First Muslim religious freedom ambassador lays out US agenda

Rashad Hussain spoke exclusively with GMA 3 about his role.

April 15, 2022, 5:33 PM

Rashad Hussain, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, is the first Muslim-American ever to hold the title, and he told GMA 3 that his appointment sent a powerful signal to the world.

Hussain was confirmed by the Senate in December with an 85-5 vote, where 10 Senators did not vote. He said the bi-partisan support sent a message that the U.S. is "supporting the right to religious freedom for all people everywhere."

The ambassador told "GMA" that the White House is particularly concerned about the situation unfolding with the genocide against the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority group.

In this Dec. 31, 2021, file photo, Rohingya refugees sit on a wooden boat as Indonesian official conduct evacuation at the Krueng Geukueh port in Lhokseumawe, Aceh province after they were rescued by Indonesia's navy in the waters off Bireuen.
Azwar Ipank/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said attacks by Myanmar's military against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority, constituted genocide and crimes against humanity. The legal determination was made five years after the government killed 9,000 Rohingya and forced over a million others into exile.

Hussain said the determination took some time because the U.S. had to gather all of the data and information as part of its meticulous legal process. He noted that the move will help provide more assistance to the legal brought by the Gambia and the International Court of Justice.

"We're sending a strong signal that for anyone who engages in these types of actions, crimes against humanity [and] genocide, we will hold them accountable," he said. "We also are very clear that we will do everything we can to prevent these types of atrocities from occurring."

Rashad Hussain, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, spoke with GMA 3 about being the first Muslim to take the role.
ABC News

Hussain, who previously served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said he also plans on implementing the Marrakesh Declaration, which advocates for the protection of rights of Christians and other minorities in Muslim majority countries.

"That includes seeking to end the use of blasphemy laws, apostasy laws," he said.

The ambassador said that the U.S. stands for any religious group that is being persecuted.

"One of the profound aspects of this job is that it's our responsibility, which we take very seriously, to wake up every day and do everything that we can to help people that are suffering," he said.