Obama's Muslim outreach expert leaves for Harvard

The Obama administration official in charge of reaching out to Muslims around the world is leaving for Harvard, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Thursday.

Farah Pandith had served as the State Department's first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities since the president's first year in office. The Indian-born Muslim launched several youth programs, changed the way U.S. embassies engage with Muslims in Europe and got a Quran into the White House library.

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“Farah’s legacy is an extraordinary record of thoughtfulness, balance, and sheer guts and determination,” Kerry said Thursday in announcing her departure. “Anyone who’s worked with Farah will note her uncommon ability to bring people of different backgrounds together. I’ve seen that commitment firsthand in her pioneering work to reach out to countries with both Muslim majorities and minorities.”

Pandith was previously a senior State Department adviser specializing in outreach to European Muslims. She served in George W. Bush's National Security Council on efforts to counter Islamist extremism.

Pandith is leaving for a position at Harvard's Institute of Politics. Her deputy, Adnan Kifayat, will serve as the acting special representative until a permanent replacement is named, Kerry said.

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