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Obama appoints Indian-origin lawyer as special envoy to world Muslim body

February 16, 2010 02:26 IST

Indian-origin lawyer Rashad Hussain will be America's new special envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, a post vital to President Barack Obama's bid to repair the United States' strained relations with the Islamic world.

A White House lawyer, Hussain was nominated to the key post as he had played an important role in developing partnerships with the Muslim world, Obama said. Hussain is entrusted with deepening and expanding the partnerships with Muslims across the world, an important element of Obama's foreign policy, which was made evident in his speech in Cairo last June.

Hussain, 31, whose parents are naturalised citizens from India and live in Plano, Texas, is presently the deputy associate counsel to the President. As a 'hafiz' (someone who has memorised the holy Islamic text) of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, Obama said about Hussain, announcing his appointment last week as his envoy to the OIC, a 57-nation grouping.

Hussain's work at the US administration focuses on national security, new media, science and technology issues. He has also worked with the National Security Staff as Obama sought to rebuild ties with Muslims worldwide after eight turbulent years of his predecessor George W Bush's tenure.

Hussain, who previously served as a trial attorney at the US Department of Justice, was earlier a legislative assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he focused on national security-related issues.

He received his professional degree in law from Yale Law School and also served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. After graduation, Hussain served as a law clerk to Damon J Keith in the US Court of Appeals.

Hussain earned his Master's degrees in Public Administration from Kennedy School of Government and Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University. He attended college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The OIC represents 57 nations and promotes Muslim solidarity in economic, social and political affairs. The US State Department had appointed India-born Farah Pandith as its Special Representative to Muslim world last year as part of Obama's foreign policy priorities.

In his message through a video conference to the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, Obama called Hussain "an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff," who would strengthen his policy of outreach to the world's Muslims.

"We've held thousands of events and town halls, in the United States and around the world. And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month," he added.

Lalit K Jha In Washington