A Clarion Project 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 concluded in 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 Clarion Project 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
The 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.”
[ad] Younes seems to have a pattern of defending guilty Islamists while accusing the government of misconduct. He defended the ICPC by saying it “did not know everywhere their money was going, and they would have not meant to give it to Hamas.” As mentioned, El-Mezain publicly stated that the fundraising was for Hamas. When five Muslims were convicted of planning to attack Fort Dix, Younes said, “I don’t think they actually meant to do anything. I think they were acting stupid, like they thought the whole thing was a joke.”
One common official between AMU and ICPC is Mohamed El-Filali. Media reports have titled him the executive director of ICPC, but the mosque’s website says he is the Outreach Director. IslamWeb described him as an AMU official in 2002. Joel Mowbray writes that the Associated Press identified him as an “Executive Committee member” of AMU around the time he led a rally that said Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is equivalent to Hitler. He refused to condemn suicide bombings, saying “I am not in their shoes. My house has not been destroyed; my brother has not been shot dead.” El-Filali met with Attorney General Chiesa after he cleared the NYPD.
Another concerning AMU official is Magdy Mahmoud. He was on the executive board of the Muslim Arab Youth Association at the same time as the FBI learned of extremist rhetoric at its events. In 1994, Hamas fundraiser Mohammed El-Mezain spoke for the group. He spoke after an individual that the audience was told led the “Hamas military wing.” An FBI report documents the speaker saying, “I’ve been told to restrict or restrain what I say … I hope no one is recording me or taking any pictures, as none are allowed … because I’m going to speak the truth to you. It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!”
Mahmoud was the chairman of the AMU’s Chapters Committee from 1999 to 2001. He is also the co-founder and a former president of the NJ chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), another unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-funding trial. The federal government says CAIR is an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestine Committee. A CAIR-NJ official met with Attorney General Chiesa after he cleared the NYPD.
Another official is Waheed Khalid, who is the chairman of AMU’s Bergen County chapter and the former president of Dar ul-Islah Mosque in Teaneck, N.J. In May 1998, he expressed sympathy for Hamas, saying, “They are trying to get the occupiers out of their home.” In 2002, he refused to comment on the authenticity of the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion but suggested it has credibility by saying that most people believe it. He also defended an Egyptian television show based on it, saying, “They have the right to show it, and I think it is news, and it is quite interesting to know what it says.”
In 2002, AMU sponsored a rally with the Muslim American Society, a Brotherhood front, and the pro-Hamas Islamic Association for Palestine, another Brotherhood front. The event demanded the indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a war criminal and that the U.S. cut off aid to Israel. In contrast, the AMU did not endorse the 2005 “Free Muslims March Against Terror” that condemned all terrorist groups including Hamas, according to Discover the Networks.
In 2004, AMU’s online newsletter said a “Zionist commando orchestrated the 9-11 terrorist attacks” and praised Neturei Karta, a Jewish extremist group that supports Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the elimination of the state of Israel.
Governor Christie picked the AMU’s general counsel, Sohail Mohammed, to be a Superior Court Judge in 2011. Mohammed was the attorney for Imam Qatanani and also defended Sami al-Arian, who was convicted of being a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the U.S. Christie reacted to the controversy over his appointment by saying, “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.”
Muslim Brotherhood supporter Ahmed Shedeed is the president of the Islamic Center of Jersey City, an Islamist mosque. His Facebook page has a photo of him at a rally in New York City for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi. He also “likes” the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and three Arabic pages that have Morsi as their main photo, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Circle of North America. Shedeed repeatedly shares Brotherhood-themed photos on his page.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Islamic Center of Jersey City has a history of links to extremism. Its director from 1978 to 1990, Mohammed Al-Hanooti, was the president of a pro-Hamas group called the Islamic Association for Palestine from 1984 to 1986. The American Muslim Brotherhood’s internal files identify it as one of its fronts. He also attended a secret Brotherhood-organized meeting of Hamas supporters in Philadelphia in 1993. In the late 1990s, he served as the imam of the radical Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia, which has extensive Brotherhood and Hamas ties.
According to his biography from the website of an Islamist conference to be held in Chicago this month, al-Hanooti left the Islamic Center of Jersey City to serve as an imam at Qatanani’s ICPC from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1999, he served as the imam of the radical Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Virginia, another mosque with extensive Brotherhood and Hamas ties. From 2000 to 2001, he was the imam of the Islamic Center of Capital District in Albany, New York.
Mohammad Salameh, a terrorist convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, often attended the mosque in the early 1990s. Al-Hanooti was also named a “possible unindicted co-conspirator” in the Trade Center plot.
In 2000, the mosque’s imam, Sayyid Askar, said that “jihad is an absolute obligation upon those land has been occupied, and all Muslims have to stand together to repulse the enemy.”
“Why should we be on the defensive? Why don’t we adopt a more assertive attitude? If they confront us on one question, we should respond with ten of our own. If they ask us about jihad, we should ask them about America’s openly aggressive policies in many parts of the world, not to mention all of their covert operations.”
It also justifies jihad as a fight against oppression (which it previously accused the U.S. of being guilty of) and “worldly” rule:
“The Islamic teachings about jihad are what uproots oppression and guarantees people the freedom to think and to choose their religion for themselves without being under any compulsion. Islam seeks to have people freely submit themselves to their Creator and not be placed under the subjugation of any worldly dictator, race, tribe, or nationality.”
