Obama Names Muslim Envoy to OIC

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CAIRO — U.S. President Barack Obama has named a new special envoy to the pan-Muslim Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), hoping to help improve ties and cooperation with the Muslim world.

“I’m proud to announce today that I am appointing my Special Envoy to the OIC — Rashad Hussain,” Obama said in a video message to the Seventh U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha.

He was hopeful the Muslim envoy will give a new momentum to relations between America and the Muslim world.

“As an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff, Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo.”

In a speech in Cairo last June, Obama vowed to forge a “new beginning” with the Muslim world to remove a decade of discord between the two sides.

“Since then, my administration has made a sustained effort to listen,” Obama said. “We’ve held thousands of events and townhalls — with students, civil society groups, faith leaders and entrepreneurs — in the United States and around the world.”

Hussain will replace incumbent Sada Cumber, a Texas businessman who was appointed in February 2008 as the first U.S. envoy to the pan-Muslim body by the president George W. Bush.

The OIC, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, groups 57 members and is considered the world’s largest Muslim assembly.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity, through the framework laid in Cairo, for a comprehensive engagement with the Muslim world,” Hussain said.

Obama said Hussain’s good reputation and mastering of Arabic and Islam would help him in his mission, which the president admitted won’t be easy.

“As a hafiz of the Qur’an, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work,” Obama said.

Obama admitted the mission would not be an easy one.

“None of this will be easy. Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun.”

Hussain, a U.S. lawyer of Indian parents, was named deputy associate counsel to Obama in 2009.

He has served as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice and as assistant on the House Judiciary Committee, where he reviewed legislation such as the controversial Patriot Act.

“I am honored and humbled that the president has asked me to serve as his Special Envoy to the OIC,” Hussain said.

He pledged to do his best to restore good ties with Muslim world.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity, through the framework laid in Cairo, for a comprehensive engagement with the Muslim world.”

Hussain hopes to strengthen ties with Muslim countries particularly in the education, science and technology fields.

“I look forward to deepening those partnerships. The president has made it clear that we will be judged on our actions, on results,” he said.

Hussain, who has a master’s degree in public administration and in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University, is a graduate of Yale Law School.