Jul 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden appoints Trump-critic Khizr Khan to religious freedom commission

Khizr Khan speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Khizr Khan speaks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Biden announced Friday that he will appoint Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who famously criticized former President Trump during the 2016 campaign, to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Why it matters: Khan's son, U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed on the battlefield in Iraq in 2004. Khizr Khan made waves during the 2016 Democratic National Convention when he called out Trump for his disparaging rhetoric about Muslim Americans.

  • Speaking alongside his wife, Ghazala, Khan held up a pocket-sized copy of the Constitution and questioned whether Trump had ever read it.
  • "Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?" Khan asked from the podium. "Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing — and no one."
  • The Khans then became a frequent target of Trump, who falsely implied that Ghazala Khan did not speak at the 2016 DNC because of her Muslim faith.
  • Khan endorsed Biden ahead of the 2020 election.

The big picture: Biden also appointed Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, a spiritual leader at New York City's Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, to serve alongside Khan and other commissioners.

  • The president nominated Rashad Hussain, director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council, as ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
  • He also nominated Deborah Lipstadt, renowned Holocaust scholar at Emory University, as special envoy and with the rank of ambassador to monitor and combat antisemitism

What they're saying: "Today’s announcement underscores the President’s commitment to build an Administration that looks like America and reflects people of all faiths," the White House said in a statement.

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