WASHINGTON (RNS) — President Joe Biden has appointed Mazen Basrawi as a senior adviser and White House liaison to American Muslim communities, making good on a campaign promise to fill a slot eliminated by former President Donald Trump, according to a spokesperson for the National Security Council, where Basrawi currently serves.
Multiple Muslim groups have publicly hailed Basrawi’s expected appointment in recent weeks.
“With his extensive background in civil rights and advocacy, this is a great step forward in the push for Muslim representation and inclusion, and we are excited to see what Basrawi brings to this role,” read a statement from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, which broke the news of Basrawi’s appointment at the end of last month.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also praised the appointment, with Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the group’s deputy director, saying in a statement that he hoped Basrawi would work to address issues such as “institutional Islamophobia within federal law enforcement programs, the threat of hate crimes, and protecting religious freedom.”
Spokespeople for the White House press office and the NSC confirmed the appointment to Religion News Service this week.
Trump had changed or eliminated many of the faith-related positions created by earlier presidents, especially those instituted by former President Barack Obama.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, the Biden-Harris website declared that, as president, Biden would “start with restoring the White House Eid celebration and filling the position of Muslim-American Liaison in the White House Office of Public Engagement, both eliminated by Donald Trump, to ensure a wide range of Muslim-American voices are heard within his administration.” Prior to Basrawi’s appointment, Moshtayeen Ahmad, the NSC’s outgoing director for partnerships and global engagement, filled the liaison slot in a temporary capacity.
Biden also made good on the promise of a White House Eid al-Fitr celebration, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and an in-person event in May 2022.
Prior to joining the NSC, where he will continue as director of partnerships and global engagement, Basrawi served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, where in 2012 he successfully defended the right of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, in Tennessee, to open a mosque in the town.
Basrawi also worked for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign before being appointed as a special counsel to then-Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez in the Justice Department’s civil rights division. In addition, Basrawi is chairman of the Virginia Board for the Blind and Vision Impaired, where he has served since being appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2017.