Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Biden nominates Indian American as first Muslim envoy for Religious Freedom

US President Joe Biden has nominated Indian-American Rashad Hussain as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, making him the first Muslim to be nominated for the role, the White House said. 

In a statement on Friday, the White House said, “Today’s announcement underscores the President’s commitment to building an administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths. Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.”

White House said that Biden is also appointing a Pakistani American Khizr Khan to be a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USICRF), along with Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned scholar of the Holocaust and antisemitism and Sharon Kleinbaum, the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City.

Rashad Hussain

Rashad Hussain is Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. 

He previously served as Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. 

During the Obama Administration, Rashad served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and Deputy Associate White House Counsel. In his roles as Envoy, Hussain worked with multilateral organizations such as the OIC and UN, foreign governments, and civil society organizations to expand partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, health, international security, science and technology, and other areas. 

Rashad also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Rashad worked on the House Judiciary Committee, served as a judicial law clerk to the Hon. Damon Keith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and was an Associate Counsel to the Obama-Biden Transition Project. 

Rashad received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal, and Master’s degrees in Public Administration (Kennedy School of Government) and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He has also taught as Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center and the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He speaks Urdu, Arabic, and Spanish.

Hussain was born in Wyoming and was raised in Plano, Texas, the son of Indian-American immigrants. Hussain’s father, a mining engineer, moved from Bihar, India, to Wyoming in the late 1960s. A few years later, during a visit to India, he married Hussain’s mother, now an obstetrician in Plano.


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