Beyond Bridgegate: Ignoring the Elephant in the Room

chrisThe significance of Bridgegate, however extensive, pales in comparison to Christie’s deeply troubling relationships with terrorist-sympathizers and supporters in the New Jersey Muslim community.  He has sheltered known Islamists from law enforcement, excused their hateful rhetoric, ignored threats to national security, criticized legitimate law enforcement activities, and dismissed constitutional rights — all to pander to a Muslim constituency.

By Janet Levy:

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.

Read more at American Thinker

Much more on Christie’s willful blindness here: http://counterjihadreport.com/category/chris-christie/

Four Islamists on Gov. Christie’s Muslim Outreach Committee

by: Ryan Mauro

A RadicalIslam.org investigation has discovered that at least four Islamists sit on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Muslim outreach committee, which was formed after Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa concludedin May that NYPD intelligence-gathering operations in New Jersey did not break any laws.

All of the information about the Islamist backgrounds of these four committee members is publicly available, yet the Christie Administration picked them to serve as liaisons to the Muslim community of the state. As a result, they are having private meetings with N.J.’s top security officials. This is just the latest example of Christie’s embrace of Islamists that should be shunned, not exalted.

The discovery that the Islamists were on the committee was made when RadicalIslam.org obtained a previously unreleased list of committee members present at a September 5, 2012 meeting at the Leroy Smith Building in Newark.

The four committee members of concern are:

  • Imam Mohammad Qatanani, whose deportation is sought by the Department of Homeland Security for not disclosing on his green card application that he was arrested and convicted by Israel in 1993 for his involvement with Hamas;
  • Ahmed Shedeed, a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and President of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, a mosque with a history of Islamist leadership. Its website currently contains disturbing statements about jihad, the West, wife beating and polygamy;
  • Mohammed Younes, the President of the American Muslim Union, a group with Islamist leadership and close ties to Qatanani’s mosque, which was founded by a Hamas fundraiser; and
  • Imam Abdul Basit of the New Brunswick Islamic Center, a mosque founded by a radical cleric. In July, it held a Brotherhood-linked seminar featuring multiple extremist speakers.

Addressing the committee were: Attorney General Chiesa, NJ State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Director Edward Dickson. These addresses were followed by dialogue with committee members.

Other NJ officials that were present at the meeting were: First Assistant Attorney General Calcagni, Special Assistant Christopher Iu, Special Assistant Paul Salvatoriello, State Police Major Gerald Lewis and Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Community Affairs Chief John Paige.

Profiles of the Four Islamist Committee Members

Imam Mohammad Qatanani

Imam Mohammad QatananiThe most notorious of the committee members is Mohammad Qatanani. He was arrested in Israel in 1993 because of his links to Hamas, including the fact that his brother-in-law was a Hamas official in the West Bank. Qatanani told the Israelis that he had been a member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood but left in 1991 because he had limited time for this project. The Israeli government says he admitted to being a Hamas member and was convicted, but he was released as part of a plea bargain. The Department of Homeland Security is seeking his deportation for failing to disclose this on his green card application.

In 1994, Qatanani moved to NJ to lead the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, a mosque founded in 1989 by Hamas fundraiser Mohammed El-Mezain. In November 1994, El-Mezain stated that ICPC was collecting money for Hamas, according to an FBI report. The two men jointly led the ICPC and lived together as El-Mezain raised money for terrorism until he stepped down in 1999. In July 2006, the Department of Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against Qatanani.

The DHS says Qatanani “engaged in terrorist activity” and is guilty of “material misrepresentation” and “engaging in unauthorized employment … by allowing an out-of-status alien to reside with him.” It also describes a “highly dubious” transfer of thousands of dollars to the West Bank.

“It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services, to Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and a Hamas fundraiser also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank,” the 2008 DHS court filing states.

Qatanani is the only Hamas supporter identified by name in a July 2008 NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness intelligence report about the Hamas network in the state. His preaching between 2007 and 2009 reflected his radical views, as shown in translations made by the Investigative Project on Terrorism. For example, he prayed for the defeat of “occupation and oppression” in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya in 2007. The enemies of Islam are the U.S., Israel and Russia in this context.

