Laila | Member Spotlight - Learn why being a member of the ACLU of Rhode Island is a great investment.

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Laila

There are many reasons why I feel compelled to not only be a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, but to also become actively involved with pursuing their goals, objectives, and plans by hopefully being elected as the next president of Roger William’s University School of Law’s ACLU student chapter. The passion I have for the ACLU stems from my life experience of growing up in arguably the most conservative country in the world, Saudi Arabia. I was raised under gender segregation laws, where women are treated as second class citizens, and where patriarchy and organized religion shapes our social policies which affects our basic civil liberties that many people take for granted. 


In Saudi Arabia, censorship is absolute. The Qur’an is the ultimate truth; to argue otherwise allows one to be subject of severe punishment by the law. Despite being raised by libertarian parents who despised organized religion, I was forced to attend an all-girls madrassa, where we spent the majority of each day memorizing scripture, in Arabic, from the Qur’an. Prayer attendance was strictly enforced. The teachers taught with zeal and took advantage of people’s fears. I didn’t experience freedom of speech in the classroom; instead, I was silenced by teachers and ridiculed by my peers for asking questions. This is how I was taught how to be a Muslim. 



In stark contrast to my life in Saudi Arabia, the United States not only allows their citizens to practice different religions, but they explicitly encourage the diversity of religious and spiritual practices. The First Amendment's guarantee of my right to choose to practice (or not to practice) a religion is a celebration to me of the freedom that the original writers of the Bill of Rights craved so dearly, in their newly founded country, more than two-hundred years ago. Rhode Island’s history of being the first state to truly recognize and realize the values of free speech and religious liberty led me to be here and study law. 



My dream is to one day become a First Amendment lawyer and work with the ACLU because they stand for everything I believe in. My drive, passion, and commitment to freedom and civil liberties come straight from my center. I am an Arab-American, and because of where I’ve been, and all the injustices that I have witnessed, I can tell you directly — I will not stand by as people are denied their basic human freedoms. I am honored to be a part of the ACLU because they help me prepare to fight the battle I intend to wage against violators of civil liberties.

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