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3Artboard 16 Front-facing headshot of Rashad, who is smiling and wearing a suit and tie in front of a U.S. flag.

Rashad Hussain

Ambassador-at-Large For International Religious Freedom

Having served in multiple key roles in the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of State, Rashad Hussain has extensive legal and policy experience. He has signaled support for international human rights, especially the right to religious freedom. However, as Hussain has lent his support to an organization which opposes LGBTQIA+ and reproductive rights in its research, and has signaled alignment with some initiatives of his predecessor, Sam Brownback, he has been categorized as yellow.

Rashad Hussain Was Confirmed as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom on December 16th, 2021

Rashad Hussain Was Confirmed for the Position on December 16th, 2021 By Senate Vote. [Congressional Documents and Publications, 12/16/2021]

Rashad Was Nominated to the Position by President Biden on July 30th, 2021. “Today, President Biden announced his intent to nominate and appoint individuals to serve in key roles at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom… Rashad Hussain, Nominee for Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom” [The White House, 07/30/2021]

Rashad Hussain is the First Muslim, Indian-American to serve as Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Rashad Hussain is the First Muslim, Indian-American Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.Today, President Biden announced his intent to nominate and appoint individuals to serve in key roles at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom … Today’s announcement underscores the President’s commitment to build an Administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths. Hussain is the first Muslim to be nominated to serve as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, and Lipstadt is a renowned scholar of the Holocaust and antisemitism.” [The White House, 07/30/2021]

Hussain Plans to Encourage Muslim-Majority Countries to Protect Religious Minorities. “I will also leverage my existing relationships within Muslim-majority countries to protect the rights of religious minorities there. I will redouble efforts to broaden the coalition to hold China accountable for its horrific crimes against the Uyghurs and its repression of other ethnic and religious minorities.” [Senate Foreign Relations committee, 10/26/2021]

Hussain Received Praise Following his Senate Confirmation from across the Political Spectrum—Including from Some Extremist Anti-Rights Organizations and Individuals

Anti-Abortion Religious Freedom Scholar Robert P. George, who was Instrumental in Creating the Trump Administration’s Discriminatory and now Defunct Commission on Unalienable Rights, Praised Hussain’s Nomination. “In the history of this position, no ambassador has brought the breadth of policy knowledge that Hussain brings,” wrote Princeton University professor Robert P. George and former IRF ambassador Rabbi David Saperstein in an op-ed for RNS. They highlighted the support for his nomination from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and from the Baptist World Alliance, as well as from Jewish groups.

  • George Has an Extreme Anti-Rights History and Created the Concept of the Commission on Unalienable Rights… “If that seems like unusual subtlety for the Trump administration, you can thank Princeton professor Robert George, who, according to an ABC News source, wrote the concept note for the new commission … George has compared opposing same-sex marriage to fighting slavery or eugenics; has spoken in favor of banning contraception; and authored another book, with the dystopian title Making Men Moral, arguing that it’s valid, even in a pluralistic society, to impose morality laws on the populace.” [The New Republic, 6/14/19]

  • … The Commission, True to George’s Vision, Weaponized Religious Freedom at the Expense of other Human Rights. “Despite these words, the report itself erases women’s human rights and does not offer protections against discrimination on the basis of gender, race or sexual orientation. Instead, it refers to ‘abortion, affirmative action, and same-sex marriage’ as ‘divisive social and political controversies in the United States.’ The report then names religious freedom and property rights as the most important rights. This is hypocrisy in its purest form, and it sends a signal of how the Commission and Pompeo intend to weaponize religious freedom at the expense of other human rights.” [Truthout, 7/28/20]

Hussain’s Predecessor Sam Brownback Praised Hussain’s Confirmation. “Previous IRF Ambassador Sam Brownback praised the decision and its bipartisan majority. ‘Religious persecution is rampant around the world, and the international community looks to the United States for leadership that can make a difference,’ he stated.”