He also preached that Jews and Christians “will be swiftly punished by Allah” and that Muslims should not speak poorly of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, a top Muslim Brotherhood cleric that endorses suicide bombings and Hamas. He also defended donations to the families of suicide bombers. Just this September, Qatanani said the U.S. should outlaw criticism of Islam.

Under Qatanani’s leadership, the ICPC has held various Islamist speakers, such as Hamas-supporter Imam Reda Shata, Hamas-linked activist Abdelhaleem Ashqar (who is now in prison for refusing to testify about the Hamas network in the U.S.) and Wagdy Ghoneim, who was voluntarily deported from the country in 2005 for his terror ties and now preaches extremism in Egypt.

In April 2004, a former chairman of the ICPC’s board, Esam Omeish, praised Palestinians who “[understand] that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land,” pointing out the “beloved” founder of Hamas as an example to follow. He also supports the Muslim Brotherhood as a “moderate” force and once was the president of the Muslim American Society, a Brotherhood front. He also “likes” Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi on Facebook.

Despite this record, Christie defended Qatanani against the DHS in 2008, calling him  a “man of great goodwill.” His Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna was as a character witness for him during the trial. The immigration judge granted Qatanani permanent residency, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling. The next deportation hearing is scheduled for November 26.

In May, Attorney General Chiesa met with Qatanani after he cleared the NYPD of breaking state laws. On July 24, Qatanani attended an Iftar dinner at the Governor’s Mansion. During his address, Christie pointed out Qatanani, calling him a “friend” and attacking his critics as anti-Muslim “bigots.”

Mohammed Younes

The President of the American Muslim Union, Mohammed Younes, is also on the Muslim outreach committee. This organization is very closely tied to the Hamas-linked Islamic Center of Passaic County led by Imam Qatanani, having had five common officials as of 2004. For example, Younes has served on the mosque’s board of trustees.

Younes sounds sympathetic to the cause of Hamas. He said in 2001, “I put myself in the Palestinians’ shoes, the suffering, the pain, the hunger. I don’t know what I would do. Are they dogs? Are they garbage? I don’t want to see anyone killed. But you can’t be selective.” He called the U.S. hypocritical for condemning Hamas but not Israel. However, he said he would not donate to Hamas because “they are killers,” but supports giving aid to the children of killed Hamas operatives.

During Qatanani’s deportation trial, Prosecutor Alan Wolf said that a pamphlet was found at the ICPC after the 9/11 attacks that explained what Muslims should not tell the police. Wolf also mentioned that a newspaper quoted Younes in 2002 where he advised against giving personal information to law enforcement. As he left, Younes complained, “The FBI is abusing us.”

Read more

Ryan Mauro is RadicalIslam.org’s National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.

Free Speech That Mocks Islam Is National Security Threat for U.S., Prominent NJ Imam Tells TheBlaze

Imam-Mohammad-Qatanani (Photo Credit: Carmine Galasso / The Record)

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There are religions that promote turning the other cheek even when mocked, but it appears Islam is not one of them. According to one of the most prominent imams in North America, Islam never condones violence, but it also, under no uncertain terms, “ever accepts” speaking ill of the Prophet Muhammad.

In fact, so grave is mockery of the prophet considered, that the cleric – Mohammad Qatanani, who leads one of the largest mosques in New Jersey – even believes free speech that criticizes Islam poses a national security threat to the U.S. and that those responsible should be investigated by the Department of Homeland Security.

“We, as Americans, have to put limits and borders [on] freedom of speech,” Qatanani, leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC), told TheBlaze. He explained that while Americans may ”have the freedom to speak their mind, ultimately, they “have no right to [talk about Muslim] holy issues“ as it will incite ”hatred or war among people.”

Qatanani said he thinks agitators who slander Islam, or, more specifically, the Prophet Muhammad, incite violence and hence, pose a national security risk that threatens the safety of Americans at home and abroad. Thus, America should disregard its First Amendment as it is typically applied and instead act in accordance with sharia law for the ultimate “good” of society.

