urged for students to find their passions and work with them. She said that students would begin their influential journeys through finding what they excel in. “Start there. Just reaching out to one other person is, in and of itself, a peaceful gesture,” Queen Noor said. Rowther wound down the interview with asking Her Majesty what she finds as her inspiration. She emphasized that tolerance and peace should begin to be taught at a young age at the center of strong family values. Her Majesty continued to say how she appreciated the work Rowther and his club has done with their community service and believes that the work they are doing is something to be admired.  “You, Armaan, inspire me because your efforts bring people together,” Queen Noor said. “I am grateful to you for being such an active part of this and for being that change that you want to see in the world.”