Abid Qureshi was selected to serve on Washingtons US district court weeks after Donald Trumps remarks that Muslim judges could be biased against him
Barack Obama has taken the historic step of nominating the first Muslim candidate to become a federal judge.
The announcement comes just weeks after White House candidate Donald Trump made controversial remarks that it was possible, absolutely that Muslim judges could be biased against him.
US judges who are Muslims have served at state level but never the echelons above as appeals, federal or supreme court judges, according to Muslim Advocates, a national advocacy organization.
Abid Qureshi, a litigation and pro bono specialist practicing in Washington, was put forward on Tuesday night to serve on the federal judiciary at the US district court for the District of Columbia.
I think its past time for an American Muslim to be nominated as a federal judge. Im absolutely thrilled, Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, told the Guardian on Wednesday.
Khera had lobbied both Obama, during a meeting at the White House in 2015, to nominate a Muslim to the federal bench, and Qureshi to apply, she said.
A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included, she added.
The selection of Qureshi, who was born in Pakistan and settled in the US as a young child, became the latest milestone in a significant increase in judicial diversity under Obama.
Since becoming president, Obama has led a push to nominate more women, African American, Latino, Asian American and openly gay judges.
Of Qureshi, Obama said: I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.
Qureshi, 45, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1997 and is a partner at the US legal giant Latham & Watkins.
A statement issued by the firm said: Abid is an exceptional litigator He practices with the highest level of integrity.
The firm said it was declining media requests to interview Qureshi.
In his commercial work he specializes in litigating healthcare fraud cases. But he is more widely known for pro bono work. He has been the head of the firms pro bono committee since 2012. And since 2015 he has served on the DC Bar Associations legal ethics committee.
Khera said: Every judge brings their legal and real-life experience to the job and this countrys jurisprudence is strengthened by diversity on the bench but a persons faith has no place in the consideration of whether they are qualified to be a judge. He has represented Americans of all faiths.
She said Latham & Watkins provided pro bono co-counsel on a recent civil rights lawsuit in New York that prompted a court to lift the local transportation authoritys block on satirical ads promoting a documentary about American Muslim comedians.
Khera and other experts pointed out, meanwhile, that the timing of the nomination shortly after Trumps comments was undoubtedly a coincidence.
The nominating process takes many months, said Christopher Kang, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans and a former deputy assistant and deputy counsel to Obama.
He praised Obamas selection of Qureshi.
The presidents candidates continue to be the most diverse nominations for the federal judiciary in history and he has sent a powerful message, whether to those who are thinking of applying to be a federal judge or just someone considering a legal career in the future that you can do so regardless of your gender, race, sexual orientation or religion, he said.
Kang said it was vital for the judiciary to reflect the diversity of American society, as well as act as role models.
He added that Trumps remarks about Muslim judges were racist and offensive. The Republican presidential candidate made the remarks in June, having announced last December that as president he would ban Muslims from entering the US.
The June comments followed on from his lambasting the California federal judge Gonzalo Curiel and demanding he be recused from presiding over a class action lawsuit against the defunct Trump University, because of his Mexican heritage.
The furor about his statement on Muslim judges actually served to highlight the lack of any such individuals serving in the upper levels of the judiciary.
But even if the timing of Qureshis nomination has nothing to do with the political storm stirred up by Trump, Qureshi will have to survive the politics in Congress if he is to be confirmed by the Senate.