Brownback Has Used His Positions to Attack the Rights of Women, LGBTQIA+ People, and Muslims. “Sam Brownback, a vehemently anti-abortion politician, has spent his career pulling the Republican Party as far right as he can. Brownback has used his position to sabotage the rights of women, LGBTQ people, and Muslims at the state, federal, and international levels. He has ties to designated hate groups and anti-abortion organizations, including the Family Research Council, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the National Right to Life Committee.” [Equity Forward, Global Spotlight]

Hussain Worked in the Obama Administration as a Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation

Hussain Was Previously Appointed under the Obama Administration, where among his Priorities Included a Focus on Religious Minorities in Muslim-Majority Countries.President Obama appointed Hussain to serve as his Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), U.S. Special Envoy for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, and Deputy Associate White House Counsel. In his roles as envoy, Hussain advised on foreign policy issues and worked with multilateral organizations to expand partnerships in education, entrepreneurship, health, international security, science and technology, and other areas. He also spearheaded efforts on countering antisemitism and protecting Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.” [U.S. Department of State, 01/24/2022]

As Envoy to the OIC, Hussain Worked to Strengthen Cooperation Between the U.S. and Muslim-majority Countries and to Counter “Disparaging Images of the U.S. in the Muslim World.” “In February 2010, Hussain was appointed as the U.S. Special Envoy to OIC, serving in the role until February 2015. The position, ‘a kind of ambassador-at-large to Muslim countries,’ was first created by former President George W. Bush. Hussain’s job was to strengthen cooperation between the U.S. and OIC and counter any disparaging images of the U.S. in the Muslim world. During his stint as an envoy to the OIC, Hussain traveled to several countries and international gatherings and met with foreign leaders and Muslim communities across the world. In 2010, he visited various Indian cities like Aligarh, Mumbai, and Patna to meet top Muslim leaders, officials, and academicians to discuss the U.S.’s initiatives on education, global health, entrepreneurship, and countering violent extremism.” [The Print, 08/01/2021]

Hussain Helped to Oversee the Marrakesh Declaration, which Calls upon Leaders of Muslim-majority Nations to Protect Religious Minorities. “During my time at the State Department, I worked in close partnership with civil society leaders on the Marrakesh Declaration, a landmark initiative on the protection of Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10/26/2021]

Rashad’s Work with the OIC Included Pushing Back on Religious Defamation Laws, which May Be Applied Disproportionately to Religious Minorities. “‘In previous roles, he has directly engaged the OIC, including pushback on a problematic ‘Defamation of Religion’ proposal that essentially would result in the expansion of blasphemy laws that are often abused against religious minorities or those who dissent from state-sanctioned orthodoxy. His own personal faith makes him well-positioned to advance principled arguments that religious freedom is not a threat to belief, but grounded in human dignity, and protects the right of all people to freely believe and live out their faith, individually and in community with others in all aspects of life,’ said [Jeremy] Barker [Director of the Middle East Action Team at the Religious Freedom Institute].” [The Media Line, 11/25/2021]

Rashad Is Using his Platform to call on Governments to take Accountability for Human Rights Offenses

Hussain Condemned the State of Karnataka, India, for Permitting Colleges, Schools to Ban Students from Wearing Hijabs in Class, Citing the Religious Freedom to Select Religious Attire. 

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[Rashad Hussain, Twitter, 2/11/22]

Hussain Called Attention to Malaysian State Agents’ Disappearance of Christian Pastor Raymond Koh After Five Years.

[Twitter, 02/13/2022]

Hussain Called on the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to Release Uyghur Dr. Gulshan Abbas, Bishop Su Zhimin, and all Other “Prisoners of Conscience.”

[Twitter, 02/11/2022]

Hussain also Tweeted a Call for the Release of Bishop Su Zhimin from PRC Detainment.

[Twitter, 02/16/2022]

Hussain Once Criticized a Bush-Era Prosecution Related to the Surveillance of a Muslim Professor under the Patriot Act and Later Neutralized These Statements after Criticism from Conservative Commentators

In a 2004 Conference, Hussain Criticized Aspects of the Patriot Act and Several Prosecutions of the Time, Including that of Muslim Professor Sami Al-Arian. “Hussain said, the treatment of Al-Arian fit a ‘common pattern ... of politically-motivated prosecutions where you have huge Justice Department press conferences announcing that a certain person is a grave threat to American security’… Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as ‘horrible’ and called ‘dangerous’ an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases.” [Politico, 02/19/2010]

Hussain Later Neutralized These Remarks as “Ill-conceived” as He Encountered Criticism from Conservative Commentators. “‘I made statements on that panel that I now recognize were ill-conceived or not well formulated,’ Hussain said, referring to a 2004 conference at which he discussed the case. Hussain’s reversal came after Politico obtained a recording of his presentation to a Muslim students’ conference in Chicago. ... The comments touched off criticism from conservative commentators, who questioned whether someone who held those views should represent the United States in the Muslim world. Initially, Hussain, 31, said through a White House spokesman that he didn’t recall making the statements.” [Politico, 02/19/2010]

