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Nusrat Choudhury Is the First Muslim Woman To Become Federal Judge In US History

Finally, a step in the right direction

As of Thursday June 15, 2023,  Nusrat Jahan Choudhury was confirmed as a federal judge by the US senate. There is no doubt that her achievement is one for the books, marking her as the first Muslim woman and the first Bangladeshi-American to join the federal judicial bench.

She was confirmed in a 50-49 vote, with just one conservative Democrat, who goes by the name of  Joe Manchin, who voted against her because he believed “previous statements call into question her ability to be unbiased towards the work of our brave law enforcement.” The previous assertions that were called into question by the senator were regarding a statement that may or may not have been made by Choudhury surrounding police killings of unarmed Black men happening in the US. 

The 46-year-old former American Civil Liberties Union attorney (ACLU)  will now be serving as judge on the US court for the eastern district of New York. Choudhury was once the deputy director of ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, with a heroic track record for racial profiling and unjust treatment of the poor. In that role, the civil right’s attorney was involved in lawsuits challenging a struggle many Arabs and Muslims can relate to– airlines racially profiling people who looked remotely Arab, New York Police Department  (NYPD) surveillance of Muslims, and police racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policies. 

Her biography on the ACLU website reads: “Nusrat has more than a decade of experience in advancing reform in the criminal legal system and policing. She has led litigation to protect immigrants from dangerous detention conditions and serves as counsel for community organizations enforcing a federal consent decree to reform Chicago police patterns of excessive force.

“Her team advances First Amendment rights, government transparency, change in the criminal legal system and policing, voting rights, access to reproductive health care, gender equity, and the rights of LGBTQ+ people, children in the foster system, young people in juvenile detention, and people in prisons and jails.”

In a virtual ACLU event in March 2021, Choudhury said: “As a Muslim young girl of color here in the Chicago area, race was a part of my reality. It led to police stops that shouldn’t have ever happened; it led to family members facing problems at airports; and led to what I saw around me, which was dramatic residential segregation and different opportunities for people of color than for white people in the city of Chicago.”

Although Choudhury is the first Muslim woman to join the federal judicial bench, the US’s first Muslim federal judge ever appointed was Zahid Quarishi in 2021 to a seat on the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.  Her historic confirmation brings the lack of diversity among federal judges to the fore more than ever, be it by race, ethnicity, or gender. According to the a 2022 CNN review of data from the federal judicial center, “while the bench of federal judges has steadily grown more diverse, it does not reflect the country’s makeup and the majority of judges who are currently serving are White and male, while women and non-White groups remain underrepresented.”

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