“Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed,” said Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey during a press conference last week. “They’re criticizing him because he’s a Muslim American.” Sohail Mohammed was appointed as a New Jersey Superior Court judge last week, having been nominated by Gov. Christie.
Gov. Christie’s comments came after the state Senate Judiciary Committee focused on his faith instead of his credentials, questioning Mohammed about Hamas, the Muslim community’s reaction to terrorism, and the terms “jihad” and “Islamo terrorist” during his confirmation hearing last week. These questions were asked despite the fact that Mohammed has, in Gov. Christie’s words, “never been accused of doing anything but honorably and zealously acquitting the oath he took when he became a lawyer,” and despite his assistance in setting up “dozens of meetings with Muslim American leaders to convince them that federal law enforcement could be trusted in the aftermath of September 11th and that they should provide information and leads to help to combat potential terrorist attacks in our state.”
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident of discrimination, but part of a wave of bigotry and hostility toward Muslim-Americans in which unrelated individuals and groups are being asked to answer for the behavior of a minority of violent extremists. We at the ACLU are deeply concerned about this assault on religious liberty and continue to defend the rights of Muslim-Americans.
Gov. Christie said, “I was disgusted, candidly, with some of the questions he was asked by both parties at the Senate Judiciary Committee. I thought it was awful. But in the end the Senate did the right thing because the facts were undeniable that Sohail Mohammed is an outstanding attorney and will be an outstanding judge.”
When asked to comment on the relevance of Sharia law to Sohail Mohammed’s appointment, Gov. Christie said, “Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all,” and followed up with, “It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.”
So are we, Gov. Christie. So are we.