New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely Republican presidential candidate, has appointed Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to the Senate following the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg. Chiesa, who will serve until a new candidate is elected, has led the Christie Administration’s outreach to Islamist radicals.
In November 2012, the Clarion Project broke the story that four Islamists belong to Attorney General Chiesa's Muslim outreach committee. One member, Imam Mohammad Qatanani, has a long relationship with Governor Christie.
The Department of Homeland Security has been trying to deport Qatanani because of his Hamas links since July 2006. His green card application left out a 1993 conviction in Israel for his involvement with the terrorist group. Shortly after his release, he moved to N.J. to lead the Hamas-founded Islamic Center of Passaic County, alongside a later-convicted Hamas fundraiser. The DHS took note of Qatanani’s cash transfers to the West Bank.
A 2008 court filing by the Department of Homeland Security summarized: “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.”
As U.S. Attorney, Christie defended Qatanani as a “man of great goodwill.” His Assistant U.S. Attorney, Charles McKenna, was as a character witness for Qatanani during the trial. Christie later appointed McKenna as the Director of the N.J. State Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. McKenna is now Christie’s Chief Counsel.
Qatanani was preaching extremism, even as the trial was ongoing. He was originally granted permanent residency against the objections of the DHS, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the decision.
The relationship between Qatanani and the Christie Administration, particularly Chiesa, continued. In 2011, Christie picked Qatanani’s attorney, Sohail Mohammed, as a Superior Court Judge.
In May 2012, Chiesa cleared the NYPD of breaking N.J. law in its counter-terrorism surveillance. He immediately met with Qatanani afterwards, as well as the executive-director of his mosque and an official from the N.J. chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-financing trial and was labeled by the U.S. government as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity.
On July 24, Qatanani attended an Iftar dinner at the Governor’s Mansion, where Christie called him a “friend” and said his critics are “bigots.” Chiesa attended Friday services at Qatanani’s mosque in April.
There are three other individuals on Chiesa’s Muslim outreach committee with concerning links.
Mohammed Younes is the President of the American Muslim Union, a group with close ties to Qatanani’s mosque. Younes served on the mosque’s board of trustees and the two organizations have had at least five common officials.
Ahmed Shedeed is the President of the Islamic Center of Jersey City. As the Clarion Project’s original story showed, he is a fervent supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and was even photographed at a rally in New York City for Egyptian President Morsi. The website contains anti-American rhetoric, justification of jihad, promotion of polygamy and links to an article titled, “Does Islam Allow Wife Beating?” The given answer is that “a husband may use some light disciplinary action in order to correct the moral infraction of his wife.”
Imam Abdul Basit leads the New Brunswick Islamic Center. The mosque was founded by Islamist Imam Zaid Shakir, who said in 2006 that he hoped America is one day governed under Islamic law, according to the New York Times. The Clarion Project has published multiple articles documenting Shakir’s extremism.
Now, Chiesa is temporarily a U.S. Senator—and if a Christie presidential bid succeeds, he may have yet another major position of influence.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.