A view of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse that houses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Washington.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Obama breaks new ground with Muslim judicial nominee

At first glance, this press statement from the White House yesterday seemed like a routine announcement: President Obama sent a new judicial nominee to the Senate for consideration. The nominee is an accomplished attorney, a Harvard Law grad, a partner at a prominent DC firm, and someone with the kind of background that qualifies him for the district court bench.
But just below the surface, Abid Riaz Qureshi’s nomination is a little different than most.
Muslim-American groups are applauding President Barack Obama’s nomination of a Washington lawyer to serve in U.S. District Court – a move that could make him the first ever Muslim-American federal judge, according to advocates.
Muslim-American organizations hailed the historic announcement. “The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, said in a statement.
NBC News’ report noted a striking detail: Muslim Americans have served as state judges, but not federal judges. Qureshi would be the first.
It’s unlikely, however, that he’ll get that opportunity, at least this year. It’s not because of anti-Muslim sentiments on Capitol Hill – as best as I can tell, no senator has denounced the president’s nomination – but because the Senate has effectively ended confirmation votes for the remainder of the Congress.
That said, nominating Qureshi raises his visibility and stature, and makes it that much more likely he’ll be re-nominated in a future Democratic administration.
It’s also worth giving Obama some credit for taking this step in the first place. The New Republic’s Anakwa Dwamena noted today, “Against a rising tide in anti-Muslim incidents, the president’s appointment of Abid Riaz Qureshi to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a timely statement on America’s commitment to ensuring all its people are represented.”