Biden nominates new U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom
Biden Administration nominates Rashad Hussain for U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom
WASHINGTON D.C. (31 July 2021) – President Biden announced Friday his nomination of Rashad Hussain as U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF). The nomination comes six months after the Biden administration took office. The position was previously held by Sam Brownback and plays a vital role in global advocacy efforts for religious freedom.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental right that all countries are called to protect. The President’s timely nomination for IRF Ambassador sends a signal that the United States is committed to upholding its obligation to protect religious freedom globally. We commend President Biden for filling the position quickly and urge the administration to continue making international religious freedom a priority,” said Kelsey Zorzi, Director of Advocacy for Global Religious Freedom.
First Muslim to be nominated to the position
Hussain was formerly the Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation under President Barack Obama, as well as the Special Envoy for strategic counterterrorism communications. He is the first Muslim to be nominated to the International Religious Freedom Ambassador position. As the Special Envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), he fought against blasphemy and “defamation of religion” laws.
The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 established the Ambassador-at-Large position and created the Office of International Religious Freedom within the State Department. The International Religious Freedom Ambassador is charged with being the “principal adviser to the President and the Secretary of State regarding matters affecting religious freedom abroad.”
Further appointments to protect religious freedom
Along with the Ambassador-at-Large position, the President announced a slate of nominations and appointments for other religious affairs roles, including nominee Deborah Lipstadt for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and appointees Khizr Khan and Sharon Kleinbaum as Commissioners for the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Nadine Maenza, USCIRF Chair stated that, “Global religious freedom violations continue to be a pervasive threat to our national security and global stability. The U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom along with the Special Envoy play an essential role in U.S. efforts to counter that threat.”