Senate confirms Zahid Quraishi as first Muslim American federal judge

Quraishi's historic nomination as a U.S. district judge for the District of New Jersey was confirmed by an 81-16 vote.

Zahid Quraishi, a nominee to be a U.S. district judge for the District of New Jersey, is sworn in for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 28.Tom Williams / Pool via Getty Images

The Senate voted 81-16 Thursday to confirm Zahid Quraishi as a U.S. 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.

Quraishi, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, where he earned his law degree from Rutgers Law School. He joined a law firm in 2001 but enlisted in the military after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 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," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said before the vote, noting that Quraishi served two tours in Iraq and was awarded the Bronze Star and a Combat Action Badge.

After he left the Army, Quraishi went to work for the Department of Homeland Security and then the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey before he returned to private practice. In 2019, he was appointed as a U.S. magistrate judge in New Jersey — making him the first Asian American to serve on the federal bench in the state.

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."