President Barack Obama on Tuesday appointed the country’s first Muslim to the federal judiciary bench, naming Pakistani-descent Abid Riaz Qureshi to the US district court for DC.
The appointment assumes even more significance at a time of heightened Islamophobia whipped up in part by Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee.
“I am pleased to nominate Mr Qureshi to serve on the United States district court bench,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”
The White House also announced his nomination has been forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, a procedure applied to all federal appointments of certain seniority, nearly 300.
This is another of Obama’s firsts for the judiciary, which he has sought to make more reflective of the country — starting by naming Sonia Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, the first Hispanic justice of the Supreme Court in 2009. And then he appointed Sri Srinivasan, the first Indian-American to a US court of appeals in 2012.
Now, he has appointed a first Muslim. Qureshi is a partner in the litigation and trial department at the DC office of Latham & Watkins, a law firm, and specializes in cases involving the False Claims Act, health care fraud and securities violations.
He received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1997 and his BA from Cornell University in 1993.
Not much else could be immediately gathered about Qureshi. According to the National Law Journal, he won a case, overturning a Georgia law that required physical therapists from India, Pakistan, Egypt and the Philippines to take a licensing test separate than all others. He told the journal he had “a lot of fun” working on that case.
Muslims welcomed the appointment. “I commend President Obama for taking this important step in continuing to pick the best and brightest from every community to serve as part of our nation’s judiciary,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy organisation.
“A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included.”