Thank you to the CU Folk & Roots Festival for sponsoring today’s Mom to Know! The Champaign-Urbana Folk and Roots Festival, which runs Nov. 5-7, is an all-volunteer-run, grassroots festival that brings together national, regional and local artists and folk organizations for more than 80 high-quality folk performances and participatory activities throughout downtown Urbana. The festival includes performances, dances, instructional sessions, jams, song-circles, family activities, storytelling, instrument-making and much, much more!
Roaa Al-Heeti is a Champaign townie with a unique world view — her parents are immigrants, and much of her family lives abroad. But her heart is fully in Champaign-Urbana, where Roaa is a practicing attorney and partner at the law firm of Dodd & Maatuka. She works with individuals and organizations in the areas of business, estate planning, guardianships, real estate and immigration. A Uni High alum and three-time University of Illinois alum (B.S., M.S. and J.D.), she is married to Saib Rasheed. They have a toddler son, Yousef, and newborn daughter Mariam who arrived just a few weeks ago. In addition to her law practice, Roaa is also closely connected to her family’s two businesses, and is very active in her religious community as well as the broader community, serving with organizations including the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and Campus Middle School in Urbana. She has been recognized by the Central Illinois Business Magazine as one of our local “40 under FORTY.”
See why we think Roaa Al-Heeti is a Chambana Mom to Know.
Q: What do you like about practicing law, particularly immigration law?
I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the solution to a problem. I can provide a new perspective to an issue of significance to my clients, and that new perspective combined with my experience and that of my law partners allows me to help my clients. I am a people person, and practicing law provides me the opportunity to meet with people, work with people, and provide meaningful solutions to people, all while allowing me the opportunity to think creatively based on the facts and laws at hand.
Q: What should we know about the Muslim community in Champaign-Urbana, and how you are involved?
The Muslim community of Champaign-Urbana is involved in almost every facet of our lives in C-U. Muslims study and work at the University of Illinois, Parkland College, the public schools and private schools. Muslims are involved in local not-for-profits. Muslims are business owners and employees.
We are every day people who work hard to provide for our families and enjoy a nice life. Don’t believe the hype on TV – our similarities as people will unite us a lot faster than our differences will divide us.
Q: You wear a hijab. What are some questions you’ve heard about your headscarf, and what do you want other women to know about this practice?
I started wearing hijab on my first day of middle school. It was a good transition point for me, meeting new people with my new “look.” The other kids used to ask me a lot of questions – do I shower in my hijab, was I hot, could they see my hair? Over the years, people have generally stopped asking me questions about hijab, maybe because it seemed rude to do so.
I have worn hijab for so many years that it a part of who I am. I wear my faith publicly, even though the topic of religion does not come up much in conversation. I am happy to identify with my religion. I believe that by living my normal, every day life and at the same time identifying myself as a Muslim woman, I am able to show the world that a Muslim woman can do what she wants in this world. I received a good education, built a career, became a business owner and have a wonderful family. I am not oppressed by anyone. I do, however, carry principles like the 10 commandments and other religious beliefs with me and allow them to guide me. We can choose to be weighed down by our faith, or we can allow it to inspire us. I choose the latter.
Q: What are you most looking forward to as you anticipate your second baby?
I can’t wait to watch her grow. I am still amazed by every milestone that my son has reached, and I am anxious to see what’s to come. The opportunity to watch another human being grow from little newborn to a walking, talking child is a gift I don’t take for granted.
Q: You are a townie who grew up here, went to school here, and never left. What keeps you around?
My family. I live close to my parents, and my siblings are in town, too. My husband has allowed his career to grow in Champaign so that I may be close to my family, and I am grateful for his doing so. My extended family lives mostly in Iraq or at least as far away as Iraq. So, over the years, our parents’ close friends became our aunts and uncles and their children our cousins. My immediate family is here, and now, so is my extended family.
Q: Tell me something most people don’t know about you.
My first job out of law school was as a legal advocate for the Rape Crisis Services, which is now RACES in Urbana (Rape Advocacy, Counseling, & Education Services). I worked here between taking the bar in July of 2007 and getting sworn in to the practice in November of 2007. This is the sort of job that you can never simply “turn off” at the end of the day. I have a great deal of respect for individuals who help victims on a daily basis, year after year. And I have a great deal of respect for victims who are willing to work within the criminal justice system toward uncertain results.