In an exclusive interview with TheBlaze, the cleric, who was nearly deported in 2008 for failing to disclose his former ties to the terrorist organization Hamas on a 1996 Green Card application, explained that Muslims are required by Islam to respect the law of the land in their host-countries. He followed up that statement, however, with a treatise on how those who slander the prophet be pursued legally.

While some leaders within the Muslim community have spoken out against the anti-America driven violence in the Middle East, many have qualified their condemnation with moral equivalence, treating a film dubbed “Innocence of Muslims” (which some claim served as the catalyst for the attacks), with even harsher disdain than they do murder. Qatanani said the Obama White House should take legal action against the filmmakers.

“My position is that White House has to say strong in its condemnation [of the filmmakers] and take this person to court. If he is innocent, we will accept that… The government has strong case against this person.”

When asked what can be done to prevent future attacks, Qatanani invoked Homeland Security again, suggesting that the department actually step-in to prevent artists, composers, movie-makers, or satirists (among others), from producing works critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. He believes it is in America’s best interest to quell this kind of free speech as it “ruins” America’s image abroad and will ultimately hurt people.

Qatanani’s statements make it appear that, in so many words, the cleric is advocating for the U.S. to operate by sharia law – the religious law of Islam – when it comes to freedom of speech as it relates to Islam. If so, it would seem to echo comments in a previous report on TheBlaze outlining Islamists’ “10-year plan” to make slandering Islam unlawful on an international level.

American freedom versus Islamic freedom

One of the most revealing insights made by the controversial faith leader came when he juxtaposed American freedom with the type of freedom permitted under sharia law.

The imam acknowledged that observant Muslims view freedom only through the lens of that which is permitted by the Quran and Sunnah, the two sacred texts of Islam, and is therefore much different from the way Americans view freedom.

“They [Muslims] think our [American] freedoms are too much,” Qatanani said. “The freedom of the American people is so different from their [Muslims'] freedoms. We believe freedoms have limits and rules, otherwise we will get people into trouble…Freedom according to Islam must be according to the Quran and Sunnah. You can do [anything] you like within the teachings of these two resources. This is the difference and main reason [for the conflict].”

A different standard of freedom?

“People there [in the Middle East] don’t understand the American Constitution and freedom of speech,” Qatanani said. We have to understand each other because misunderstanding is a killing issue… The issue of Prophet Muhammad is very delicate – they [Muslims] will not accept in any way, anybody who talks badly about Muhammad.”

He went on to explain that not even Jesus or Moses, who Muslims also revere as heroes and prophets, would be permitted to speak ill of their ultimate Prophet Muhammad and stated emphatically, and repeatedly, during the interview that Muslims will never “accept” or tolerate such slander even in the U.S. under the auspices of freedom of speech.

At one point Qatanani said that it is essentially fine to mock Jesus or Moses (as Americans often satire various religious figures) but that is absolutely verboten to mock Muhammad. Later, he added that Muslims would be equally upset if anyone were to slander Christian or Jewish figureheads.

On the embassy attacks

At the end of the day Qatanani was consistent in his call for peace, however, he was particularly fixated on the “Innocence of Muslims” as egregious enough to justify violence.

“I believe the producer of the film’s [goal] was to have people hate each other. We are against the bad reaction, but the producer wants people to react that way [rioting]. He has a hidden agenda.”

In fairness, TheBlaze has reported that the filmmakers appear to be dubious characters with checkered pasts, and perhaps even ill-intentions. That said, they were certainly within their “right” under American law to produce the movie, whether tasteful or not. Qatanani pressed that irrespective of context, such movies and rhetoric will be exploited by extremists and thus, America has a responsibility to prevent inflammatory material that could agitate jihadists from reaching the mainstream.

An interesting point to note was that throughout the discussion, Qatanani repeatedly called for peaceful action and condemned violence as being anathema to true Islam. Conversely, he referred to the attacks on U.S. embassies abroad that left a U.S. ambassador, two Navy SEALs and one additional civil servant dead, as merely ”a bad reaction.”

