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NJ Imam Sues FBI Over Deportation Papers

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NorthJersey.com reports that Imam Mohammad Qatanani of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, an Islamist familiar to ClarionProject.org readers (click here and here), is suing the FBI and the Customs and Border Protection Agency for declining to release records about him that could influence the outcome of the Department of Homeland Security’s fight to deport him. His hearing is on November 26.

Qatanani’s lawyer said they filed the Freedom of Information Act request in January and that the government is in “flagrant violation” for not providing any documents. His lawyer, Claudia Slovinsky, said, “This is the kind of person we want here. He is an extraordinarily moderate, popular, civic-minded Muslim leader with his roots in interfaith and living in a civil, multi-religious society.”

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began pursuing the case in July 2006. It is largely based on the fact that he did not disclose that he was convicted by the Israelis in 1993 of being a member of Hamas when he applied for his green card. The DHS’s greater concern is about his overall affiliations with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. He denies that he was convicted and that he was ever a member of the terrorist group.

Qatanani argues that he was never convicted by the Israelis and struck a plea bargain after being detained for three months in 1993. He admits to having been a member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood but says he left it in 1991 because he got too busy. He came to the U.S. to lead the Islamic Center of Passaic County alongside Mohammed el-Mezain, who also founded it in 1989. El-Mezain was later sentenced to 15 years in prison for fundraising for Hamas. As we’ve documented here, the mosque has extensive ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In addition, DHS says that Qatanani’s brother-in-law, Mahmud al-Shuli, was a Hamas militant in the West Bank. Qatanani sent thousands of dollars to the West Bank in cash and the DHS described his explanation as to where the money went as “highly dubious.” A July, 24 2008 report by the N.J. Office of Homeland Security about the Hamas networks in the state named only one person: Imam Qatanani.

The credibility of the Israeli case against him is what Qatanani’s team is taking aim at. The immigration judge ruled in his favor, determining that the Israeli evidence was weak. The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned it, and that’s where things stand now.

The DHS says that three documents provided by the Israelis have been authenticated: A letter from the Israeli liaison and a verdict and indictment from the military court. These documents confirm that Qatanani was convicted, the DHS argues. Qatanani “does not claim he was forced into making a confession” and admits that there was a trial process during his detention.

As for being a promoter of interfaith relations, consider this excerpt from a June 2007 sermon he delivered about Christians and Jews, translated by the Investigative Project on Terrorism:

“…the hypocrites and those who have disbelieved, from the followers of Jesus, peace and blessing be upon him, have disbelieved after the table came down, and the people of Pharaoh will be swiftly punished as well, and they’ll be amongst the hypocrites. And Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, says about the hypocrites, the hypocrites are in the lower pits of hellfire.”

We’ll have another update to you after his hearing on November 26. In the meantime, if you go to one of Governor Christie’s townhall meetings, bring a camera, ask him if he stands by Qatanani and send us the footage.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.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.

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org