It preaches that the West is racist:
“We can stress how Islam teaches equality between all people. There is no preference for anyone over anyone else except by a person’s piety and virtue. This is the way to do away with the problem of racism that people in the West suffer from.”
It justifies polygamy:
“If they ask you about polygamy, ask them about the sexual promiscuity that is rife in their societies that has brought humiliation to so many women and allowed men to absolve themselves of their responsibilities towards them and towards their children?”
The ICJC’s website also links to an article asking the question, “Does Islam Allow Wife Beating?” The answer is yes, as long as it is warranted, the face is not touched and no marks are left. It explains, drawing upon the teaching of former Islamic Society of North America President Muzammil Siddiqi:
“However, in some cases, a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife, but this is only applicable in extreme cases and it should be resorted to if one is sure it would improve the situation.”
“The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) explained it ‘dharban ghayra mubarrih’ which means ‘a light tap that leaves no mark.’ He further said that face must be avoided. Some other scholars are of the view that it is no more than a light touch by siwak, or toothbrush.”
“It is also important to note that even this "light strike" mentioned in the verse is not to be used to correct some minor problem, but it is permissible to resort to only in a situation of some serious moral misconduct when admonishing the wife fails, and avoiding from sleeping with her would not help. If this disciplinary action can correct a situation and save the marriage, then one should use it."
It then quotes from Jamal Badawi, another Islamic Society of North America official:
"There are cases, however, in which a wife persists in bad habits and showing contempt of her husband and disregard for her marital obligations. Instead of divorce, the husband may resort to another measure that may save the marriage, at least in some cases. Such a measure is more accurately described as a gentle tap on the body, but never on the face, making it more of a symbolic measure than a punitive one.”
“Based on Quran and Hadith, this measure may be used in the cases of lewdness on the part of the wife or extreme refraction and rejection of the husband's reasonable requests on a consistent basis (nushuz). Even then, other measures, such as exhortation, should be tried first.”
“As defined by Hadith, it is not permissible to strike anyone's face, cause any bodily harm or even be harsh. What the Hadith qualifies as ‘dharban ghayra mubarrih,’ or light striking, was interpreted by early jurists as a (symbolic) use of siwak! They further qualified permissible ‘striking’ as that which leaves no mark on the body.”
Imam Abdul Basit
Qari Abdul Basit is the imam of the New Brunswick Islamic Center, a mosque founded in 1987 by the Islamist cleric Zaid Shakir, who continues to be a guest lecturer. In 2006, the New York Times reported that Shakir said “he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law.”
Shakir legitimizes attacks on U.S. troops, specifically the hijacking of airplanes transporting soldiers. He argues that the 1983 Marine barracks bombing by Hezbollah was not an act of terrorism. In April, he wrote a poem about how U.S. soldiers rape girls and murder Muslim civilians. In September, he coupled his condemnation of the murder of U.S. Ambassador Stevens with a condemnation of how four Afghan women, in his view, were “brutally murdered by NATO bombs.”
Shakir believes in 9/11 conspiracy theories and accuses the U.S. of “demonizing” Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and Hugo Chavez, while characterizing Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other Islamist terrorists as fighters against oppression, though he condemns some of their tactics. In 2003, he preached that the U.S. is waging a war on Islam and Muslim-Americans should wage jihad through institution-building.
The Center has gotten funding from Saudi King Fahd. The Saudi government promotes a radical version of Islam often called “Wahhabism.” On July 7, the New Brunswick Islamic Center hosted an Islamic Society of North America seminar about Sharia. FBI investigators identified ISNA as a Muslim Brotherhood front as early as 1987. A U.S. Muslim Brotherhood strategy document from 1991 lists ISNA among “organizations and the organizations of our friends.” ISNA was also designated an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation affair, the largest terrorism-financing trial in U.S. history. The federal government said is an entity of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.
The ISNA event at Imam Abdul Basit’s New Brunswick Islamic Center featured numerous Islamists. This includes the aforementioned Muzammil Siddiqi who explained the limitations of wife-beating. In 2001, he expressed his hope that Sharia law, including its criminal law, would one day be implemented in the U.S. He also supports Muslim countries that have the death penalty for homosexuals and suggests that Muslims were not involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Siddiqi taught about worshipping Allah and community engagement. Joining him in the latter session was Saffet Catovic, who used to be the New York representative of Benevolence International, a charity shut down for its ties to Al-Qaeda. In 1992, Catovic spoke at an Islamic Association for Palestine conference (a Brotherhood entity) where he said the “long-range” goal is building an Islamic Caliphate. He also spoke at a military-themed “Jihad Camp” in 2001.
Teaching about Sharia was Imam Qatanani and Jamal Badawi. Badawi is another unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land trial because he raised funds for the Hamas front. His name is in a 1992 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood phone directory. He has justified suicide bombings and refers to Hamas terrorists as “martyrs.” He also explicitly endorsed Palestinian “combative jihad” in 2010. Badawi also spoke about how Muslims can implement Sharia in their own lives.
Ryan Mauro is Clarion Project's National Security Analyst. He is frequently interviewed on Fox News.