He then repeated calls for peace and maintained that such “bad reactions” go directly against Islam’s peaceful nature.

“We condemn any bad reaction that is not peaceful. That is not Islamically acceptable, even by the teachings of the prophet. It is unacceptable.”

Read more at The Blaze

 

Video: Christie Says “Bigots” Attacking Him on Radical Islam

by RYAN MAURO

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, often described as a “rock star” in the Republican Party, has finally addressed the criticism of his courtship of Islamists. On July 24, Christie held an Iftar dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, attended by Imam Mohammad Qatanani, a Hamas-linked cleric whose deportation is sought by the Department of Homeland Security. Christie reiterated his support for Qatanani and made the case to his Muslim audience that he is their ally by ridiculing the “bigots” attacking him.

Christie opens by talking about the attacks on “our relationship” (between him and, as he would characterize it, the Muslim community of N.J.) that show a “gaze of intolerance that’s going around our country that is disturbing.” You can watch the entire speech on YouTube.

Ramadan Iftar at Governor Christie’s Mansion 7/24/2012:

He mocked his critics, saying “You’ll all be fascinated to learn that in many publications around the country, I’m called an Islamist.” No one ever said he is an Islamist himself and only a handful of writers have covered the controversy, including myself,, the Investigative Project on TerrorismDr. Daniel PipesRobert Spencer and my fellow N.J. resident, Andrew McCarthy.

Christie blatantly accused us of having anti-Muslim motivations.

“These are the kind of red herrings that people put up who are bigots, who want to judge people based upon their religious beliefs, want to judge people with a broad brush,” he said.

He stood by his support for Imam Qatanani, pointing out that he was in attendance and “I’m glad to have you here.” He called him a “friend” that “has attempted to be a force for good in his community.”

To prove to his audience that he is their ally against “Islamophobia,” though he didn’t use that exact word, he cited the controversies surrounding three of his actions: His support for Qatanani, his nomination of Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court Judge and how he stood against the NYPD’s intelligence-gathering operations in his state. Let’s address these cases one-by-one.

Imam Mohammad Qatanani

The story begins in 1993. The Israelis detained Qatanani for three months because they believed he was working with the Hamas terrorist group, partially because his brother-in-law was a Hamas leader in the West Bank. He told the Israelis that he had been a member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood but left in 1991 because of time constraints, not over any ideological split. He admitted to being a member of Hamas as part of a plea bargain and was released.

Qatanani came to N.J. in 1994 to serve as an imam for the Islamic Center of Passaic County (ICPC) in Paterson. The mosque was founded in 1989 by Mohammed el-Mezain, who later was convicted of being a Hamas fundraiser. It was in this mosque that el-Mezain boasted of having raised nearly $2 million in the U.S. for Hamas. Qatanani served alongside el-Mezain, even sharing the same address, until el-Mezain handed the reigns over to him.

Another extremist ICPC official was Esam Omeish, who once was the chairman of the board. He is the former president of the Muslim American Society, a Muslim Brotherhood front. Omeish calls the Brotherhood “moderate” and has expressed admiration for the founder of Hamas and Palestinians who believe “that the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.”

ICPC had Abdelhaleem Ashqar as a guest speaker, who was accused of being involved with Hamas and was later convicted for refusing to testify about the terrorist group’s fundraising. Another guest speaker at ICPC is Hamas-supporter Imam Reda Shata. When he was the leader of Brooklyn’s Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, he had El-Mezain as a guest speaker. The NYPD put Shata under surveillance as a “Tier One Person of Interest.”

In 1999, Qatanani applied for a green card and did not disclose his conviction by the Israelis as a member of Hamas. The Department of Homeland Security began seeking his deportation in July 2006. A 2008 court filing by the DHS accuses him of “material misrepresentation” and “engaging in unauthorized employment…by allowing an out-of-status alien to reside with him.” It also states that he “has engaged in terrorist activity.” Qatanani sent thousands of dollars to the West Bank and the DHS described his explanation that it was easier than a wire transfer to be “highly dubious.”