Hussain Expressed that He Was Satisfied in the Outcome of Al-Arian’s Case... “While bloggers and a few reporters have seized on White House lawyer and Islam adviser Rashad Hussain’s statement from Friday, acknowledging and retreating from criticism he offered of Bush-era anti-terrorism prosecutions, I think many of the analysts are overlooking the most surprising part of Hussain's latest comments. Hussain’s declaration that his 2004 remarks ‘were ill-conceived or not well formulated’ is notable, but the most startling part of the White House adviser’s statement last week was actually his indication that he was satisfied with the result of the prosecution of former college professor Sami Al-Arian. ‘The judicial process has now concluded, and I have full faith in its outcome,’ Hussain wrote.” [Politico, 2/21/10]

…Which Appeared to be in Direct Contrast to Muslim Civil Rights Leaders’ Outlook of the Case. “Hussain's public assessment is striking because, to my knowledge, no major U.S. Muslim leader has indicated that there was any justice in Al-Arian's 2006 guilty plea or the sentence he received of 57 months in prison. In fact, those Muslim leaders who have commented publicly on the outcome of Al-Arian’s case have generally condemned the Justice Department’s decision to push forward with the prosecution after a jury acquitted him on some counts and reportedly split 10-2 for acquittal on others … In a letter to the St. Petersburg Times about the 57-month sentence in the case, Florida-based Islamic activist Pilar Saad wrote: ‘Not only is this totally unfair and a miscarriage of justice, but it provides the final proof that this case was a political prosecution and that Dr. Al-Arian and [a co-defendant] are political prisoners of our war on terrorism.’” [Politico, 2/21/10]

  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations Publicly Applauded the Department of Justice’s Decision to Drop Charges Against Al-Arian. “The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, today welcomed a decision by federal prosecutors in Virginia to drop charges in a long-stalled case against former Florida professor Dr. Sami Al-Arian. Al-Arian has been targeted by the government for his political activity for more than a decade. A 2005 trial in Florida ended in acquittals on eight counts and a hung jury on nine other counts, with 10 of 12 jurors voting to acquit Dr. Al-Arian of all counts. To avoid a threatened re-trial, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count, which also allowed for his deportation. But before his deportation, Al-Arian was served with a subpoena calling him before a grand jury to testify about Muslim organizations in Virginia. Al-Arian said the subpoena violated his plea deal and constitutional rights. In 2008, Al-Arian was indicted on two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify. The case has been in limbo since that time, with Dr. Al-Arain under house arrest while his appeals were considered … We welcome the fact that this case, which has gone on far too long, has finally been dropped,’ said CAIR [(Council on American-Islamic Relations)] National Executive Director Nihad Awad. ‘Fair-minded observers of this case have always maintained that the government’s ongoing efforts were politically-motivated and due in no small part to frustration at not being able to convince a jury of Dr. Al-Arian’s guilt in 2005.’” [Council on American-Islamic Relations California, 06/28/2014]

Rashad Hussain Has Shown Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community

In a Video Celebrating the International Day of Human Fraternity, Rashad Recognizes Violence Based on Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexual Orientation as Being Antithetical to Achieving Global Peace. “In a world where acts of intolerance and violence incited by hate persist against people simply because of their beliefs, their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, the international Day of Human Fraternity teaches us that peace must come through recognition of our shared humanity and respect for the human dignity of all people.”

[Twitter, 02/04/2022]

Hussain Has Signaled Alignment with Some Policies of his Predecessor, Sam Brownback, as well as Spoken at an Organization that Sees Abortion and LGBTQIA+ People as a Threat to Christians

Open Doors International CEO David Curry Anticipates “Partnering Together” with the New Ambassador-at-Large… “Open Doors president and CEO David Curry said Hussain is ‘well-qualified’ for the role. ‘His leadership will play a critical role in countering the global rise of religious persecution,’ he stated. ‘We look forward to partnering together to speak up for people of faith everywhere.’” [Christianity Today, 12/17/2021]

Open Doors, Notably, Now Employs Brownback. “Open Doors, which [Sam] Brownback joined as a senior fellow this year, urged for Hussain’s priorities to include ‘the extreme violence against Christians in Nigeria, the genocide against Uyghur Muslims in China, and the deterioration of religious freedoms in India, among others.’” [Christianity Today, 12/17/2021]

Open Doors’ Research Methodology Lists “LGBTI Groups” and “Abortion Rights” Groups as “Drivers of Persecution,” When Assessing the Rights of Christians in a Country. Open Doors’ research methodology considers “LGBTI rights groups, Abortion Rights UK” to be examples of “ideological pressure groups” that act as “drivers of persecution” against Christians. [Open Doors International, October 2020]

Hussain Spoke at the Launch of Open Doors’ 2022 “World Watch Report.” “At the launch of Open Doors’ World Watch List, Ambassador Hussain articulated the importance of religious freedom: ‘This goes to the heart of what it means to be human, to think freely, to follow our conscience, to change our beliefs if our hearts and minds lead us to do so, to express those beliefs in public and private.’ He’s right—religious freedom is core to humanity, making the job of ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom a critically important one.”

