the White House announced the nomination of diplomat and former law professor Rashad Hussain to serve as the next ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, a post previously held by former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Hussain is the first Muslim ever to be nominated for the position since it was created in 1998 by the International Religious Freedom Act.
Hussain, 41, presently serves as director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He served in the Obama administration as the U.S. Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, an openly gay cleric who has led Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City since 1992, is Mr. Biden’s second USCIRF nominee. She served on the panel in 2020.
Mr. Biden also named Khizr Khan — noted for his 2016 Democratic National Convention speech claiming that then GOP presidential nominee Mr. Trump “had sacrificed nothing” for the nation — to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, an advisory body.
The White House said Mr. Hussain, a Yale law school graduate who also holds master’s degrees from Harvard government and in Arabic and Islamic Studies, has a strong background in federal service. He serves on the National Security Council’s director for partnerships and global engagement.
Mr. Hussain previously was senior counsel at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. During the Obama administration, he was a special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, special envoy for strategic counterterrorism communications, and a deputy associate White House Counsel. He speaks Urdu, Arabic and Spanish,
The nominations drew a positive response from the Council on Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR, as well as other religious freedom leaders.
““The nominations of Rashad Hussain and Khizr Khan represent an important step in the Biden administration’s commitment to build a government that reflects the diversity of our nation. It is important that American Muslims – and particularly Muslim youth — see themselves and their values reflected in our nation’s government,” said Nihad Awad, the group’s executive director.
Brent Leatherwood, vice president of external affairs and chief of Staff for SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a statement that he has “long called for America to be a bold voice for liberty against these oppressive regimes.”