During this time of the year, with July 4th just around the corner, I get teary-eyed thinking about how grateful I am to be an American. As a young adult, I had to fight for my personal freedoms—freedom from forced marriage, to speak my mind, criticize my religion and choose my own path in life. As an adult, I work every day to help protect the same freedoms for others in the U.S.
When I first came to the U.S., I was surprised at how quickly people accepted me for who I was: a Somali-Dutch immigrant, atheist, and outspoken feminist. I was welcomed with a level of respect that I’m not sure I would have found as quickly in many other places in the world. And in this, I am not alone—many of my friends who also immigrated to the U.S. have shared the same experience with me.
This is why I always say, despite its flaws, America is the best place to be in the world no matter your race, religion, or gender. Despite our differences and struggles, few countries grant the freedoms America does.
Another example of the freedoms we are given in America can be seen in the life choices and work of Hanna Nour, a fellow of our Critical Thinking Fellowship (CTF) at the University of Central Florida. Growing up in a Muslim family, Hanna has always questioned the treatment of women within Islam. In 2019, she turned away from the religion and became an outspoken atheist. Now, Hanna uses her voice to stand up for the women who can’t use theirs across the world.
I believe in America. And, despite the many issues we are grappling with today, I believe the freedoms our country grants us will help us overcome these problems, not just today, but into the future as well. Without these freedoms, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t have had the success he did in his advocacy, Hanna would not have the ability to speak out against the dangerous ideology of Islamism the way she does now, and I couldn’t fight against gender-based violence and threats against freedom of speech.