First Muslim U.S. Federal Judge Makes History 

The United States Senate has confirmed the son of Pakistani immigrants as a federal judge, marking the first time in the nation’s history that a Muslim has become a Federal District Court judge.

United States Court House. Courthouse facade with columns, lower Manhattan, New York (Photo by Drop of Light,å
United States Court House, lower Manhattan, New York (Photo by Drop of Light,

Zahid N. Quraishi, a U.S. magistrate judge in the District of New Jersey, was confirmed June 10 by a bipartisan vote of 81 to 16, following his nomination by President Joe Biden in March.

The historic confirmation prompted a flurry of congratulatory messages on social media. Cory Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, said in a Twitter message that Quraishi’s “character, skill and expertise as a jurist,” along with his “longstanding service to our state and country make him an excellent addition to our court.”

Senator Gary Peters of Michigan tweeted that he was “proud to have voted in favor of his confirmation.” A tweet from Mazie Hirono, U.S. Senator from Hawaii: “He makes history today as the first Muslim Article III judge in our country.” (Article 3 refers to the lifetime appointment of judges nominated by the U.S. President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.)

Quraishi underscored the importance of his own historic standing in March when President Biden announced his nomination—among the first names in a diverse lineup of judges that included three African American women for Circuit Court vacancies and the first person of color to serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.

Thanking President Biden for the nomination, Ijaz Ahmad, Chairman of the American Pakistani Public Affairs Committee, described Quraishi as “a model for the outstanding contributions that Pakistani and Muslim Americans make to this country every day.”

Quraishi’s confirmation is a stark if poignant reminder of how long it has taken for a Muslim to serve as a federal judge. “Now seems like a good time,” remarked Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., “to note that the first federal courts were created over 230 years ago.”

A graduate of Rutgers Law School, Quraishi was born in New York City and raised in Fanwood, New Jersey. Following a clerkship with an appellate judge in New Jersey, he worked as a litigation associate with a private law firm.

His first day of work at the firm was September 11, 2001. Two years later, he joined the army and served in Iraq.

Quraishi’s father, a physician, had hoped he would follow in his footsteps and go to medical school. “I had no interest,” Quraishi said in a podcast. “Without any real goal in mind, I thought why not go to law school? I like to argue, I talk all the time.”

The new federal judge’s father, Nisar, died of complications from COVID-19 in April at 73. “We believe he passed away giving his life to what he really loved,” Quraishi told The Tribeca Trib, a newspaper serving Lower Manhattan, where the elder Quraishi practiced medicine.


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Muslim Zahid N. Quraishi Diversity U.S. District Court