I agree with Pete’s stand on prejudice against Muslims. Herman Cain’s comments about his unwillingness to appoint a Muslim to high office were outrageous. I wrote as much myself (here and here) and even told Cain this to his face on the air when we were both guests on the “John Stossel Show” last month. This sort of bias is contrary to our values and interests as a nation, and Pete is right to take to task any conservative who adopts such a stance.
But though I concur it is encouraging that a leading conservative like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie would stand up against prejudice, the criticisms voiced by some conservatives about his appointment of Sohail Mohammed to a judgeship cannot be compared to Cain’s bias. The objections to Mohammed had nothing to do with absurd charges about sharia law. More importantly, Christie’s defense of the appointment on grounds of religious liberty is an attempt to divert attention from the appointee’s connections as well as the governor’s own questionable intervention to prevent the deportation of a known supporter of Hamas.
As I wrote back in January, Sohail Mohammed’s religion is not the issue. Nor would his role as a defense attorney for those who were arrested in the wake of 9/11 because of their ties to terror groups disqualify him for the bench. What is of interest is his role as a board member of the American Muslim Union, an extremist group that has its own questionable record in terms of rationalizing terror attacks and supporting others who do so. Of particular importance is one of Mohammed’s clients: Mohammed Qatanani, the imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County and an influential member of the AMU. Qatanani is a Palestinian supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also admitted to being a member of Hamas when Israeli authorities arrested him in 1993. Qatanani lied about all of this when he subsequently came to this country. But he evaded deportation in 2008 because his lawyer was able to persuade a judge to accept his unproven claim the Israelis had tortured him. He also benefitted from the intervention on his behalf by, of all people, the man who was then United States Attorney for New Jersey: Chris Christie.
Acting on the behest of Mohammed and the American Muslim Union, Christie spoke out on Qatanani’s behalf and even appeared at his mosque and praised the Hamas supporter as a “man of great good will.” Christie’s willingness to make nice with the AMU and help keep Qatanani in this country had very little to do with opposition to religious prejudice and everything to do with an effort to gain sympathy among New Jersey Muslims during the prelude to his campaign for the governorship in 2009.
I happen to agree with Governor Christie that much of the discussion about sharia law in this country is absurd and possibly based in prejudice. While the effort to impose Muslim religious law on non-Muslims is a critical issue in Africa and Asia where the threat of Islamist theocracy is real, in most instances sharia is probably no more of a problem for the American justice system than is Jewish religious law.
But the questions raised about Sohail Mohammed, the American Muslim Union and Christie’s own conduct in the Qatanani case have nothing to do with such nonsense. Rather, this is about the willingness of some Americans to turn a blind eye to the prominent role of Islamists and terror supporters like Qatanani and to the political influence of fixers like Sohail Mohammed. Smearing as bigots those who have posed questions about Christie’s bad judgment is not the same thing as standing up against religious prejudice.