[Family Research Council, 01/27/2022]

Hussain Has Signaled Alignment with Some Policies of his Predecessor, Sam Brownback, Including the Ministerial on Religious Freedom, which Anti-Abortion Extremist Organizations Were Involved with

In a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing as a Part of his Position’s Confirmation Process, Hussain Promised to “Build on the Impressive Work” of Brownback, Including the Ministerial on Religious Freedom. “I will look to build on the impressive work of Ambassador Sam Brownback, who expanded partnerships through the International Religious Freedom ministerial and International Religious Freedom Alliance [,] and the groundbreaking efforts of Ambassador David Saferstein, who [institutionalized] relationships with user and civil society organizations..” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee Transcript via Politico Pro, 10/26/21]

  • As a Reminder, Brownback Worked with the State Department to Coordinate the First-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in 2018 ... “From July 24–26, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and former Helsinki Commission Chairman Sam Brownback coordinated the event, which brought together governments, religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to ‘to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.’” [CSCE.Gov]

  • …The Ministerial, which Would Continue Annually, Included Side Events Hosted by Anti-Abortion Extremist Groups the Alliance Defending Freedom, Concerned Women for America, and the James Dobson Family Institute. “At the State Department’s conference next week, the United States will be making the case that religious freedom benefits countries economically and diplomatically, Mr. Pompeo said … Vice President Mike Pence will speak at the conference, as will the United States’ ambassador for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback. Some 80 representatives from foreign countries are slated to attend, including about 40 foreign ministers … Many conservative Christian political groups are slated to sponsor side events to the State Department conference, including the Alliance Defending Freedom International, Concerned Women for America, Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the James Dobson Family Institute, according to an unofficial schedule seen by the New York Times.” [New York Times, 7/19/18]

Hussain Has Promised to Continue to Build the International Religious Freedom of Belief Alliance, an Initiative of Sam Brownback Established during the Trump Administration. “He also vowed to continue the work of his predecessor, Ambassador Sam Brownback, nominated by President Donald Trump, vowing to continue to build the International Religious Freedom of Belief Alliance. The intergovernmental arrangement involving 27 countries was the signature initiative of Brownback’s tenure in the office.” [Christianity Today, 12/17/2021]

Islamic Civil Rights Groups Have Expressed Full Support of Rashad Hussain’s Nomination and Confirmation to the Ambassadorship

Muslim Advocates, an Islamic Civil Rights Organization, Stated that Rashad Hussain’s Nomination is a Step Toward President Biden’s Promise to Increase Muslim American Representation ‘At Every Level.’ “The following is a statement from Madihha Ahussain, Muslim Advocates’ senior policy counsel: ‘We applaud President Biden for choosing two superlatively qualified American Muslim leaders to serve in his administration. Both Khizr Khan’s appointment and Rashad Hussain’s nomination send a powerful message to American Muslims and to the world about the importance of protecting religious freedom for all … With these selections, President Biden has taken a step toward fulfilling the promise he made to Muslim Advocates during last year’s virtual gala, to make his administration look like America with “Muslim Americans serving at every level.” We are excited to see such a bold contrast with the dark days of the last administration, which appointed anti-Muslim bigots to positions that were supposed to champion religious freedom. However, as our transition memo to the White House notes, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve representation for American Muslims “at every level,” including appointments to the federal judiciary and in the president’s cabinet. Today, however, we celebrate the progress we’ve made with the selection of these two impressive individuals. We urge the Senate to confirm Rashad Hussain in a process affording him the respect that he and his outstanding qualifications deserve.’” [Muslim Advocates, 07/30/2021]

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Welcomes Rashad Hussain as the New Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. “In a statement, CAIR Deputy Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell, Esq. said, ‘This is a historic day for the American Muslim community and our nation. Rashad Hussain’s record as an accomplished attorney and diplomat with a long history of standing up for religious freedom here and abroad makes him the ideal choice for the position of Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. We commend President Biden for making this historic nomination, and we welcome Ambassador Hussain’s confirmation. We are confident that he will defend the religious freedom of all communities threatened by bigotry around the world, including Uyghur Muslims facing an unprecedented genocide by the Chinese Communist Party.’” [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 12/17/2021]

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