"I truly believe in the American vision, where we welcome whoever wants to come here—and bring their identity with them"
Ahmed Soussi is a proud Libyan American, who currently works as the Civil Rights Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Arizona. His father arrived in the US at 18 years old to further his education and his mother moved to the US around the age of 10 looking for economic stability and safety from the Gadaffi dictatorship, that spanned from 1969-2011. Despite the pressure to assimilate into American culture, both sides of his family continue to bask in their heritage eating Libyan food, holidays, and wearing traditional garments. For Ahmed this is a way to connect with and share his roots in Libya as continuing civil unrest makes it unsafe for him to visit.
Ahmed has a family heritage of resistance dating back to the era of Mussolini when his great-grand-uncle and others began a resistance against the Italian colonization of Libya. His family’s resistance in Libya inspired his own. After 9/11 and again after the 2016 US Presidential election, Ahmed reflected on the social implications of being a Muslim as he saw anti-Muslim sentiment spreading across the country and decided to become a civil rights attorney, one who would proudly celebrate and share Muslim culture while fighting to protect Muslim communities.
"We want to be their neighborhood Muslim"
Ahmed knows that immigrant populations as especially vulnerable to civil rights violations because they are often unaware of what they are entitled to in the US, due to lack of resources, or differences in their country’s government. Ahmed and CAIR work to be a resource for people in his own community; “We want to be there as their neighborhood Muslim.” Ahmed and CAIR have been proud co-hosts of asylum clinics for Afghan evacuees with PLAN and the International Rescue Committee. Ahmed is going to be greatly missed by the community as he departs his role as CAIR’s Civil Rights Director at the end of May to continue this important work at the Southern Poverty Law Center in New Orleans.