- Indian American Rashad Hussain has been nominated as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, while Gold Star father Khizr Khan has been appointed commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
President Biden has chosen two South Asian Americans to serve in key religious affairs roles. Rashad Hussain has been nominated as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. The Office of International Religious Freedom in the Department of State was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. If confirmed, Hussain will be the first Muslim to serve in this position.
The President has also appointed Gold Star father Khizr Khan as commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Currently the Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council, Hussain previously served as Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. During the Obama administration, he 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. As an 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 also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries, the White House said in a press release announcing Hussain’s appointment.
Before 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.
Hussain’s parents are naturalized citizens from India and live in Plano, Texas. 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.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the Biden administration for Hussian’s nomination. “Rashad Hussain is an impressive advocate of freedom of religion or belief in challenging diplomatic contexts,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “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.”
Gold Star Parent
Khan is a Gold Star parent of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, a University of Virginia graduate who was killed while serving in Iraq. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor. Khan, a Pakistani American, who resides in Virginia and works as an attorney, also founded the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project.
He gained national attention with his speech at the 2016 Democratic convention, along with his wife, Ghazala. In that speech, he questioned whether Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, had ever read the Constitution. “After his speech, Khizr Khan was featured in campaign ads for Hillary Clinton and his family’s story became a regular feature in her stump speeches,” Politico reported. “The episode became a messy one for the Trump campaign, including when then-spokeswoman Katrina Pierson blamed President Barack Obama — who was not in office at the time — for the serviceman’s death before reversing herself,” The Politico report said. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus rebuked his party’s nominee and said the Khan family “should be off limits.,” Politico reported.
After immigrating to the U..S 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, D.C. 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. He 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.”