Last week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) announced seven judgeship appointments to the New Jersey Superior Court, including the appointment of Sohail Mohammed to serve on the court in Passaic County. Mohammed is an immigration lawyer in Clifton, NJ who notably defended many Muslims caught up in post-Sept. 11 dragnets, in which the Department of Justice quickly and secretly arrested hundreds of Muslims in the wake of the attacks. Often, the false pretense of an immigration violation was used to hold these men for many months, even though a vast majority of them had no connection to terrorism whatsoever.
Several prominent anti-Muslim voices on the right have reacted with characteristic vitriol to the elevation of a Muslim in the U.S. justice system, calling Mohammed “the enemy” and accusing Christie of turning New Jersey into a “Sharia State.” A sampling of their response:
— In a widely linked post, “Governor Christie’s Dirty Islamist Ties,” blogger Daniel Greenfield writes that “New Jersey, the Garden State, has just taken its first step toward becoming the Sharia State,” and criticized Christie for being “willing to stand up to the teacher’s union, but not to the terrorist’s union.”
— Hate blogger Pamela Gellar, in a post titled “Governor Christie’s Hamas Pick for Superior Judgeship,” declared Christie’s political career over: “Governor Christie looked and sounded like he could be presidential. He’s not. He’s in bed with the enemy. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if you don’t have your freedom.”
— At Commentary magazine, Jonathan S. Tobin wrote a post about Christie’s “troubling appointment,” and charged that Christie’s “appointment of Sohail Mohammed to the court shows that his judgment on the issue of support for terrorism is highly questionable.”
— The Investigative Project on Terrorism warned Christie’s appointment of an “Islamist” to a judgeship “betrays either naivete or calculation. Either is troubling.”
— PowerLine blog took extra pains to note that “The attorney’s name is Mohammed, first name Sohail — Sohail Mohammed.”
The writers frequently label Mohammed a defender of “suspected terrorists,” but uniformly fail to note that the dragnet resulted in no substantial terrorism prosecutions. They also cannot point to clients of Mohammed’s who were a “terrorist” — except for poorly-sourced allegations against one client, Mohammed Qatanani, the head of one of New Jersey’s largest mosques. He was nearly deported for alleged connections to Hamas, but was later cleared of the charges and allowed to stay in the country, with the support of then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Of course, even if Mohammed did indeed defend “terrorists,” that’s perfectly acceptable and ethical in the American justice system, as the Constitution mandates that everyone is entitled to legal defense and due process.
Mohammed has been a consistent advocate for increased dialogue between the Muslim community and law enforcement. The New York Times noted that Mohammed “helped arrange a law enforcement job fair at a Paterson mosque in which young Muslims were encouraged to apply for jobs with law enforcement agencies. The session also featured a question-and-answer session for mosque members with the police and prosecutors.” Mohammed has also given F.B.I. agents training sessions on Islam and Muslim culture. One would think this type of outreach would be appealing to bloggers who claim radical Islam is the nation’s greatest threat.