Biden picks first Muslim Americans for religious freedom roles

Khizr Khan, father of a slain US soldier who famously pilloried ex-president Trump, could join body investigating abuses of religious freedom

Khizr Khan, father of fallen US Army Capt Humayun S M Khan, holds up a copy of the US constitution in a speech before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Friday announced his picks for his global religious affairs team, including Muslim-American lawyer Rashad Hussain and Khizr Khan, a prominent critic of the Trump administration’s anti-Muslim policies.

Mr Hussain, who served as White House counsel in the Obama administration and as US special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, would be the first Muslim American to serve as US ambassador for international religious freedom.

The post was previously held by Sam Brownback, a Christian conservative and former Republican Kansas governor, who was appointed under the Trump administration and faced criticism over policies favouring Christian minorities in Iraq and elsewhere.

Mr Khan was nominated for a role at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a body that probes and monitors religious freedom issues globally and advises the White House on how to tackle abuses.

He rose to prominence in the 2016 presidential election campaign with his scathing critiques of Donald Trump’s policies, famously lambasting the Republican candidate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention while sharing the story of his son, a US Army captain who died in Iraq.

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies and modern Jewish history at Emory University, was picked as the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, a role that was left unfilled for much of Mr Trump's presidency.

Updated: July 30, 2021, 7:23 PM