The Harvard graduate is the first Pakistani and Muslim American to head up a major presidential campaign.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is on the verge of racing ahead of the pack in the Democratic primaries winning both New Hampshire and Nevada.

What might come as a surprise to many, given the rise of Islamophobia in the US, is that his campaign is being led by an American Muslim.

Faiz Shakir carries the distinction of being the first Muslim and first Pakistani American to head up a major presidential campaign.

Bernie Sanders has always spoken out vigorously on race issues and is a prominent opponent of US President Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’, which prevents residents from a number of majority Muslim countries from entering the US. Nevertheless Shakir’s inclusion in the campaign in such a prominent way, will be seen as a milestone for the American Muslim community.

The 41-year-old previously served in advisory roles to politicians, as well as private organisations.

Born in Florida to a Pakistani immigrant family, Shakir completed a degree in government at Harvard University before gaining a law degree from Georgetown.

An avid baseball player during his time at Harvard, Shakir credited the sport with introducing him to different cultures, a fact that he says has helped his career. 

“Baseball was everything for my life, in terms of opening up my life to education opportunities. All of my friends and networks even to this day are a lot of friends that I acquired from baseball,” he said.

After graduating, Shakir served as a communication aide for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and as a legislative aide to Senator Bob Graham.

During John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004, Shakir also worked as a junior staffer. A year later, he worked as a policy adviser for the Center for American Progress, and helped launch the ThinkProgress blog. Between 2007 and 2012, he was the editor-in-chief of the blog.

In later roles, Shakir served as an adviser on new media to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and as a senior adviser to Democrat Senate Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

Before joining the Bernie Sanders campaign, Shakir also served as the political director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He was one of the people involved in launching the People Power website, which encourages people across the US to mobilise in defence of civil liberties.

Source: TRT World