Laila Alawa was born to Syrian parents in Denmark in 1991. Her family subsequently lived in Japan for several years, and then immigrated to the United States when the girl was ten. Alawa went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education studies from Wellesley College in 2012, and also studied leadership and social entrepreneurship at the University of Cambridge. She became a U.S. citizen on April 14, 2015. “But I will always be Syrian,” Alawa wrote seven months later. “I will always be from Syria. I will always be of Syria.”
Since March 2011, Alawa has been as advisory board member with the humanitarian-aid organization NuDay Syria.
In 2014 Alawa launched Laila Alawa Consulting, a firm that develops marketing and sales strategies for nonprofits, new technology businesses, and personalities. She continues to head this company.
Alawa has long regarded the United States as a nation that oppresses and abuses Muslims, as she explained in a July 2014 piece which she wrote for The Guardian, titled “Muslims Aren’t Shocked to Discover We Are Watched.” Therein, Alawa said that ever since her arrival in America, she had “learned to view” law-enforcement officials and “my new government” with “a certain level of suspicion.” “After 9/11,” Alawa elaborated, “I learned quite quickly to keep my head down because I thought that, if I could stay under most people’s radars, I could thrive in a world in which stories of warrantless deportations, faith-based workplace discrimination (and termination) and arrests that resulted in unending detention were common.” Citing “the reality of constant surveillance, government stings and wannabe informants” to which she believed Muslims in the U.S. were being subjected, Alawa lamented that “my long-held suspicions have been confirmed—the knowledge that my faith makes me suspicious in the eyes of the government to which I’ve pledged my allegiance…. We know that we’re often discriminated against by our government and our fellow Americans.”
Alawa regularly disseminates views like these in her work as an opinion writer. She contributes not only to The Guardian, but also to such publications as Salon, Glamour, The Atlantic, Mic News, The Huffington Post, The Toast, and The Islamic Monthly. Further, she hosts The Exposé, a weekly podcast devoted to “tackling contemporary topics with wit and brutal honesty.”
Alawa also describes herself as an “online activis[t]” whose mission is “to elevate the voices of those who are often not heard.” Her specialties include “millennial issues, digital strategy, minority identity, gender advocacy and social media analysis.” Alawa’s Twitter posts are rife with allegations of American racism and Islamophobia. Some examples:
Another tweet that drew much attention to Alawa was her September 10, 2014 assertion that “9/11 changed the world for good, and there’s no other way to say it.” But Alawa later claimed that her use of the term “for good” meant “permanently” and was not intended to suggest that the terrorist attacks were positive events.
In 2015, Alawa was one of 15 people whom the Obama administration appointed to serve on the newly formed Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Subcommittee on Countering Violent Extremism, which sought to promote the notion that authentic Islam is a peaceful faith that has nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism. In June 2016, this Subcommittee issued a report recommending that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) de-emphasize Islam’s terrorist ties by devoting more attention to the transgressions of “anarchists, sovereign citizens, white-supremacists, and others.” The Subcommittee also advised that the DHS—in order to avoid offending Muslims—should begin “using American English instead of religious, legal and cultural terms like ‘jihad,’ ‘sharia,’ ‘takfir,’ or ‘umma’” when discussing terrorism.
Since May 2015, Alawa has been a scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, whose mission is to promote Muslim Americans’ interests and to enhance their public image.
Alawa also serves as CEO of The Tempest (formerly called Coming of Faith), a Washington, D.C.-based media and tech company which she founded in 2016 to address the needs and interests of “diverse millennial women.”
For additional information on Laila Alawa, click here.
Further Reading: “Laila Alawa” (LinkedIn.com); “Syrian Immigrant Who Said 9/11 ‘Changed the World for Good’ Is a Homeland Security Adviser” (Daily Caller, 6-13-2016); “Muslims Aren’t Shocked to Discover We Are Watched” (by Laila Alawa, 7-22-2014); “Meet Laila Alawa, the 25-Year old Syrian Immigrant on DHS Advisory Council Who Wants to Curb Your Speech Rights” (CounterJihad.com, 6-15-2016); “Interim Report and Recommendations” (Countering Violent Extremism Subcommittee, June 2016).