WASHINGTON– The United States Senate has overwhelmingly confirmed Zahid Quraishi, a Pakistani-American, to the US District Court in New Jersey, making him the first Muslim federal judge in US history.
Thursday’s 83-to-16 Senate vote was bipartisan, with 34 Republicans crossing party lines to join all Democrats present in voting to confirm Quraishi, 46, who was nominated by President Joe Biden.
Born to Pakistani immigrants in New York City and raised in Fanwood, New Jersey, Quraishi, was among a diverse slate of 11 judicial nominees put forward by Biden in March. The confirmation of Quraishi, a former military prosecutor and an Army captain in Iraq who tried public corruption cases as a federal prosecutor, was welcomed by members of the Pakistani community.
Leaders of the American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee (APPAC), Dr Ijaz Ahmad, Assad Chaudhry and Dr Mahbood Alam, who lobbied hard for Quraishi’s nomination, called his elevation to the federal bench a “historic moment.”
“He is a model for the outstanding contributions that Pakistani and Muslim Americans make to this country every day. We are grateful to President Biden for nominating him, and to members of the Senate for confirming him today,” Dr Ijaz Ahmad, the APPAC chairman, added.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer urged the confirmation in Senate floor remarks ahead of the vote.
“Mr Quraishi will be the first American Muslim in United States history to serve as an Article III federal judge. The third largest religion in the United States, and he will become the first ever to serve as an Article III judge,” Schumer said. “We must expand not only demographic diversity, but professional diversity, and I know that President Biden agrees with me on this, and this will be something that I will set out out to do.”
“Judge Quraishi has devoted his career to serving our country, and his story embodies both the rich diversity of New Jersey and the promise of America as a place where anything is possible,” Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, said during a speech on the Senate floor prior to the confirmation vote.
Biden has pledged to diversify the federal bench, a sharp contrast to Donald Trump who appointed more than 200 judges – the vast majority of them white – to the federal bench during his four years.
A Rutgers Law School graduate, Quraishi was a partner at the New Jersey law firm Riker Danzig, where he led white-collar criminal investigations.