Senator Cory Anthony Booker was shocked to learn that America hasn’t had a single Muslim federal judge in its entire history. Booker, the first African-American US senator from New Jersey, made a promise to American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC) Chairman Dr Ijaz Ahmed during a APPAC event in New York to get that to change.
About a year ago, on June 10, 2021, Zahid Quraishi, who is of Pakistani descent, was confirmed as the Article III federal judge after the Senate voted 81-16 in his favour. When he assumed charge of his responsibilities on June 11, 2022, he made history in more ways than one. Not only he became the first American Muslim to serve as a judge of New Jersey’s District Court, he also became the first Asian-American to sit on the state’s federal bench.
Zahid Quraishi’s career credentials are highly impressive. Since receiving his Juris Doctor from the Rutgers Law School in 2000, he has occupied the roles of litigation associate at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP and assistant attorney for the United States attorney’s office for the district of New Jersey in addition to serving the US Army JAG Corps.
Nonetheless, as impressive as his credentials may be, it would be naive to overlook the integral role of Dr Ijaz Ahmed, Senator Cory Booker in this history-making appointment. Dr Ahmed was the one who vehemently lobbied for a Muslim to be given the role of the federal judge and then Senator Cory Brooker recommended to President Joe Biden to include Zahid Qureishi among the POTUS judicial nominees.
Since receiving his Juris Doctor from the Rutgers Law School in 2000, he has occupied the roles of litigation associate at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP and assistant attorney for the United States attorney’s office for the district of New Jersey in addition to serving the US Army JAG Corps.
“We celebrate religious plurality and religious diversity,” Booker said after Quraishi won broad bipartisan support from the US Senate in June 2021. “And so this is an extraordinary moment. Now I am thrilled that it’s a bipartisan moment.”
Another person whose perseverance is worthy of a mention is Dr Nisar Quraishi, Zahid Quraishi’s late father. Nisar, who died in April 2020 due to COVID-19 complications, was brought up in the city of Gujar Khan and emigrated to America to carve out a well-established career for himself and his children. Aware of the importance of proper education, Nisar afforded education from prestigious institutions to help him pursue his dreams and was also fully supportive of every step of Zahid’s journey.
Quraishi’s appointment has much broader significance. Islamophobia has been on the charts in the US of late with former President Donald Trump a big reason behind it. From imposing a travel ban (also known as the ‘Muslim ban’), to effect to retweeting Jayda Fransen’s anti-Muslim videos, to calling Muslims ‘rapefugees’, and vilifying them as terrorists, Trumpism has inculcated Islamophobia in the American minds. A Muslim being elected to the coveted position of an Article III federal judge can ostensibly challenge this prevailing Islamophobia and Great Replacement Theory mindset in the US.
Each year, the United States of America accepts legions of Pakistanis to help them carve their careers. As a matter of fact, Pakistan is amongst the top 25 countries that send its students to the US. Like Zahid Quraishi, countless other Pakistani-American Muslims have made it big in America. While there is no doubt that this will go down in the books as a momentous landmark for Pakistani-American Muslim community, this also goes on to show how a society progresses when it is graced with the abundance of cultural and religious diversity.