Imam Talal Eid of Quincy will soon take on a wider national role: He’s the first Muslim cleric to be appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The 54-year-old Lebanon native has been picked for a two-year term on the independent, bipartisan agency, which monitors overseas conditions and makes policy recommendations to the president, State Department and Congress.

The Bush administration is expected to announce the appointment as soon as today.

Imam Eid will replace UCLA law professor Khalid Abou El Fadl as the Muslim representative on the 11-person commission.

The commission has included a Muslim since Congress created the agency in 1998, but Imam Eid is the first religious leader to be chosen.

“This is an honor,” he said. “I’m excited. This is good for Muslims in America.”

The former spiritual director of the Islamic Center of New England in Quincy has long been active on interfaith issues. He has gained a higher profile in the past year, as a guest at White House Ramadan dinners and a speaker at State Department events in the Middle East.

For those reasons, officials of two national Islamic groups praised Imam Eid’s selection.

“It’s a very good sign that a mainstream, moderate Muslim leader like Imam Eid can be appointed to such a position,” said Professor Ishan Bagby, who teaches Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky and is on the board of directors of the Islamic Society of North America.

At the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, national communications director Ibrahim Hooper said Imam Eid will bring “valuable perspective” to the commission’s work.

“Any administration should engage with the American Muslim community, and use it to reach out to the wider Muslim world,” Hooper said. “This is a perfect example of what they (the Bush administration) can do.”


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