The United States State Department announced Friday the appointment of a Muslim woman from Indian origin as a new envoy to deal with the Muslim world, following a previous appointment of an Egyptian-born advisor in April.
"I am pleased to announce the appointment of Farah Pandith to serve as Special Representative to Muslim Communities," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who appointed the 41-year-old to interat with Muslims across the globe, said in the statement.
"Farah brings years of experience to the job, and she will play a leading role in our efforts to engage Muslims around the world," Clinton added.
Pandith, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child from Indian Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, will "be responsible for executing the administration's efforts to engage with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organizational level," the department said in a statement.
Previously, Pandit has been a senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs on outreach to Muslim communities in the West. She has also served on the National Security Council and with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on assistance projects for Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.
"She has said that she sees her personal experience as an illustration of how Muslim immigrants to the U.S. can successfully integrate themselves into American society," the statement added.
President Barack Obama has made improving U.S. relations with Muslims around the world a signature theme of his presidency.
In his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, Obama vowed to seek a "new way forward" with the Muslim world "based on mutual interest and respect," after eight rocky years under his predecessor George W. Bush.
She has said that she sees her personal experience as an illustration of how Muslim immigrants to the U.S. can successfully integrate themselves into American society
US State Department statement
Not sure if Muslim
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed Thursday that Pandith had been appointed, and promised a statement later.
Asked why the State Department had not formally announced Pandith's appointment, Kelly noted it had been disclosed in an internal memo.
Kelly said he could not say whether Pandith was a Muslim, although two U.S. officials said privately that they believed she was. Pandith was not immediately available for comment.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government has labored to improve its image with Muslims abroad.
Afeefa Sayeed, another American-Kashmiri, has been working as senior
adviser in the Obama administration’s international aid agency USAID.
Egyptian-born American Dalia Mogahed, who heads the Gallup American Center for Muslim Studies, became the first Muslim veiled woman to be appointed to a position in the White House in April. Mogahed advised Obama on his Cairo speech.