“It is certainly suspicious when a person who has been convicted of being a member of, and providing services, to Hamas, who has personal ties to a Hamas militant leader, and a Hamas fundraiser also sends undisclosed cash to the West Bank,” the filing states.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism translated some of his sermons between 2007 and 2009 that show the radicalism he preaches. Here are some highlights:

  • 2007: He prayed that Allah will help “our brothers and sisters in Philistine [Palestine] and Iraq and Chechnya” to “remove occupation and oppression.” The enemy “occupiers” are Israel, the U.S. and Russia.
  • June 2007: He teaches that Christians and Jews “will be swiftly punished” with “the hypocrites [who] are in the lower pits of hellfire.”
  • November 2007: He instructs Muslims not to talk bad about fellow Muslims, using Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi as an example. Qaradawi is the top Muslim Brotherhood cleric who vocally supports Hamas and suicide bombings.
  • January 2008: “You see now that you should do jihad or struggle, to change evil-doing…You know, I mention in so many times that jihad is greater than fighting. It is not only fighting. And you cannot just contain it in fighting.”
  • May 2009: He prays that Allah will release the imprisoned officials of the Holy Land Foundation, who were locked up for financing Hamas. He said that they were the victim of a “political judgment” and that the U.S. government is persecuting the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America by labeling them as “unindicted co-conspirators” in the trial.

 

Qatanani was booked as a speaker on June 24 at Dar al-Hijrah, an extremely radical mosque tied to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and frequented by Al-Qaeda operatives.

So, how did Christie, then U.S. Attorney, react to the DHS’ efforts to deport Qatanani?

He sent his Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna to testify as a character witness on his behalf. In September 2008, Christie went to the ICPC to praise Qatanani as a “man of great goodwill.”

After becoming Governor, Christie appointed McKenna as his director of the N.J. Office of Homeland Security, a post he held until February. In July 2008, the office McKenna would later lead actually produced a report about Hamas networks in the state that contradicted McKenna’s assessment of Qatanani. The imam’s name was the only one to be mentioned in it.

The day after Christie’s endorsement, the immigration judge ruled in favor of Qatanani, granting him permanent residency and dismissing Israel’s evidence against him. The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned it, deciding that the Israeli evidence was “properly authenticated and that there was no adequate basis for the immigration judge to give them ‘very low evidentiary weight.’”  The Israelis provided three documents: A letter from their liaison and the military court’s verdict and indictment. The DHS points out that Qatanani never said he was forced into confessing that he was a member of Hamas and admitted that he underwent a trial process in Israeli custody, proving that he knew he was convicted when he filed his green card.

The deportation hearing continues November 26 and Christie is standing by him.

Sohail Mohammed

In his Ramadan dinner speech, Christie boasted of nominating attorney Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court Judge and blasted the “hysteria” surrounding his decision and “all the nonsense and all this business about Sharia Law.”

Mohammed was the General Counsel of the American Muslim Union, which has had at least five common officials with the Hamas-founded ICPC. The organization’s newsletter stated that “Zionist commandos orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks” and supports Neturei Karta, a pro-Hamas, pro-Ahmadinejad Jewish group dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The group also declined to participate in the 2005 “Free Muslims March Against Terror,” which condemned all terrorist groups, including Hamas.

Mohammed also spoke out against the prosecutions of Sami al-Arian, a convicted leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Holy Land Foundation. The evidence against them was enormous. He dismissed it and is now a Superior Court Judge, thanks to Christie.

When the controversy first broke, Christie reacted with: “This Sharia Law business is crap. It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. I mean, you know, it’s just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.”

In his speech on July 24, Christie said he had known Mohammed for years. What he didn’t say is how he knew him.

Mohammed was Qatanani’s attorney.

 
Read more: Family Security Matters

Ryan Mauro is Family Security Matters’ national security analyst. He is a fellow with RadicalIslam.org, the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at ryanmauro1986@gmail.com.