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 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.”
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.”
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.