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Roots in Bihar, Named Among 500 Influential Muslims: Meet Rashad Hussain, Biden's Religious Rights Envoy

·2 min read

President Joe Biden has nominated an Indian-American, Rashad Hussain, as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and if approved by the Senate he will be the first Muslim to head US diplomacy for advancing religious liberties.

41-year-old Rashad Hussain is Director for Partnerships and Global Engagement at the National Security Council. He previously served as Senior Counsel at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, said a White House statement.

During the Obama Administration, Rashad served as US Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and Deputy Associate White House Counsel.

Indian Roots

Hussain, who has a law degree from Yale University and a master’s in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University, has also worked with the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

Though Hussain was born in Wyoming and was raised in Plano, Texas; he has roots in India. Hussain’s father, a mining engineer, moved from Bihar, India, to Wyoming in the late 1960s. A few years later, during a visit to India, he married Hussain’s mother, now an obstetrician in Plano.

He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then enrolled at Harvard University to pursue a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies. During his graduate school, he cemented his interest in government, and he returned after completing his degree to work on the House Judiciary Committee.

Served Under Obama Administration

Hussain is an alumnus of President Barack Obama’s administration in which he served as the US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the US special envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications and Deputy Associate White House Counsel.

“Rashad also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries,” the White House said.

During his tenure in Obama Administration, Hussain worked with multilateral organisations such as the OIC and the UN, foreign governments and civil society organisations to expand partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, health and other areas.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, Hussain worked on the House Judiciary Committee, serving as a judicial law clerk.

Named Among 500 Influential Muslims

In 2009, Rashad Hussain was named one of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims as he was the first Indian-American to be appointed Deputy Associate Counsel to the President Obama.

He is known for outlining a strategy for countering terrorist propaganda emphasizing a shift to non-governmental messaging and helped develop messaging centers in the UAE, Nigeria, Malaysia, and in Saudi Arabia, and helped set up the framework for the U.S. Global Engagement Center.

The White House in a statement said, “Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom,” the White House said in a statement on Friday.”

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