Biden Names Indian American Rashad Hussain, Gold Star Father Khizr Khan to Top International Religious Affairs Roles
President Joe Biden July 30 nominated Indian American Rashad Hussain to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large at the office of International Religious Freedom. He is seen here in a file photo taken on Feb. 24, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Marvin Joseph /The Washington Post via Getty Images)
By SUNITA SOHRABJI/India-West Staff Reporter
President Joe Biden July 30 named Indian American Rashad Hussain and Gold Star father Khizr Khan to serve in top international religious affairs roles at the White House.
“Today’s announcement underscores the president’s commitment to build an administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths,” said the White House in a press statement, noting that, if confirmed by the Senate, Hussain will be the first Muslim American to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large at the office of International Religious Freedom.
Pakistani American Khan, whose son U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War, was appointed as a commissioner for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance and president of the AAPI Victory Fund, lauded both picks. “Given that Muslims are marginalized in American society, and often vilified, we are pleased to see that the administration has taken this step to name two prominent Muslim Americans to critical roles in the administration,” he told India-West.
Nikore said the picks of Hussain and Khan were especially important during the country’s new “racial awakening.”
“It is important to have diverse voices to ensure that everyone is lifted up at this time,” he said.
Khan told India-West he was honored to be appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which is also known as USCIRF. “It is an institution of good will, which aims to uplift human dignity and equality around the world — a hallmark of American democracy.”
“President Biden and his administration continue to be champions of human dignity, liberty, and equality not only in the U.S., but around the globe. By our example, we set a standard for interfaith tolerance and equal dignity,” said Khan, noting that religious liberty is increasingly threatened around the world.
Hussain could not be reached for comment and did not post remarks about his nomination to social media. The American Jewish Committee lauded the nomination. “Rashad Hussain is an impressive advocate of freedom of religion or belief in challenging diplomatic contexts,” said AJC CEO David Harris in a press statement. “He is an ally in the global fight against antisemitism, including in his extensive engagement with the Muslim world, and an experienced advocate for building stronger Muslim-Jewish relations.”
The organization Indian American Christians tweeted: “We look forward to working with Rashad to address the threat of Hindu nationalism in India and the US.”
Hussain currently serves as 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, Rashad served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, 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 the United Nations, foreign governments, and civil society organizations to expand partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, health, international security, science and technology, and other areas.
The White House noted that Hussain also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting 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 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. He 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.
Khan is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project. The White House noted that he is an ardent advocate for religious freedom as a core element of human dignity.
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, according to the White House.
Khan is the 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.”