ACLU Elects First Arab-American

November 16, 2006

Author: Mohamed Elshinnawi

Source: Voice Of America News

An activist with an Arab-American civil rights group has become the first Arab-American ever elected to the governing board of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the nation's leading civil rights watchdogs. The move by the non-profit ACLU underscores the widespread concern about Arab-American civil rights in America following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

"It is very important for the Arab American community to have our concerns heard," says Laila Qatami, the ACLU's new board member. "When we are able to help guide the legislative agenda for an organization like the ACLU, it is a very big milestone."

Since its inception in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union has had a simple mission: to ensure that the civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution are respected and preserved for all, regardless of a person's race, sex, religion or national origin.

Qatami, Communications Director at the Washington-based American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, or ADC, says since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, her organization has been handling over 2000 complaints per year about a wide range of civil rights violations involving the Arab-American community. She says the ADC frequently sought out the ACLU to help it pursue a variety of cases of discrimination against Arabs and Muslims.