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The Senate Has Just Confirmed The First Muslim American Federal Judge In U.S. History

Zahid Quraishi was confirmed as a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey.
Tom Williams-Pool
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Zahid Quraishi was confirmed as a U.S. District Judge for the District of New Jersey.

Updated June 10, 2021 at 5:27 PM ET

A son of Pakistani immigrants has just been confirmed by the Senate as the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history.

Zahid Quraishi was confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey by a vote of 81-16 on Thursday.

"It's a historic appointment as the first Muslim Article 3 judge in history. He just has this long, very enviable record of public service," Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, told NPR.

Quraishi's father, Nisar, emigrated to New York from Pakistan in 1970. The elder Quraishi opened a medical practice and continued seeing patients until he died of complications from coronavirus in April 2020.

He served two tours in Iraq

Quraishi, a graduate of Rutgers Law School, was in an active law practice but gave that up to join the Army after the 9/11 attacks, Tobias said.

He served two tours in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004 and 2006. In 2019, he was appointed as a U.S. magistrate judge for the District of New Jersey — the first Asian-American to serve on the federal bench in the state.

"I just find that to be unbelievable; I think it speaks to his really amazing public service," Tobias said.

He's part of Biden's diverse slate of nominees

In March, Quraishi was among the first judicial nominations that President Biden announced. It was a diverse slate that included three African American women tapped for Circuit Court vacancies; the first AAPI woman to ever serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C.; and the first woman of color to ever serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.

"He is a model for the outstanding contributions that Pakistani and Muslim Americans make to this country every day. We are grateful to President Biden for nominating him, and to members of the Senate for confirming him today," said Dr. Ijaz Ahmad, chairman of the American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee.

Ahead of Quraishi's confirmation, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said voting him in would be a reflection of America's ideal of religious freedom.

"It was such a sacrosanct ideal in principle that our Founders put that into the Constitution," Booker said.

"Here we are generations and generations later and this will be a real moment of breakthrough of a person who has shown their patriotism."

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Saeed Ahmed