Hearing begins for first Muslim-American woman nominee for US federal bench

Nusrat Jahan Choudhury is President Joe Biden's nominee for US district judge for the eastern district of New York

The hearing to confirm Nusrat Jahan Choudhury, the first Muslim-American woman to be nominated to serve as a federal judge, began in Washington on Wednesday.

If confirmed as the new US district judge for the eastern district of New York, Ms Choudhury would be the first Bangladeshi American and the second Muslim American to serve on the federal bench.

Ms Choudhury's husband, Michael Early, a visual effects producer, her mother and her brothers were present at the hearing.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recommended Ms Choudhury for nomination as a federal judge to President Joe Biden in September.

Ms Choudhury has served as the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and also worked as a lawyer for the ACLU National Security Project and Racial Justice Programme. She is recognised as an expert in civil rights and liberties.

At the ACLU, Ms Nusrat challenged racial profiling, stop-and-frisk policies and the targeting of people of colour for surveillance without evidence of wrongdoing.

Ms Choudhury is one of eight federal nominees Mr Biden has named as he continues to work to diversify the judiciary. The other nominees include two black women, a Latina and a Taiwanese immigrant.

Upon her nomination, Muslim Advocates Senior Policy Counsel Sumayyah Waheed urged Congress to give Ms Choudhury and her fellow nominees a fair hearing.

“American Muslims in particular have not been treated fairly by the Senate confirmation process and we urge members of both parties to avoid attacks based on one’s faith and to avoid spreading harmful anti-Muslim tropes,” Ms Waheed said in a statement obtained by The National.

 Nusrat Choudhury would become the first Bangladeshi American to serve as a federal judge. AP

Ms Waheed cited the rigorous and laborious questioning of Mr Biden’s Supreme Court nominee, Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The Supreme Court nominee faced a gruelling confirmation process that included fending off accusations from Republican senators that she was “soft” on child pornographers as a judge, though her sentencing record is consistent with other federal judges.

“Some of the questions asked by the committee of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson about her faith, for example, came far too close to imposing an unconstitutional religious litmus test on a judicial nominee. The same questions asked of an American Muslim would be even more fraught,” said Ms Waheed.

Zahid Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was confirmed by the Senate in June to serve as a federal judge in the district of New Jersey.

Updated: April 28, 2022, 7:28 PM
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