Prominent US faith advocacy groups, including leading Muslim Brotherhood organizations, have commended President Biden for appointing Indian-American diplomat Rashad Hussain to the post of United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom at the State Department. According to a post on the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) website:
August 1, 2021 USCMO commends President Biden for these historic appointments. Rashad Hussain is a highly qualified and widely respected public servant and Khizr Khan has also been an outspoken defender of civil rights and religious liberty in the United States. We expect both Mr. Hussain and Mr. Khan to play an important role in defending religious freedom around the world, including the many countries where Muslims and other religious minorities are facing everything from discrimination to genocide.
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During the Obama administration, Hussain served as Deputy Associate Counsel to the President, focusing on national security and new media. Beginning in 2010, Hussain also acted as the US Special Envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and later as US Special Envoy and Coordinator for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. In his role as OIC Envoy, Hussain advised the administration on policy issues related to the Middle East. In 2009, Hussain worked with the National Security Council in developing new Middle East policies that President Obama outlined in his address to the Muslim World in Cairo, Egypt.
In 2010, the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, our predecessor publication, was the first to report on Rashad Hussain’s long history of engagement with the Global Muslim Brotherhood (GMB) in the US as well as support for Brotherhood causes, once having called the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, the US leader of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) one of many “politically motivated persecutions.” In 2006, Al-Arian was sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiring to contribute funds, goods, or services to or for the benefit of the PIJ. Defense of Al-Arian and accusations of politically motivated prosecution has been a long-time US Muslim Brotherhood cause.
Mr. Hussain at first denied remembering that he had made these remarks, but later, after an audiotape surfaced documenting the comments, he acknowledged them, saying that they had been “ill-conceived.” In a 2010 interview with Saudi media, Hussain expressed a number of other opinions and viewpoints consistent with those of the GMB, including raising the issue of the Al-Aqsa mosque and stating that is “up to the US to understand that Muslims reject issues like terrorism and extremism, and this is something that must be addressed politically and socially.”
During and after that time, Hussain also regularly appeared at speaking events and conferences of key US Muslim Brotherhood groups, including the following:
- Association of Muslim Social Scientists, part of the GMB network in the US.
- Muslim Students Association, where Hussain’s wife Isra Bhatty has served in leadership positions.
- American Muslim Council, a now-defunct US MB organization whose co-founder Abdurahman Alamoudi in 2004 was convicted for his role in a Libyan plot to assassinate King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and was also among the founders of several early organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US.
While Hussain, who holds a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University and a degree from Yale Law School, in recent years appears to have toned down his public engagement with Brotherhood groups, he has continued to speak at their events until the end of his term in senior governmental positions during the Obama administration, notably appearing at a 2016 annual convention of the Islamic Society Of North America (ISNA) in Rosemont, Illinois.
It should be noted that not only USCMO and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), but also prominent US Jewish advocacy groups have applauded Hussain’s appointment to the position as US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, calling him an “impressive advocate of freedom of religion or belief in challenging diplomatic contexts” and lauding his “global fight against antisemitism.”
In September 2020, the GMBDW reported that Biden, as part of his presidential campaign, addressed an annual convention of ISNA, promising that his administration would have “Muslim Americans serving at every level.” Hussain’s appointment can be seen as a first major step towards fulfilling that promise, yet at the same time demonstrating a continuation of the seeming inability or unwillingness to vet appointees for ties to the Muslim Brotherhood that we have seen in prior administrations.
Prior Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reporting about the Muslim Brotherhood and US politics has also included:
- In November 2020, the GIOR reported that CAIR had issued a statement congratulating President-elect Biden on his victory, vowing to hold the forthcoming administration accountable on Muslim inclusion and civil rights issues.
- A May 2021 report that a main US MB umbrella had published an open letter calling on President Joe Biden to appoint a State Department special envoy to monitor and combat Islamophobia.
- A May 2021 report that CAIR had joined other GMB groups in boycotting a planned virtual White House Eid celebration to be hosted by President Biden in connection with his stance on the violence in Israel and Gaza.
- A July 2021 report 2021 that a Democratic Congresswoman joined a congressional advocacy event hosted by a US Muslim Brotherhood group.