New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is defending his pick of a Muslim for a state judgeship, saying critics of a lawyer who represented suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are “ignorant” and “crazies”.
Sohail Mohammed, 47, was sworn in July 26 as a Superior Court judge in Passaic County. Some political columnists and bloggers have accused Mohammed of having links to terrorism and said he’ll be more likely to follow Shariah law, religious standards based on the Koran, instead of state or federal statutes.
Christie, a first-term Republican and former U.S. attorney, told reporters July 26 in Newark that he met Mohammed after 9/11 when he represented Muslims detained by the FBI. Mohammed, of Clifton, “played an integral role” in creating trust between the Islamic community and law enforcement, Christie said.
“This Shariah law business is crap,” said Christie, 48. “It’s just crazy and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
Mohammed is the second Muslim superior court judge in New Jersey, according to Christie. The first, Hany Mawla, was nominated by Christie’s predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine. He took the bench on Jan. 27, 2010, in Somerset County.
Mohammed was nominated by Christie in January. That month, Debbie Schlussel, a columnist for publications including the New York Post and Jerusalem Post, wrote: “Chris Christie rewarded those Muslim mobs who cheered on U.S. soil for the mass murder of 3,000 Americans with a judgeship.”
Peter Woolley, a professor of political science and director of the PublicMind Polling institute at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, said criticism of the Mohammed appointment has come more from national bloggers than from within Christie’s home state. “In New Jersey it’s almost been below the radar,” he said.
None of the people Mohammed represented was charged with crimes of terrorism, and all were released because of his representation, Christie said. Many people were inappropriately detained by the FBI after the attacks, and it posed a difficult time for law enforcement, Christie said.
“A lot of passion has ignited around the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11,” said Brigid Harrison, a professor of law and politics at Montclair State University. “There’s a bit of renewed raw emotion on this issue.”
A voice-mail message left at the home for Sohail Mohammed listed in Clifton wasn’t immediately returned.