Originally published at The American Thinker.
The political flap over Chris Christie’s role in “Bridgegate” has thrown a spotlight once again on the rough-hewn, plain-speaking New Jersey governor. But the drama of the current brouhaha has drawn attention away from the governor’s more serious, ongoing missteps — namely, his cultivation of relationships with those associated with known terrorist groups. Remarkably, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie appears more contrite about Bridgegate than he is about these associations that threaten national security.
Muslims & Political Influence in New Jersey
New Jersey has the second-largest Muslim population of any state, after Michigan. Paterson, the county seat of Passaic County, is home to a controversial Hamas-linked mosque, the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC), and contains the largest population of Palestinian Muslims in the United States. The Muslim community in South Paterson is referred to as “Little Ramallah.”
This past year, Paterson’s mayor, Jeff Jones, was the first U.S. city official to host a “Palestinian-American Day,” with a Palestinian flag hoisted over City Hall on Israeli Independence Day. Astonishingly, the event organizer, Khader Abuassab, a convicted criminal who pled guilty to fraud and swindling, is on record telling local Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement. Further, Abuassab served on the Paterson Board of Education, ran for City Council, and now serves on Governor Christie’s Muslim Outreach Committee.
Christie & Mohammed Qatanani
But Christie’s record of political support for Muslims dates back to his days as U.S. attorney. It was then, in 2006, when he came to the aid of a radical Muslim imam, Mohammed Qatanani, who was on the verge of being deported from the United States for failure to disclose terrorist affiliations.
The little-known details are that Qatanani arrived in the United States in 1996 to take over the ICPC, one of the largest mosques in the state. Housed in a former synagogue, the ICPC was founded in 1989 by Imam Mohammed El-Mezain, a convicted Hamas operative and fundraiser who publicly boasted of raising close to $2 million for the organization. In 1996, Qatanani arrived to succeed El-Mezain.
Given the mosque’s affiliations, it’s not surprising that Qatanani also has a background littered with terrorist associations. He was arrested and convicted in Israel in 1993 as a self-admitted member of Hamas. As a Muslim Brotherhood operative, he had provided financial support for terrorist activities and continued to send large cash transfers to the West Bank once he arrived.
These activities raised suspicions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which in 2006 began attempts to deport Qatanani for failure to disclose his 1993 arrest in Israel for involvement with a terrorist group. Despite the charges for his terrorist activities and very real security concerns about the Hamas-affiliated imam, a spokesman for Qatanani, Aref Assaf, called the deportation effort “vindictive,” implying that the investigation was ill-conceived and baseless.
Then, then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie came to the aid of the imam. In response to a 2008 DHS court filing, Christie defended the imam as a “man of great goodwill” and sent his assistant U.S. attorney, Charles McKenna, to court to serve as a character witness. As a result of Christie’s efforts, Qatanani was granted legal permanent residency.
Christie & Sohail Mohammed
In 2011, as governor, Christie aggressively endorsed and appointed Qatanani’s lawyer, Sohail Mohammed, as a New Jersey Superior Court judge. Some speculated that the post was a payoff to Imam Qatanani for ICPC and Muslim community support for his gubernatorial campaign.
Sohail Mohammed is a board member and general counsel of the American Muslim Union (AMU), an organization co-founded by a former executive for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood front and unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism funding trial in U.S. history. Several AMU executives have held leadership positions at the Hamas-linked ICPC. Sohail Mohammed publicly defended convicted terrorist and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) leader Sami Al-Arian and criticized the U.S. government for shutting down the Holy Land Foundation for its support of Hamas.