Who is Zahid Quraishi? First Muslim-American and Former Army Captain in Iraq Voted Federal Judge

Quraishi was also a military prosecutor and an Army captain in Iraq who tried public corruption cases as a federal prosecutor after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

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The Senate on Thursday voted to confirm Zahid Quraishi to be a US District Judge for the District of New Jersey, making him the first Muslim American federal judge in the country's 244-year history. Quraishi will be "the first Muslim American to serve as an Article III judge in our history," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor before the vote.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said in floor remarks on Thursday that Quraishi has "had an amazing public service career," and noted that he is "the son of Pakistani immigrants." This definitely makes it a landmark day for the United States that took a bold decision to vote Quraishi as a judge.

Marking a New Era

Zahid Quraishi
Zahid Quraishi YouTube Grab

Quraishi was voted 81-16 with all the "no" votes cast by Republicans. Quraishi now becomes the third judicial nominee from President Joe Biden to win Senate confirmation. The other two nominees were confirmed earlier this week, while a fourth – Ketanji Brown Jackson – could be confirmed as early as Monday to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit after senators voted 52-46 to end debate on her nomination.

"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 to ever serve as an Article III judge," Schumer said on Wednesday in floor remarks ahead of the vote.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called on his colleagues to vote for Quraishi, saying he is "a person of patriotism who happens to be Muslim."

"This is history," Booker said, urging his colleagues "to achieve something that should have been achieved a long time ago."

Serving His Country

Zahid Quraishi
Zahid Quraishi YouTube Grab

Biden announced his intention to nominate Quraishi in March. The White House at that time said that he "served as an Assistant US Attorney in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey from 2008 to 2013. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney's office, Quraishi served as an assistant chief counsel at the US Department of Homeland Security.

Quraishi is the son of Pakistani immigrants and was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. He earned his law degree from Rutgers Law School in New Jersey. Following that, he joined a law firm in 2001. Prior to serving the Department of Homeland Security, Quraishi was military prosecutor and an Army captain in Iraq who tried public corruption cases as a federal prosecutor after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"Those events of that day inspired Judge Quraishi to consider a career in public service. He applied to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, where he was commissioned as an officer and attained the rank of captain," Durbin said before the vote, noting that Quraishi served two tours in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star and a Combat Action Badge.

Quraishi was a partner at the New Jersey law firm Riker Danzig, where he led white-collar criminal investigations. His appointment is in line with Biden's promise of bringing in diversity in the judicial system. He had pledged to diversify the federal bench, a sharp contrast to former president Donald Trump who appointed more than 200 judges – the vast majority of them white – to the federal bench during his four years.

At the time Biden unveiled his list of 11, he called them a "trailblazing slate of nominees."

"Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong," he said.