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Biden names ‘brother’ to Jewish community for religious freedom post

Mohamed Elsanousi is “more than an ally,” says Rabbi Burton Visotzky of JTS.

The South Grounds Fountain at the White House is dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2024. Credit: Carlos Fyfe/White House.
The South Grounds Fountain at the White House is dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, 2024. Credit: Carlos Fyfe/White House.

One of the men President Joe Biden has nominated for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom comes highly recommended by a leader in interfaith exchange from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Mohamed Elsanousi is “more than an ally to the Jewish community,” Rabbi Burton Visotzky, who directs the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at JTS, told JNS. (Elsanousi is a member of the center’s advisory board.)

“From guiding Muslims to embrace religious freedom for non-Muslims to captaining interfaith efforts for COVID vaccines, Elsanousi is at the forefront,” he told JNS.

“I am proud to work with him and hail his appointment to the commission,” he said.

Elsanousi is executive director of the Finland-based Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, which is funded in part by the Finnish state.

He was “the principal coordinator for developing the standards and protocols for safeguarding the rights of Christian, Jewish and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities,” according to the White House. “This resulted in the adoption of the Marrakech Declaration, the most recognized Islamic theological document advocating religious freedom.”

The 2016 Marrakesh Declaration, signed by more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state and scholars, calls to defend the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.

Elsanousi was previously interfaith and government relations director at the Islamic Society of North America, which has long been accused of being anti-Israel.

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