(WASHINGTON, DC – 4/28/2021) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the start of confirmation hearings for President Biden’s diverse slate of nominees to serve as federal judges and encouraged the Senate Judiciary Committee to probe unanswered questions about the background of one of the nominees that were raised in a news article published last night.
Last month, the White House announced 11 nominees to serve as federal district court judges in various states. Several nominees are women and people of color, and several have experiences working as civil rights attorneys.
The confirmation hearing for federal magistrate judge and former prosecutor Zahid Quraishi — who would be the first American Muslim to serve as a Senate-confirmed federal district court judge–is scheduled for today before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Aspects of Judge Quraishi’s work history, including his service as a “detention legal adviser” during the American occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2007 when prisoner abuse was rampant, and his service with ICE during the final two years of the Bush Administration, have sparked concern in the civil rights community.
According to Judge Quraishi’s publicly released resume, he served as “Chief of Legal Aid for approximately 20,000 Soldiers, DoD civilians, Red Cross personnel and U.S. private contractors and later as Detention Operations Legal Advisor to Brigade Commander and Operational Law Attorney to Task Force Commander.”
In a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee today, CAIR asked senators to probe these issues with Judge Quraishi.
SEE: CAIR Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee
In a statement, CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert S. McCaw said:
“We appreciate President Biden’s efforts to appoint federal judges with diverse backgrounds and unique professional experiences, including nominees with experience as civil rights attorneys and public defenders. We also welcome the administration’s effort to enrich the federal judiciary with American Muslim judges. Muslim attorneys contribute greatly to our nation as civil rights attorneys, public defenders and in many other roles.
“However, questions remain about aspects of Judge Zahid Quraishi’s background, including his service as a legal advisor to military detention centers and private contractors during the occupation of Iraq, and his role with ICE during the final years of the Bush administration.
“We encourage Judge Quraishi to thoroughly explain his activities in these roles, and we encourage senators to ask detailed questions about these roles. In particular, what legal opinions did Judge Quraishi offer during his work as a detention adviser during the occupation of Iraq? Did he become aware of prisoner abuse or other misconduct during his time there? If so, how did he respond? Did he provide any legal guidance to Blackwater as part of his legal aid to private contractors? These and other questions must be addressed.”
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.