Sam Brownback, Donald Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said he “didn’t imagine” he would ever be defending Muslims.
When Mr Brownback, an evangelical Christian-turned-Catholic, was first nominated for the post in 2017, the social conservative drew opposition from Muslim rights groups and every Democrat in the Senate, where he once represented Kansas as a Republican. While governor of Kansas, he had signed legislation decried by some as Islamophobic. And he has supported the Trump administration’s move to restrict entry for people from a number of Muslim-majority nations.
Yet Mr Brownback has emerged as the face of America’s support for Muslims in China and Myanmar, surprising some of his earlier critics even as others remain sceptical about the administration’s motives as he defends an estimated 1m Uighurs detained in what he referred to as “concentration-type camps” in China.
“When . . . China puts a rule in place that you can’t name a child Mohammed and you can’t fast and they force-feed people pork, you’re really going right into the face of the practice of the faith,” he told the Financial Times. He said Beijing’s “pernicious” measures were aimed at turning Muslims into “good placid Chinese citizens”.