Posted on September 18, 2013 in Press Releases


Contact: Omar Tewfik
Phone: (202) 652-4988

WASHINGTON, DC – 9/18/2013 – President Barack Obama has appointed Arab American Institute President Dr. James J. Zogby to serve on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Last week, Zogby participated in his first meeting as a commissioner. Comprised of nine members, USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and House of Representatives.

On August 30thPresident Obama announced his intent to appoint Zogby and two others to key administration posts, stating:

“I am confident that these outstanding individuals will greatly serve the American people in their new roles, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

In a statement on September 3rdUSCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George stated:

“USCIRF warmly welcomes Dr. Zogby as our newest incoming Commissioner. Given his knowledge, experience and commitment, I am confident that he will make significant contributions to our work on behalf of the cherished right of freedom of religion or belief and its fuller integration into U.S. foreign policy.”  

“Jim’s appointment is a tremendous recognition of something that has been his passion since his days as a student of religion at Temple University,” said AAI Executive Director Maya Berry. “Whether it’s advocating for the rights of Muslims in the US or for Christians in the Middle East, Jim has spent a lifetime advocating for human rights and religious freedom. His appointment to the Commission will benefit religious communities around the world—and, of course, enhance AAI’s own work advocating for greater understanding and respect for all cultures," added Berry.

Currently serving in several leadership roles for a number of interfaith organizations including, Catholics United, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign, and the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, Zogby has a decades-long record of national and international interfaith outreach and bridge building. 

Jim's appointment has been welcomed by various national and international religious, political, and human rights organizations. The following are statements from some of those organizations:

Sikh Coalition
"The Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh American civil rights organization in the United States, commends President Obama for appointing Dr. James J. Zogby to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). As founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), Dr. Zogby has worked tirelessly to prevent backlash violence and discrimination against Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks."

H.E. Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern United States
“It couldn’t have happened to a better person than Dr. Zogby. The President made the right choice. I know the man very well, and I think he fits this position exceptionally well. He is very knowledgeable about the international religious affairs, especially the Middle East, where his family came from, and I think he will greatly benefit the Commission with his experience and expertise in this matter. In all his decisions, Dr. Zogby proved to be fair, impartial and champion for Religious dialogue, on both American and International levels. Being a scholar in Comparative Religions, he proved to be an expert in debates and negotiations for religious freedom worldwide.”

Imam Mohamed Magid, President of Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
"We are delighted to hear of President Obama's appointment of Jim Zogby to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). For decades, Jim has worked and engaged with the American Muslim community and interfaith groups in the US and abroad to build essential bridges and foster working relationships. It is for that reason and in recognition of his invaluable humanitarian contributions to society that ISNA honored Jim in 2008 at our 45th annual convention. I know that he will continue to be a steadfast voice for reason and understanding during his service on the Commission and we congratulate him on his appointment."

Fred Rotondaro, Chairman of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
 "I have had the honor to know Dr. Zogby for more than three decades. My experiences with him have proven to me and to the entire Catholic community that this is a man who has the character, conscience and competence to be a phenomenal leader in his new position on the USCIRF. As a renowned scholar with a doctorate in comparative religions and an esteemed public servant, Dr. Zogby will be an invaluable asset to the Commission in the years to come.”

Hannah Rosenthal, President, Milwaukee Jewish Federation
"I have known Jim by reputation for a long time, and then had the opportunity to work with him when I served as your Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the State Department.  His knowledge of inter-religious challenges and vulnerable communities is second to none, and his commitment to human rights, civil rights and civil liberties is internationally recognized. It is rare that a person has the experience in dealing with comparative religion, philosophy and public policy, but his background and experiences in all of these will make Jim an excellent Commissioner."

Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, Islamic Center of America
"We are happy to hear of Jim's appointment because of the leadership and work he has already shown in advancing interfaith outreach. Rooted in a deep knowledge of Islam and a tremendous respect for our community, Jim will serve in this key post with great skill. Knowing he is there means that when the difficult issues come up, America will have a knowledgeable, reasoned mind at the table whose objective is always to advance understanding and improve people's lives."

Bishop Gregory J. Mansour Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
I warmly welcome Dr. James Zogby's appointment to serve on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. At a time when religious freedom is being eroded both at home and abroad, it is good to know that Dr. Zogby, whom I have known and appreciated for many years, will be joining other strong defenders of religious liberty such as Robert George, the Chairman, and Mary Ann Glendon, who also serves on the USCIRF Commission. It is especially good to know that the newest member of the Commission is a man of integrity and even handedness when it comes to relations with the Arab world. "


Dr.  Zogby is President of the Arab American Institute, which he founded in 1985.  He is also Managing Director of Zogby Research Services, and a Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Polling at New York University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  In 1982, he co-founded Save Lebanon, Inc., a non-profit relief organization which funds social welfare projects in Lebanon.  Earlier in his career, Dr. Zogby co-founded the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.  He is the current Chairman of the Editorial Advisory Committee for SkyNewsArabia News.  He has hosted various television programs, including A Capital View on MBC from 1993 to 2001, and Viewpoint with James Zogby on Abu Dhabi Television from 2001 to 2011.  His column, “Washington Watch,” is currently published in 14 Arab and South Asian countries.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Dr. Zogby received a B.A. from Le Moyne College and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religions from Temple University.