Biden to Nominate First Muslim Religious Freedom Ambassador

On July 30, the Biden administration announced its intent to fill the leadership roles in the religious affairs committee. According to the White House, the positions will be under the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the U.S. Department of State. The most significant figure in this series of nominations is the nomination of the first Muslim American for the Ambassador-at-Large role for the Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rashad Hussain, an Indian-American Muslim, will be the first Muslim to hold the Ambassador role in the US International Religious Affairs Commission if the Senate approves his appointment. Along with Hussain, the other planned nominations were for the following roles: Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism with the Rank of Ambassador, and Khizr Khan and Sharon Kleinbaum as Commissioners for the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Hussain will be filling the role within the US Department of State, which was left vacant under the Trump administration left office. This role was previously filled by a former governor from Kansas, Sen. Sam Brownback. 

As a Hafiz (a person who memorized the Quran), Hussain has held similar positions under the Obama administration. He was the special envoy representing the U.S. to the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 2010. He also served on the White House Counsel as Deputy Associate, including working as a counsel for the Justice Department and the U.S. envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.

Knox Thames, a former advisor for religious minorities under the State Department, calls Hussain “a strong pick.” An expert on the American Muslim community, Saeed Khan from Wayne State University, calls Hussain’s possible nomination as a demonstration of “the importance the Biden administration places on religious freedom.”

Rashad Hussain is currently the Director of the National Security Council’s Partnerships and Global Engagement.

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