Biden picks Pakistan-origin American to head top religious freedom body

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden announced Friday plans to nominate Pakistan-origin Khizr Khan, who famously criticised former’s predecessor Donald Trump for his disparaging remarks on Muslim-Americans during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, to a post with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Khan’s son, Humayun Khan, was an Army captain killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq, Politico reported.

Khizr Khan gave one of the most memorable speeches of the 2016 conventions, along with his wife, Ghazala, in which he questioned whether Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, had ever read the Constitution.

Khan pulled his own pocket-sized copy out of his suit jacket for emphasis — and said Trump had “sacrificed nothing and no one.”

After that, Trump frequently lashed out at the Khans, which they shrugged off as “proof of his ignorance and arrogance.” At one point Trump suggested that Ghazala Khan did not speak during the DNC because of her Muslim faith.

The episode became a messy one for the Trump campaign, including when then-spokeswoman Katrina Pierson blamed President Barack Obama — who was not in the office at the time — for the serviceman’s death before reversing herself.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus even rebuked his party’s nominee and said the Khan family “should be off-limits.”

“It’s an unbelievable place to come from and that’s why I think that we just — we don’t go there and I don’t go there,” said Priebus, who later became Trump’s first chief of staff.

After his speech, Khizr Khan was featured in campaign ads for Hillary Clinton and his family’s story became a regular feature in her stump speeches.

Khan, a Muslim immigrant who resides in Virginia and works as an attorney, also founded the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project.

Biden also announced plans to nominate Rashad Hussain of the National Security Council to be ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom and Deborah Lipstadt as a special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

Lipstadt is a prominent Holocaust historian and Jewish studies professor who teaches at Emory University, and the White House said Hussain would be the first Muslim to serve as the ambassador-at-large.

The president is also nominating New York City Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum to serve alongside Khan on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Kleinbaum previously served on the commission in 2020. Kleinbaum is the spouse of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

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