LONDON: The US Senate has confirmed a Muslim as the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom for the first time.
Rashad Hussain, 42, was confirmed by the US Senate last Thursday by an overwhelming majority of 85 to five.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom hailed Hussain’s appointment, and highlighted his previous role as director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council.
He also previously served as the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said in a statement: “With his years of knowledge and experience, Ambassador Hussain is well placed to advance the US government’s promotion of international religious freedom.”
Hussain is a devout Muslim and hafiz, meaning he has memorized the entirety of the Qur’an.
An Arabic and Urdu speaker, Hussain’s previous work has included fighting antisemitism in the US, and defending religious minorities in countries with Muslim majorities.
“As a Muslim American, I have seen the impact of bigotry and guilt-by-association tactics used against minority communities, including the message it sends and dangers it poses to young people,” Hussain said in prepared remarks during the October confirmation hearing.
His appointment was welcomed by the US Muslim Public Affairs Council.
MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati said: “Rashad has served our community and country at the highest level of integrity and intelligence. Above all, he has served as a mentor and role model to Americans of all backgrounds, sharing with them the importance of public service and serving our country.”
Former religious freedom ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein joined Princeton University professor Robert P. George in supporting Hussain at the time of his confirmation hearing.
They wrote: “Hussain has enormous credibility across a broad range of faith groups, built on years of leadership in efforts for religious freedom.
“His nomination has brought enthusiastic praise from groups ranging from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Baptist World Alliance to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Union for Reform Judaism, as well as widespread commendations from the Muslim community.”