President Biden announces Indian-American and Pakistani-American candidates for religious freedom positions

Rashad Hussain, whom President Biden said he intends to nominate as Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. Official Photo

On July 30, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate and appoint individuals two South Asians to serve in key roles at the State Department and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rashad Hussain, a first-generation Indian-American, is the President’s nominee for Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. His nomination will have to be cleared by the U.S. Senate. ; and Khizr Khan has been appointed as a Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“Today’s announcement underscores the President’s commitment to build an Administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths,” the White House said in the press release.

Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. He is currently the 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, Hussain 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 Special 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.

He is also credited with spearheading efforts to counter antisemitism and protect religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Hussain  worked on the House Judiciary Committee, served as a judicial law clerk to the Judge 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.

Khizr Khan is a lawyer and a Gold Star father who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Joshua Yospyn

Khizr Khan, who lost his son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, 27, during the Iraq War, will be a Commissioner in the USCIRF. Khan is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project, and an advocate for religious freedom as a core element of human dignity. He shot to national prominence when he gave an impassioned speech during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, holding up the U.S. Constitution and asking if Presidential Candidate Donald Trump had read the document.

After immigrating to the United States in 1980, he attended Harvard Law School and obtained his LL.M degree. He is licensed to practice law before the Supreme Court of the United States, various Federal District Courts, and Washington, DC and New York State courts.

In his law practice, he devotes a substantial amount of his time to providing legal services to veterans, men and women serving in uniform, and their families, the White House noted.

Khan and his wife Ghazala, both immigrants of Pakistani origin, are Gold Star parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a University of Virginia graduate who was killed as he stopped an attack on his camp and saved the lives of scores of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Capt. Humayun Khan was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery Section 60 with full military honors.

Khizr Khan lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is author of three books, including An American Family-A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice, Founding Documents of the United States of America, and This is Our Constitution.



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